‘Decent’ snow conditions on Iditarod Trail await Iron Dog competitors

Snow with low visibility likely at Friday’s 10 a.m. start on Big Lake
Snowmachiners competing in this year’s Iron Dog race will have snow on the trails rather than icy conditions.
Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 6:50 PM AKST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2023 at 9:10 PM AKST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BIG LAKE, Alaska (KTUU) - Snowmachiners competing in this year’s Iron Dog race will have snow on the trails rather than icy conditions.

The race’s Executive Director Mike Vasser said that conditions are looking good for the kickoff on Friday.

“The trail has ‘decent’ snow on it from here to Rainy Pass, and then from Rainy Pass to Rohn is very similar,” Vasser said by phone on Thursday.

Good conditions are welcome news for Iron Dog contestants, as much of Southwest Alaska was plagued by temperatures near and above freezing, along with rounds of sleet and freezing rain during the month of January. This made for icy, slushy, and sloppy conditions for the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race. Fortunately, it appears that trail conditions have returned to more of those more typical of an Alaskan winter — snow-covered.

“I did get a report this morning that there is a fair amount of snow in McGrath, and I believe it’s snowing there currently, so that could be a little bit of a challenge at this point,” Vasser said. “Generally, Mother Nature she gets after it with us somewhere along the coast at one point or another, with either heavy high winds blowing crossways, or a ground blizzard, or fog, that’s usually where we incur the most weather.”

Snowmachiners won’t have to wait until they get closer to Alaska’s west coast to encounter some hostile weather. A system will bring areas of snow — perhaps briefly heavy and causing low visibility — right at the 10 a.m. official start of the race in Big Lake on Friday, and continue for the first few dozen miles.

Contestants will be well on the way to McGrath when the next storm system impacts the Cook Inlet region, including Anchorage, on Saturday. A few snow showers and areas of light snow are in the forecast from McGrath through Unalakleet on up to Koyuk on Sunday. Heavier snows are currently forecast to stay east of the race trail as the racers make their way to Kotzebue on Monday.

Precipitation will stay snow, with no icing concerns — at least from the sky — during this same period. High temperatures in the teens at the start of the race on Friday will drop into the single digits once the racers turn north from McGrath and head toward Kotzebue late Sunday into Monday.