Many sled dog races that are qualifiers for the annual Iditarod have been cancelled or postponed this winter due to lack of snow.
The John Beargrease sled dog race, a trek of some 400 miles in northern Minnesota, postponed its start to March 10 from Jan. 27. In Alaska, the Don Bowers Memorial 200/300, the Sheep Mountain Lodge 150 and the Knik 200 have been canceled. The Copper Basin 300 in Glennallen, Alaska, had to cut its trail for several teams by 25 miles because there was not enough snow at the finish line; the mushers finished the race with their hats and gloves off and jackets unzipped.
“That was crazy with the warm weather,” said Zack Steer, one of the race’s organizers. “It was such a drastic change from last year, but the trail at the end was dirt. It wasn’t safe.”
Blake Freking, a musher who trains Siberian huskies on the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, said he planned to compete in the Beargrease race in January. “With global warming, it’s hard to deny that there are some big changes going on right now,” he said. “We’re in it. It isn’t looking good.”
During last year’s snow season, defined as July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, Anchorage had 134.5 inches of snow, according to Jake Crouch, a climate scientist with the National Climatic Data Center. This season’s tally in Anchorage was 39.2 inches through Wednesday. North of Fairbanks, another area where mushers train, snowpack is 21 percent of average.