The Iditarod may once again be moving to Fairbanks.
Though the decision has not been made, low snow conditions along difficult parts of the trail are prompting officials to consider moving the race’s re-start from Willow to Fairbanks, as they did in 2015, and for a first time in 2003.
According to the Iditarod Trail Committee, despite good snow conditions throughout much of Southcentral Alaska, the areas around Rainy Pass and the Dalzell Gorge do not look good.
It’s the same section of trail where mushers saw dangerous conditions that led to injuries and widespread criticism over routing during the 2014 race.
The ITC said crews are monitoring trail conditions closely, and it will not render a final decision on the re-start until February 10th.
If the move to Fairbanks happens again, it’ll be the second time in a row that the southern route is skipped, bypassing communities like Shageluk, Anvik and Grayling.
The Fairbanks route extends west to Tanana, then down the Yukon toward Ruby, with a detour north to Huslia. The longest leg is 119 miles, a far greater distance than the biggest stretch along the traditional routes.
Currently there are 75 teams signed up to run this year’s race. Regardless of whether or not the official location is moved, the ceremonial start will be in Anchorage March 4th.
Correction: an earlier version of this story said this would be the second time the race was moved. That is incorrect: it would be the third.