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Craig Medred

When hurricane-force winds and a monster thaw swept over Turnagain Pass and down Turnagain Arm in January, avalanche experts breathed a sigh of relief and consoled themselves with the thought that at least the crummy weather would help stabilize what had been becoming an increasingly dangerous snowpack.

The only problem is, things didn't work out that way. Mother Nature tossed a curveball in the form of a frigid cold snap quick behind the thaw. Ever since, avalanche conditions have been building toward another extreme...

Craig Medred

Seven-time Tesoro Iron Dog champ Scott Davis from Soldotna -- the winningest driver still active in the world's longest, toughest snowmachine race -- isn't sure he's ready to retire, but he concedes that control of the race has passed to a new generation nearly half his age.

Davis turns 50 in June. Newly crowned Iron Dog champs Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad are 29 and 26, respectively.

Were they merely young and talented, it would be one thing, Davis said, but both are highly experienced Iron Dog veterans. Minnick ran his first race in 2002, and has done six since. Olstad competed for the first time in 2005, when he teamed with 34-year-old Anchorage driver Marc McKenna to win as a rookie...

Craig Medred

Why is science starting to sound so much like religion

With some regularity now, especially when it comes to environmental issues, we have politicians and interest groups engaged in heated arguments about who has God -- er, science -- on their side.

Often lost in all of this is the science itself.

The latest case in point comes in the skirmish between the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife, and Gov. Sarah Palin and her supporters in the Alaska Outdoor Council.

Palin and the AOC say they have the science to support predator control in Alaska.

Defenders say oh, no, no, the science is with them.

The truth is that they are both right, and they are both wrong...

Craig Medred

Tesoro Iron Dog racers who failed to beat a storm out of Nome ended up taking a beating in that storm.

The weather knocked four teams out of the snowmachine race, sending three racers in search of doctors Thursday.

One competitor remained in the hospital Friday in Nome as a blizzard raged along the Bering Sea coast. Another was back home to Wasilla, consulting with doctors on how to put his broken collarbone back together. And a third was breathing painfully with broken ribs.

Suffering worst was 42-year-old Jeff Pelkola from Galena, who other racers originally feared had broken his back.

Reached Friday by telephone at the Norton Sound Regional Hospital, Pelkola said he was lucky to only have "crushed vertebrae."...

Craig Medred

After almost a week of racing snowmachines across 1,750 miles of desolate, windswept and sometimes brutally cold Alaska wilderness, the Tesoro Iron Dog today comes down to this:

Can Todd Minnick, the 29-year-old Wasilla racer who studied at the elbow of Iron Dog great John Faeo, and partner 26-year-old Nick Olstad hang on to win?

Or will this be the year two-time runner up Tyson Johnson, the kid who grew up with a throttle under his thumb out on the Yentna River north of Anchorage, finally gets that long awaited Iron Dog victory along with 23-year-old partner Tyler Aklestad, himself an Iron Dog bridesmaid in 2007

When the race stopped Friday night at the Yukon River village of Tanana, less than 12 minutes separated the two teams...

Craig Medred

Less than 12 minutes separated the top two teams when the Tesoro Iron Dog snowmachine race stopped for the day this afternoon in the Yukon River village of Tanana.

Racers are held in Tanana overnight to ensure a midday Saturday finish in Fairbanks, about 230 miles to the west. Racers will head across the frozen Yukon to the Tanana River Saturday morning and follow it upstream past the communities of Manley Hot Springs and Nenana to the finish line.

Almost since the race left Big Lake on Sunday, Polaris Dragon drivers Todd Minnick, 29, and Nick Olstad, 26, have led. They were more than half an hour in front in Nome when the race paused for more than a day on the edge of the Bering Sea...

Craig Medred

Eight hours and 450 miles after leaving Nome on Thursday, the Tesoro Iron Dog snow machine race rocketed into the Yukon River community of Galena, where race leaders were left to ponder what is likely to happen today -- Friday the 13th.

Two things were givens: All of the front-runners had to complete the mandatory rest stops required between Nome and Fairbanks, and there were only two checkpoints left in which to do that. Whether the leaders did the six hours in Galena and then zoomed down the trail 50 miles to do 12 hours in Ruby, or vice versa, wasn't expected to matter much.

Polaris Dragon drivers Todd Minnick, 29, and Nick Olstad, 26, from Wasilla, were almost certain to remain at the front of the race as they have been since the start at Big Lake on Sunday...

Craig Medred

Tesoro Iron Dog race leaders Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad from Wasilla were holding a lead of more than a half-hour as the world's longest, toughest snowmachine race rocketed toward the Yukon River this afternoon.

The pair -- Minnick, 29, and Olstad, 26 -- left Nome at 8 a.m. and were out of Unalakleet, about 300 miles south, less than five hours later. That's where the race turns inland toward the frozen Yukon River.

The top racers are expected to take their first mandatory rest stop at the village of Kaltag, the first checkpoint on the Yukon on the race to the Fairbanks finish line.

Chasing the Polaris Dragon sleds of Minnick and Olstad were 23-year-old Tyler Aklestad from Palmer and 29-year-old Tyson Johnson from Eagle River on Ski-Doos...

Craig Medred

The leaders in the nearly 2,000 mile Tesoro Iron Dog snowmachine race from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks on Wednesday enjoyed a long rest stop in the City of the Gold Sands as the last two teams still running struggled north along the Bering Sea.

Thirty-five teams started the race at Big Lake on Sunday. Twenty-five are in Nome. Two are still sputtering toward there. And eight have either crashed out or broken down.

Two ended early in bone-breaking smash ups. Mark Brown. 53, from Big Lake remains hospitalized at the Providence Medical Center with a broken pelvis. Steven Graham, 56, is recovering in Anchorage after surgery Tuesday at Providence to rebuild his shattered right wrist with a titanium plate...

Craig Medred

Oil giant Exxon-Mobil has come to the aid of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race with the pledge of sponsorship worth $1.25 million over the next five years, race officials said Tuesday.

The contribution is on par with that of GCI and Anchorage Chrysler Dodge -- the two biggest, in-state sponsors, said Iditarod executive director Stan Hooley.

It is, he added, "very good news in these times.''

Exxon-Mobil has been associated with the Iditarod since 1978, but Hooley said his organization made a push to get the company to up its contribution after watching the Summer Olympics and noting Exxon-Mobil's apparent interest in using sports as a tool to promote education in science and technology...

Craig Medred