Alaska News

Iditarod Notebook: Junior Iditarod heading north too

Following in the footsteps of its parent race, the Junior Iditarod is heading north.

Race organizers announced Tuesday the race would be moved from its original starting location at the Willow Community Center to the Denali Highway outside of Cantwell.

Trail Manager and Junior Iditarod Board Treasurer Richard Plack said rainy weather over the weekend turned the already snow-short trails in to ice sheets.

"It's too dangerous for the kids," said Plack, noting it would be impossible for racers to use their sled break or set a snow hook to stop the dogs.

The 150-mile race is designed for mushers ages of 14 to 17. This year, instead of following the traditional Iditarod Trail from Willow to Yentna Station and back, racers will start at the beginning of the unmaintained portion of the Denali Highway near the community of Cantwell. From there, mushers will follow the highway 65 miles to Alpine Creek Lodge, where they'll spend their mandatory 10-hour layover before continuing back to the race start.

It's an area where many Alaska mushers have traveled to train with low-snow conditions afflicting Southcentral Alaska.

Barb Redington, a race organizer and Junior Iditarod board president, said the race hands out $15,000 worth of prizes -- including a $6,000 scholarship for the winner. Despite the move, she was grateful there was still a place with enough snow to host the race.

"I'm glad there are some areas still good ... so we can keep the race going," Redington said.

Eleven mushers are signed up. Racing begins at noon March 1.

The Junior Iditarod has been run for 38 years and has included mushers who've gone onto glory in the big race, such as victors Lance Mackey and Dallas Seavey. But not once has a junior champion gone on to win the Iditarod.

Suzanna Caldwell

Suzanna Caldwell is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in 2017.