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Organizers call off Knik 200 because of poor trail; Copper Basin 300 still on as planned but could use cold weather

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: December 13, 2019
  • Published December 13, 2019

The 2020 Knik 200 sled dog race has been canceled, race organizers said Thursday. (Stephen Nowers / ADN archive)

The Knik 200, which had a full field of 40 mushers plus a waiting list, is a no-go for the second straight year, the race reported Thursday on Facebook.

Trail conditions were deemed insufficient for the race, which was scheduled to begin Jan. 4. at Knik Lake.

“Due to a number of trail route concerns caused by rain, warm temperatures, and the lack of sufficient snow, the Knik Race Committee has reluctantly determined that holding the 2020 races is not a viable option. In the interest of safety for the dogs, mushers, volunteers, and race fans, we are forced to cancel the 2020 Knik 100 and 200,” race organizers said on Facebook.

The 2020 Knik 100 and 200 Races Are Cancelled Due to a number of trail route concerns caused by rain, warm...

Posted by Knik 200 Joe Redington Sr. Memorial Sled Dog Race on Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Knik 200 is the second 200-mile race in Southcentral Alaska — and the second Iditarod qualifying race — to be canceled this winter.

The Tustumena 200 said in September it wouldn’t hold a race in 2020 and would instead use the time to rebuild its board of directors and perhaps change its format.

The good news for mushers is the Copper Basin 300 and Willow 300 — both Iditarod qualifiers — are on as scheduled, although cold weather is at the top of the wish list for Cooper Basin 300 organizers.

“Trail conditions right now are passable but not in the greatest condition,” board of directors president Jason Severs said Friday. “We have not had the snow that the other side of the (Glenn Highway) and Fairbanks has had but we do have snow.”

There is still some open water on the trail, Severs said, but he said organizers “are very optimist we will still have a race.”

The race, which starts and ends in Glennallen, is a few mushers short of its limit of 50. So far the field includes big names like Aliy Zirkle and Nic Petit as well as 19 rookies.

The Willow 300 also has room for a few more mushers, race director Christine Stitt said Friday. Petit and Linwood Fiedler are among the top drivers entered in the Jan. 30 race, which starts at Willow Lake and ends at Sheep Creek Lodge.

Though rain and high temperatures led to the cancellation of last year’s race, there are no plans to call things off this winter, Stitt said.

“Our race heads north, and there’s more snow up north,” she said. “It doesn’t run till Jan. 30, so we’ve got a full month for trail work and improvements.”

Alaska’s richest mid-distance race is the Kusko 300 in Bethel, where open water on the Kuskokwim River has postponed two of the town’s early season races.

Announcement: The Season Opener 30 mile race has been postponed once again. It is now scheduled for Saturday 12/21. The Holiday Classic, originally scheduled for 12/21 is now slated for Saturday 12/28.

Posted by Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race on Thursday, December 12, 2019

Please see the latest on river conditions from Bethel Search and Rescue. Thank you, BSAR!

Posted by Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race on Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The 300-mile race is scheduled to start Jan. 17 with a purse of $160,000 up for grabs.

The field so far is small but mighty — reigning Iditarod champion and beloved Bethel musher Pete Kaiser headlines a group that also includes past Iditarod champions Jeff King, Joar Leifseth Ulsom and Lance Mackey as well as top Iditarod contenders Petit, Wade Marrs, Richie Diehl, Aaron Burmeister, Ramey Smyth, Matt Hall and Travis Beals.