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Iditarod crew tests trail ice for restart decision

By Heather Hintze 6:46 PM February 15, 2014

It will help them determine if the race will start in Willow or Fairbanks

ANCHORAGE-Will the Iditarod restart begin in Willow or Fairbanks?

It’s what staffers tried to determine Saturday.

One solution to keep it in Willow would be to get some heavy machinery that could grind up the rough ice on the trail into snow. That plan will depend on how thick the ice is along the first part of the trail to Skwentna.

For staff and volunteers that meant drilling a lot of holes into thick ice.

“We’ll be checking every 50 feet on all the channels we cross on the Susitna and Yentna River,” said Andy Willis, logistics coordinator with the Iditarod.

The ice needs to be at least 18 inches thick so it’s strong enough to hold up the grooming equipment from Cruz Construction, staffers said. It’s the best option to make the first 60 miles of the Iditarod Trail safe for the sled dogs.

“We have to deal as best we can with the hand we’re dealt,” said Stan Hooley, executive director. “Honestly if it wasn’t for Dave Cruz and his desire to see us be able to start from here and the use of his equipment it truly would take significant snowfall between now and Monday to consider starting from here.”

The ice at Willow Lake held up to the test.

“On this scale we can see 6, 12, 18, 24. So we have 24 inches of ice here so this is sufficient,” explained Doug Blumer, a race volunteer.

The crew still had to check miles of river.

“We’ll see what kind of ice conditions we have today between here and Skwenta and I’m anxious to see if we can make it work,” Hooley said.

They hope their drilling expedition is successful so the restart can stay in Willow.

Another crew will take a helicopter from Willow to Rohn to survey the trails from the air on Sunday.

The Iditarod will make an official announcement on Monday, Febuary 17 about where the Last Great Race will start.

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