One less hotel leaves Nome with fewer Iditarod beds

the Burled Arch in Nome
The Burled Arch in Nome during the 2020 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (KJ McElwee/KNOM)

Space could be short for visitors to the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race’s finish in Nome.

More than 500 people are expected to fly to the Western Alaska community to see the the finish of the 1,000-mile sled dog race, said Glenn Steckman, Nome city manager.

“We anticipate at least 500-plus more people will be in the city, but obviously not everybody will be in the city for a week,” Steckman said. “People will come and go, but it’s a consistent number that will be impacting the city during the 10-day to two-week period.”

Nome is short a whole lot of hotel beds due to a fire that put the Nome Nugget Hotel out of business during Typhoon Merbok. The fire also gutted and destroyed the Bering Sea Restaurant, a bar and grill next door to the hotel.

An earlier fire destroyed the Polaris Hotel in October 2017 and there was never a new one constructed to replace it.

Likewise, there are no plans to reopen the Nome Nugget Hotel currently. That is leading to concern over where people will stay during Iditarod. The Chamber of Commerce was asked to conduct outreach on the issue. Steckman said there are several bed-and-breakfast businesses in town, and perhaps others will open their homes.

“We encouraged the Chamber to reach out to the community to see if there were a number of people that might be willing to rent their houses out, as has been done in the past, to provide additional housing,” Steckman said. “There’s also housing that has been converted to bed and breakfasts over the past few years.”

Even though there are two hotels and eight bed-and-breakfasts open during the Iditarod, the hotels are full, and only two of the bed-and-breakfasts said they had even partial availability — for no more than two or three days maximum in the middle of March.

Beyond the Iditarod, the temporary housing situation is dire enough during March that Bering Straits Regional Housing Authority president Jolene Lyon won’t even schedule in-town board meetings during the month.

“There’s so many things going on, and we’re not the only entity in town that has a board, so we try to plan well in advance … but for the most part, I just try not to have a board meeting in the month of March,” Lyon said.

Miranda Musich owns the Golden Sands bed & breakfast in Nome. She said her business got booked up for the Iditarod months ago.

“I started booking out six months in advance, so I was starting to get bookings as soon as my calendar opened up,” Musich said.

Another bed-and-breakfast, the Noxapaga Inn, is owned by Jessica Farley. She said visitors who haven’t found a place yet should reach out to the Visitor’s Center in Nome.

“I generally tell people that, at this point, they need to be calling the Visitor Center for help finding space on somebody’s couch or a spare bedroom,” Farley said. “We’re at 100% occupancy … we are generally booked out about six months before the race, and it was the same this year as it was last year.”

Paul Kosto is the director of the Nome Chamber of Commerce. He said, one way or another, he expects that everyone who wants to come to Nome for the race’s finish will find a place to say.

“Somehow or another the folks in Nome seem to accommodate all the visitors that want to come for Iditarod,” Kosto said. “(They) open their homes, they make room underneath the dining room table, they shuffle kids into one room and make available another room. Many people sign up and host visitors and mushers and their team of helpers.”

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