Alaska Warmed Over: Race Dogs Move North In Search Of Snow

Published March 18, 2015
Updated December 8, 2021

Due to warm temperatures, Alaska's most famous race, the Iditarod Race, moves north this year in search of snow.

Iditarod Race

Mushers and a team of 16 dogs compete, of which at least 6 must be on the towline at the finish.

Alaska’s unseasonably warm weather this year has caused the state’s most famous race to change its starting location. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which usually departs from Anchorage, Alaska moved its start this year 225 miles north to Fairbanks in search of snow.

Though both the starting location and the trail route have been adjusted due to exposed grass (and gravel over sections of the historical route) the opening ceremonies still took place in Anchorage, Alaska’s most populous city.

The city counts on event-related revenue, which means that warm weather has not put a damper on it or Iditarod fans’ spirits; thousands of people flocked to the city for opening ceremonies, and it’s doubtful that they were complaining about the mild weather.

The human participants in the race, known as ‘mushers’, typically take around ten days to finish the 1,000 mile trail, though in 2014 Dallas Seavey finished the race in a record time of eight days, 13 hours, 4 minutes, and 19 seconds.

iditarod race big hugs
The 2015 Iditarod is composed of 78 mushers (20 of which are rookies) and includes six former champions. Source: Telegraph Picture: REUTERS/Mark Meyer

iditarod race booties on
This year’s winner will receive a $70,000 cash prize; an increase of $19,600 from last year. Source: Telegraph Picture: REUTERS/Mark Meyer

iditarod race chena river
Jason Campeau and his team crossing the frozen Chena River. Source: Telegraph Picture: REUTERS/Mark Meyer

iditarod race crazy eyes
Rohn Buser's lead dogs rush off the starting line in Fairbanks, Alaska. Source: Telegraph Picture: AP Photo/Alaska Dispatch News, Loren Holmes

iditarod race dogs assemble
Though some of the early checkpoints are not in play this year, the race will run through some small villages that have never been part of the event; including Huslia, a small village consisting of only about 300 people. Source: Telegraph Picture: AP Photo/Alaska Dispatch News, Loren Holmes

iditarod race down time
When speaking of his quick start and eventual fade last year, four-time winner Martin Buser was quoted as saying, “Yeah, I'll go slower this year, try not to be first at the halfway but try to be first at the finish." Source: Telegraph Picture: REUTERS/Mark Meyer

iditarod race 2015 foot protection
Many mushers and dogs were injured in last year’s event, due to warmer conditions and lack of snowpack- causing the route to be changed this year for safety reasons. Source: Telegraph Picture: REUTERS/Mark Meyer

iditarod race 2015 high five
Scott Janssen gives the crowed high-fives as he passes. Source: Telegraph Picture: AP Photo/Alaska Dispatch News, Loren Holmes

iditarod race 2015 lined up
Young fans cheer on musher Kristy Berington near the start of the race. Source: Telegraph Picture: AP Photo/Alaska Dispatch News, Loren Holmes

iditarod race parka pups
Even with the milder weather for this year’s race, the dogs often need a chance to warm up from exposure to the elements. Source: Time

iditarod race pink flamingos
Female musher Yuka Honda passes Jeff King at the Camp Flamingo resting spot, on the Tanana River. Source: Telegraph Picture: AP Photo/Alaska Dispatch News, Loren Holmes

iditarod race puppy kisses
Though they work hard on the trail, the sled dogs still have plenty of love for their mushers, and vice versa. Source: Telegraph Picture: REUTERS/Mark Meyer

iditarod race racing dogs
The new route has the dogs and mushers bypassing a major mountain range, which should be easier on the bootie covered feet of the canine competitors. Source: telegraph Picture: REUTERS/Mark Meyer

iditarod race resting dogs
The dogs are so familiar with their team they act like family, whether blood relatives or not. Source: Knom

This marks only the second time that Fairbanks has been the starting point of ‘The Last Great Race’; the other time the start was moved was in 2003, due to similar weather conditions. Source: The Sportsman Channel

iditarod trail running
Jeff King and his team shown on the ice and snow covered Chena River. Source: Telegraph Picture: REUTERS/Mark Meyer

iditarod 2015 twin runners
When asked about talk that the new route would give him a particular advantage, musher Pete Kaiser said, "I don't see it as an advantage or disadvantage for me or anyone else, really." Kaiser recently won an all-river ice sled dog race in southwest Alaska. Source: Telegraph Picture: REUTERS/Mark Meyer

iditarod wild call
The race's usual start is filled with pomp and circumstance, and many other potential distractions for the mushers. This year’s start is 225 miles from the Anchorage opening ceremonies, and is strictly business. Source: Telegraph Picture: REUTERS/Mark Meyer

iditarod race howling good time
A dog howls as it gets ready to leave for the day’s course. Source: Alaska Dispatch News Picture: Loren Holmes / ADN

Erin Kelly
An All That’s Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she’s designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.