Iron Dog Changes Routes, Adds North Pole to Its Course
There will be no doubt as to whether the Iron Dog snowmachine race, which finishes in Fairbanks, will be 2,000 miles long this year.
FAIRBANKS - There will be no doubt as to whether the Iron Dog snowmachine race, which finishes in Fairbanks, will be 2,000 miles long this year.
The world's longest snowmachine race got even longer when Iron Dog officials decided to reroute the race through North Pole to finish in downtown Fairbanks. Race officials announced the route change about a month ago and on Tuesday said they had acquired the needed permits to make it happen.
The change will add approximately 60 to 70 miles to the race, which previously measured 1,971 miles from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks.
"It will definitely put them over the 2,000-mile mark," said Iron Dog board member John Johnston of Fairbanks, who proposed the idea to race organizers a few years ago.
The Iron Dog starts Feb. 20 in Big Lake and is scheduled to finish in Fairbanks on Feb. 26, a Saturday. A field of 31 two-person teams will compete for a record $194,500 purse, with $50,000 for the winning team.
Following the new route, racers will turn off the Tanana River at Salchaket Slough, about five miles from the mouth of the Chena River, and travel east through the Fort Wainwright Recreational Area, crossing the Tanana River to reach the Chena Flood Control Project in North Pole. The trail will go north through the flood control project before connecting with the Chena River about 20 miles upstream of Nordale Road for the homestretch into Fairbanks. The finish line will be at the William Ransom Wood Centennial Footbridge.
The finish line comes to downtown Fairbanks for two reasons, said Kevin Kastner, Iron Dog executive director in Anchorage.
Ice conditions on the Chena River near the traditional finish line at Pike's Landing have deteriorated in recent years, he said. Last year, open water near the finish line forced race organizers to move the finish of the race downstream of Pike's.
Tying the race finish to the popular Tired Iron snowmachine rally on the Chena River provided another reason to make the route change, Kastner said.
The race had a ceremonial finish downtown two years ago. The actual finish line - where the clock stopped - was at Pike's Landing. For safety reasons, teams were escorted by other snowmachiners into town via Noyes Slough.
Kastner called the ceremonial downtown finish two years ago "super lame" and said the new route should provide a more exciting finish that can be watched by more people as the teams race toward Fairbanks.
While the official clock will stop before racers actually hit the finish line - either at Noyes Slough or the Steese Highway bridge - they will be going full throttle almost all the way to downtown, Kastner said.
"We'll pull them off time before they actually get to the footbridge," he said. "We don't want to have anybody coming in too fast."
Fairbanks racer Tyler Huntington, who is out to defend the Iron Dog title he won last year with Chris Olds of Eagle River, said he always liked finishing at Pike's Landing, but he has no problem with the route change as long as the trail is marked well.