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National

A Warm Winter Shifts The Path Of Alaska's Iditarod

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This year's Iditarod Sled Dog Race begins today, but it won't begin as it usually does in Anchorage. That's because Anchorage has no snow. The city did host a ceremonial start to the race this weekend. Alaska Public Media's Zachariah Hughes reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOGS BARKING)

ZACHARIAH HUGHES, BYLINE: Dozens of sled dogs clipped along gang lines get ready to run an 11-mile loop for spectators in Anchorage. An unusually warm winter forced organizers to truck in snow to the ceremonial start of the Iditarod. The official start was moved 300 miles north to Fairbanks. Fans and mushers who have come to this event for years say Anchorage's temperatures in the 30s for the start of the race are a first. That's not the case in Fairbanks, with the National Weather Service forecasting snow and temperatures around 20 degrees below zero by tonight. The new course passes through less populous parts of Alaska, with longer distances between checkpoints. Mushers will have to camp outdoors, something race veteran Brent Sass says works to his advantage.

BRENT SASS: Yeah, camping out is one of my main deals. I love camping out on the trail, and I'll be doing the same thing - building a big fire every stop I can.

HUGHES: This year's field includes many celebrities from the world of long-distance endurance mushing, as well as 21 rookies and one competitor from Australia, who spends his winters training in Alaska. For NPR News, I'm Zachariah Hughes in Anchorage. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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