It sounds like conditions on the first part of the Iditarod Trail, at least for the sketchy sections we reported on a week ago, have greatly improved with just a little snow recently.
Iditarod director Stan Hooley said today that heavy-duty groomers will not need to churn up as much of the icy trail in the Susitna and Yentna rivers area. The grooming had been expected for about 65 miles of trail, but the volunteer effort, on the part of Cruz Construction, will now only be needed for sections directly out of Willow, Hooley said. (You can see one of the groomers in action here).
Trail-breakers for the Iditarod Trail Invitational bike, ski and footrace reported smooth going into the Alaska Range via Rainy Pass and into Rohn. In fact, race organizer Kathi Merchant is expecting record-breaking race times this year.
“It’s a snow sidewalk,” Merchant said, just after getting off the phone with her husband, Bill, who had been shuttling supplies on the trail by snowmachine. “It’s not as icy as we thought.”
A few inches of snow in the past week had smoothed out the icy ruts many people were expecting, Merchant said. And she said nobody in the race or trail crew reported trouble crossing the Happy River, which had been open with flowing water for snowmachiners training ahead of the Iron Dog race.
“We were expecting worse conditions,” Merchant said.
Reach Casey Grove at 257-4589, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kcgrove