For the first time in five years, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race will follow the southern route. 

Inadequate snowfall and poor trail conditions are cited as reasons the southern route hasn't been followed in recent years. 

“We are very much looking forward to returning to the communities of Iditarod, Shageluk, Anvik and Grayling, as well as the Eagle Island checkpoint, all that are situated along the southern route,” said Mark Nordman, Iditarod Trail Committee race director and race marshal. “We value the longstanding support from these communities and look forward to bringing the race back to this route.”

The ITC Board of Directors says crews have been monitoring trail conditions closely to ensure the southern route is ready for the race. Several improvements have been made to the Iditarod Trail, including removal of downed trees and brush and updating trail makers. 

"The crews worked to ensure the safest route possible as wilderness travel allows for mushers and their team of canine athletes," the ITC said in a statement Friday. 

The ITC board says they are committed to running the southern route next year, too, pending trail conditions. 

The ceremonial start takes place Saturday, March 3, at 10 a.m. in downtown Anchorage at the intersection of 4th Avenue and D Street. The restart is the next day in Willow at 2 p.m.

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