Mushers frustrated over cell phones on Iditarod trail

Mushers are expressing frustration over controversial rule changes the Iditarod made during a board meeting Friday.

25-year-old Wade Marrs pulls in to Galena in the 2016 Iditarod. (Photo by Zach Hughes/KSKA)
Wade Marrs pulls in to Galena in the 2016 Iditarod. (Photo by Zach Hughes/KSKA)

The race’s Trail Committee is upholding rule 35, which for the first-time ever will allow the use of two-way communication devices, including cell phones and satellite phones along the trail.

In a release, the organization writes that it thinks the measure will make for a safer race.

“This rule change involved more than the usual amount of discussion and deliberation over the last eight months, which included a tremendous amount of input from the competitors in this event,” the release reads.

Mushers have been critical of the rule, saying it represents one of the biggest changes ever made to the race. Wade Marrs is an Iditarod veteran, and was at the board meeting.

“Every musher there was opposed to the rule,” Marrs said by phone Friday afternoon. “It will change the race drastically I believe.”

Mushers said the measure could open the door to coaching and unfair advantages, a violation of race rules, but something that competitors say will be practically unenforceable.

“You can bet that someone’s going to call home and get help and outside assistance,” Marrs said.

Marrs, like other mushers, cited the controversial rule 53 — the so-called gag-order passed last year– in reserving criticisms of the decision by the board to change the rule.

Another source of tension from today’s meeting is a decision to change where equipment can be carried on sleds. Rumors were circulating that the measure was a ban on trailers, which have been used by many of the top-performing mushers the last few years to haul dogs, supplies, and even a stove. The Iditarod Trail Committee said that is not the case, and will be sending out the new official language to competitors on Monday.

Zachariah Hughes reports on city & state politics, arts & culture, drugs, and military affairs in Anchorage and South Central Alaska.

@ZachHughesAK About Zachariah

Previous articleAK: Protecting the environment and preserving the heritage of Denali’s dogs
Next articleLibertarian VP candidate Bill Weld in Anchorage this week