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When the Iditarod starts there will be 66 teams on the trail, three more that last year, but well down from the peak years. I noticed 5 names that have withdrawn who have either been around forever, or provided a new element to race.

The kilted supporters of Wattie McDonald of Scotland will not be in evidence this year. They shook things up at the start last year.

Jessie Royer and Tamara Rose of Fairbanks have both withdrawn. Jessie said it was a matter of money, and people can certainly understand that. It will still be odd not seeing her in the top ten.

Native Alaskan mushers Mike Williams and Robert Nelson have also decided to sit out this year, and money probably played some part in their decisions.

The truth is that running the Iditarod cost $30K+ when you add it all up. If you add in the cost of transportation to start line, and then home from the finish, you need a really good year to afford it. When things are bad, the sponsors just aren’t there.

Another change of note is to the trail itself between Finger Lake and Rainy Pass. Alaska Public Broadcasting reports that the Iditarod Trail Altered To Avoid ‘Happy River Steps’. The ‘Steps’ have eaten a lot of sleds, and mugged more than a few mushers. If you’re lucky, the sled will break into pieces suitable for making splints for your broken bones.

Update: The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article on the course change includes a video of Aliy Zirkle’s passage down the steps in 2010 when conditions were perfect with deep new snow cushioning the rocks underneath. That is the best it gets. With less snow, and perhaps ice on the rock shelving, the ‘Steps’ get very ‘interesting’.

February 26, 2012   2 Comments