Conditions wanting in Fairbanks for Iditarod restart

Iditarod organizers continue to look at Fairbanks for restarting this year’s race. Fairbanks North Star borough Mayor Karl Kassel met with race officials in Fairbanks yesterday.

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Pete Kaiser in the 2015 Iditarod ceremonial start. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN - Anchorage)
Pete Kaiser in the 2015 Iditarod ceremonial start. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

“They think they probably have enough snow, if they don’t lose it, to be able to restart in Willow right now. But if the weather warms up at all they’ve got a major problem on their hands.

Kassel says numerous Fairbanks area restart sites are being considered, but local conditions aren’t ideal either, pointing to potential issues with Chena River ice.

“The river up through town is worse than it’s ever been, but the ice at Pike’s currently doesn’t look too bad. We’re concerned however because not very far upstream from there the ice is worse than it normally is this time of year.”

The 2003 and 2015 Iditarod re-starts took place along the Chena River at Pikes Landing. Kassel, who has extensive experience organizing dog races, says ice conditions are key to a Pikes restart.

“The first year in ’03 the emergency operation plan we came up with worked starting out at Pike’s, but it didn’t work out so well last year because ice on the river got thin. So everything had to be on dry land. And there just isn’t enough space there to accommodate the start at that location if we have to be off the river.”

Kassel says officials toured alternative Fairbanks area restart sites yesterday, including the borough’s Tanana Lakes Recreation Area, and off the Richardson Highway in North Pole. An official decision on the restart will be made by Iditarod by Feb. 12.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.