Heat wave forces ski, sled dog races to be canceled

bbragg@adn.comJanuary 24, 2014 

Another one bites the dust. And another one.

Next weekend's Tustumena 200 sled dog race on the Kenai Peninsula and Saturday's high school cross-country ski race at Service High both pulled the plug Friday.

Victims of a January false breakup, both events were looking at wet trails instead of snowy ones.

Officials of both events did their best to stay afloat, as it were. The Tustumena looked at various trail alternatives and the Nordic Ski Association of Anchorage thought it had saved the high school race by moving it from Kincaid Park to higher elevations, but there is water, water everywhere.

"We just don't have the snow and way too much water in the hills to put together a quality race," Tustumena 200 race director Tami Murray said in an email.

"We've looked at all possible options and with the 10-day forecast (trust me we've looked at them all) we feel this is the right decision."

Reigning Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey topped a stellar field signed up for the Tustumena, which traditionally runs from Clam Gulch to Homer and back.

The race is the second mid-distance, Iditarod-qualifying race to be canceled during the heat wave, an extended run of mild weather and even rain that has wiped out much of Southcentral's snow. This weekend's Northern Lights 300, scheduled to begin Friday at Big Lake, was also canceled.

In Anchorage, the third race in the Abominable fat-tire bike series was canceled. And while NSAA club volunteers known as the Green Grunts were optimistic they could salvage this weekend's high school race by moving it from Kincaid, where the stadium is reportedly a lagoon, to Service High, admitted defeat Friday morning.

Dubbed the Slush Cup, the race was canceled after a course inspection by the ski club's John Christopherson. At 10 a.m., the temperature was 48 degrees and the wind was howling, he said.

"I feel that we cannot guarantee a safe race for 400-500 skiers tomorrow," Christopherson said in an email. "My thanks to all the Green Grunts who have put in so much effort to try and make this happen. But we can't fight the weather. So let's admit the conditions and find something else besides skiing for this weekend."

Whatever that something else is, it will probably be indoors.

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

 

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