The trail's year-to-year quirks are always a topic of conversation, but this year the situation seems particularly unusual, Iditarod director Stan Hooley said.
"When people ask me the question, 'Well, what's the trail like?' my response, generally is, 'Which hundred mile section do you want to talk about?' Because you really have to break it down and analyze it in that way," Hooley
"But in an overall sense, certainly in my 20 years, this is as strange as things have ever been."
Down the trail from Willow, glare ice on river crossings is a major concern, Hooley
said the trail committee may decide to enlist the volunteer help of Dave Cruz and his
Palmer-based Cruz Construction
to have a heavy-duty groomer churn up 60 to 65 miles of ice and hard-packed snow into something softer.
That depends on whether ice on the Susitna and Yentna rivers is strong enough to support the equipment.
A group will be drilling over the weekend to sample the thickness where the trail crosses the rivers, Hooley
Heading through the Alaska Range into Rainy Pass and on to the Nikolai checkpoint, there were reports of more ice, with deep ruts in places, and little or no snow.
Keeping dogs safe and sleds upright on the winding, icy, steep parts of the trail, like the Dalzell Gorge, is on the minds of some mushers.
As it stands now, braking or planting a snow hook would be difficult, Hooley
and others said.
Trail checkers for the Iron Dog snowmachine race also reported open water on creeks and rivers they had to skip across.
said recent cold weather should heal up those areas and building temporary bridges could solve the problem.
"I don't think we've seen an area with open water that we can't look at and say, 'We can fix that,'" he
That can be a problem for any musher with a day job, said Hooley, the Iditarod director.
Because of the lack of snow, some mushers had moved their operations, if only temporarily, he
But work commitments kept others tethered closer to home, Hooley said.
"That's a hardship," he