- Associated Press - Monday, February 17, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - After the ceremonial start of the 2014 Iditarod dog-sled race in Anchorage on March 1, race officials say it will move to Willow as planned.

The Iditarod Trail Committee made the announcement after meeting for several hours Monday.

A lack of snow and warm temperatures led officials to consider moving the race to an unfamiliar trail and bypassing the Alaska Range before following the traditional route starting in Ruby.

But early Monday afternoon, Iditarod spokeswoman Julie Busch told The Anchorage Daily News (http://bit.ly/1gcK03W ) the committee had decided to keep the restart in Willow.

“I think the board was very, and rightfully so, interested in as much detail as we could come up with in terms of the scope of work and the plan of attack to improve what today is a pretty poor trail and transform it into something that, come race day, will look quite different,” race director Stan Hooley said. “It’s a lot of different types of work, but all focused on making a safe trail.”

The final call hinged on a belief that heavy equipment can grind up about 65 miles of ice into snow down the trail from Willow, in the Susitna and Yentna rivers area. And that work depended on whether the river ice was thick enough to support the equipment, Hooley said.

During the weekend, samples showed the ice was thick enough, and grooming is set for a few days before the race, he said.

“You really don’t want to do it too far in advance,” Hooley said. “There’s no reason for it to get a couple weeks of traffic before it needs to be used for the race.”

Workers will have to build ice bridges over open water, smooth out ruts and clear brush in some areas.

“If you went up there today and looked at it, you would say, ‘You can’t run dog teams through here.’ We’re confident with the work that’s planned that those areas can be repaired in a way everybody will be happy with,” Hooley said.


Information from: Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.adn.com