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Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race Stymied by Lack of Snow

Iditarod Shortens Ceremonial Start Due to Lack of Snow 0:24

Alaska's epic Iditarod race will be eight miles shorter this year because the dog sledders can't mush when there's not even slush.

A lack of snow in Anchorage has forced race organizers to shorten the ceremonial start of the celebrated race from 11 miles to 3.

"Anchorage's street maintenance, parks and recreation and police departments worked very hard to find a way for us to go the full 11 miles," Stan Hooley of the Iditarod Trail Committee said in a statement Wednesday. "Unfortunately, the warm temperatures persisted and it is no longer possible this year."

Snow was in the forecast for 10 a.m. Saturday, when this leg of the race kicks off in Anchorage, according to the National Weather Service.

Image: Kristy Berington's dogs cool off with their tongues out during the official restart of the Iditarod dog sled race in Willow, Alaska
Kristy Berington's dogs cool off with their tongues out during the official restart of the Iditarod dog sled race in Willow, Alaska on March 2, 2014. The above freezing, warmer than average temperatures at the restart and lack of snow in interior Alaska promise to make this year's Iditarod an interesting race. NATHANIEL WILDER / Reuters

But with the high temperature expected to be a balmy-for-Alaska 37 degrees — it wasn't expected to stick around long enough to make a difference. And the city's stockpile of snow has melted after weeks over above freezing weather.

So the Alaska Railroad is hauling seven freight cars filled with snow hundreds of miles from Fairbanks to ensure there's enough for the 85 teams racing through the streets, the Alaska Dispatch reported.

"Race fans concentrated in downtown Anchorage will not notice any changes to the race start, as the excitement of having more than 1,000 of the most finely-tuned sled dogs in the world will, as always, make for an electric environment," Hooley vowed.

Conditions look ever worse when the real 1,100 mile race to Nome kicks off in the town of Willow at 2 p.m. Sunday. The mercury is expected to hit an unseasonably high of 43 degrees and there is no snow in the forecast.

Luckily, there's snow on the ground. That wasn't the case last year and organizers were forced to move the restart location to Fairbanks and reroute some 600 miles of the race because there wasn't enough powder on the historic trail.