Iditarod Trail Begins To Soften Up, Slows Down

Mushers have been travelling this year’ Iditarod trail from Fairbanks with few complains, but after the left Tanana Wednesday, they found a slow, soft trail.

“Mushers seem to like to complain when there is snow and then when there’s no snow,” Bethel musher Pete Kaiser said.

Pete Kaiser in the 2015 Iditarod ceremonial start. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN - Anchorage)
Pete Kaiser in the 2015 Iditarod ceremonial start. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

He says the trail out of Tanana softened up considerably, which slowed down his team.

“Yeah that’s not the type of trail you’d want to be going fast on,” Kaiser said. “I wouldn’t anyway, just because you’d be prone to injuring dogs if they wanted to go faster, so it’s kind of frustrating watching them go slow, but its’ hard work from them to get through that.”

Jess Royer says she was also frustrated with a slow pace after her dog team left Tanana and dropped onto the Yukon River.

“It’s like you’re running on sand. That’s why it’s so slow,” Royer said. “You have 16 dogs and they’re all working, but you don’t get any power there you know. Even if I walk up to do something with the team, every time you take a step, it’s like you slide back a step. It’s just real granular type of snow, I guess.”

Mitch Seavey says drifting snow and soft trail were tough, but he says there hasn’t been the kid of drama he could “write stories about.”

“Yeah it’s fine, I’d rather not have scares from the trail this year,” Seavey said.

But a slower pace wasn’t factored into Norwegian Joar Ulsom’s race plan.

“I would like to be moving faster,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll give them a good rest and in Galena we’ll get some that speed back if we are lucky.”

Many mushers are starting to consider where they might take a 24 hour mandatory rest.

Race officials expect to see most teams stop for the long rest at one of the next three or four checkpoints, before they leave the Yukon River for good.