Iditarod restart moved to Willow

Sled-dog race will skip Wasilla again

Posted: Monday, February 26, 2007

WASILLA - Poor trail conditions again this year have forced the restart of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to be held in Willow, about 30 miles up the Parks Highway from Wasilla, dubbed Home of the Iditarod.

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The restart has been held in Willow every year since 2002 - except in 2003, when Southcentral was so devoid of snow the restart had to be moved to Fairbanks.

Iditarod spokesman Chas St. George said the trail beyond the Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex, where the restart would have been staged, is thin, hard-packed and wash-boarded from snowmobile use. Some parts of the trail are fine; other sections have dangerous hazards like ditches, he said.

St. George said the concern was that 83 mushers expected to start the 2007 race could end up scraping the trail to bare ground.

Iditarod board members prefer to stage the restart in Wasilla. A Willow restart bypasses Knik, the traditional home of the Iditarod. A restart in Willow also costs about $30,000 more because the city of Wasilla kicks in money for logistics like parking when the restart is there, St. George said.

While, Willow has had plenty of practice hosting the restart, it is still a major undertaking for the tiny community where several Iditarod mushers live. Upwards of 15,000 people will be on hand to watch, either at the starting chute on Willow Lake, at private parties in the many homes that line nearby lakes or at campsites along the trail accessed by snowmachine.

St. George said more than 300 of the 1,800 volunteers that help put on the Iditarod work the restart.

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