Snow had to be Shipped by Rail for Start of Iditarod in Anchorage

When most of us think of winter in Alaska, we think of cold and snowy conditions. But that has not been the case in Anchorage this year, where organizers of the famous Iditarod Dog Sled Race had to ship in snow for the start of the event this weekend.

The frosty cargo was transported by rail from northern parts of the state, some 300 miles away. But, even with this borrowed snow, the ceremonial starting leg of the race had to be shortened from the usual eleven miles to three.

In a typical winter season, the city of Anchorage sees 60 inches of snow. This year, they only had 26.6 inches and their current snow depth is zero. It is also interesting to note that NYC received more snow than Anchorage this winter.

Meteorologists attribute this unseasonably warm winter and its dearth of snow to a persistent ridge of high pressure that sat over the state for most of January and February. In fact, this past February was the fourth warmest February on record in Anchorage.

While warm winters can occasionally occur, this is the third year in a row that a lack of snow disrupted the Iditarod. Last year, the start of the race had to be moved over 225 miles north to Fairbanks. In 2014, large parts of the long trail had no snow cover at all and many participants were injured.

Ending in Nome, AK, the annual race spans 1000 miles of arctic tundra and commemorates the journey made by dogsledders in 1925 to deliver medical supplies for a diphtheria outbreak in that city.

Alaska Railroad ship snow from Fairbanks to Anchorage for Iditarod. Credit: ADN

Alaska Railroad ships snow from Fairbanks to Anchorage for Iditarod. Credit: ADN

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About Melissa Fleming

Melissa Fleming is an environmental communicator and visual artist working at the intersection of art and science. She is passionate about exploring, learning, and sharing information about the natural world. She has presented her interdisciplinary work in a variety of mediums at venues and conferences around the world.