ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is being cut short, due to icy conditions on the trail to Eagle River.
Fearful that icy trails could injure dogs or damage sleds, officials shortened the trek from 20 miles to about 11. Mushers will now make the run from Fourth Avenue to Campbell Airstrip in South Anchorage, instead of Eagle River.
The decision, announced Wednesday, came one day after Iditarod officials moved Sunday's restart from Wasilla to Willow because warm winds melted snow cover and left standing water on parts of the trail near Wasilla.
The problem with going all the way to Eagle River, is ice, according to Rick Calcote, coordinator of the Anchorage start.
''The primary problem is the Eagle River VFW,'' which marks the end of the run to Eagle River, Calcote said. ''The parking lot is a sheet of ice, and we would need a ton of snow in order to cover it safely. Then we have this road we actually run on, Oilwell Road, and it also is a sheet of ice.''
The dogs can run safely as far as Campbell Airstrip in Far North Bicentennial Park because the trail primarily winds through wooded areas where there is still snow, he said.
This is just the second time in 29 Iditarods that the race through Anchorage has been abbreviated, Calcote said. The only other time it happened was in 1994, when a snowless winter prompted officials to send the dog teams on a 15-block journey from downtown to Mulcahy Park.
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