Anchorage’s warm weather and terrible snow conditions severely hampered the sled-dog sprint races that have been a cornerstone of Fur Rondy celebrations since 1946.
Organizers were forced to reduce the 25-mile course used in the Fur Rendezvous Open World Championship to just a three-mile loop from 4th Avenue to Mulcahy Stadium and back.
The race is structured in heats run three times over the course of three days. Organizers re-named the shortened sprint the Fur Rendezvous Race Invitational, and dropped the purse from $75,000 to $25,000.
Michael Tetzner of Germany took first place, finishing with a total time of 27 minutes and 39 seconds, and 11 dogs from an original team of 12. Ricky Taylor of Fairbanks took second, and Mari Hoe-Raitto of Salcha placed third.
J.P. Norris of Willow first ran the iconic Rondy sprint in 1970, and said that for the most part the race has stayed true to its roots, even as dogs and equipment have evolved. This year, however, Norris said the race bore little resemblance to its usual form.
“Not having the in between part, which is the real race, it’s totally different,” he said in the race chute after awards were given out.
20 mushers finished this year’s Invitational.
The 2015 sprint races were canceled because of weather.
Saturday March 5th is the Ceremonial Start of the 44th Iditarod in Downtown Anchorage. In spite of low snow within the municipality, the race will follow its traditional northern route after the re-start in Willow the following day.