The ceremonial start for the XLI Iditarod gets underway in less than an hour. The live broadcast begins at 9:30am AKST. You can stream it here: http://iditarod.com/see-the-2013-ceremonial-start-free/
Several weeks ago, I linked to this article in the New York Times about Alaska experiencing warmer than usual weather late last year, forcing race officials to cancel or postpone several Iditarod qualifying races. Well, it seems things have gotten better on the trail since January. On Feb. 14, Joe Runyon posted on his blog that he had spoken to a few mushers and race officials who had been on the trail and said snowfall looks good, especially south of the Alaska Range. Two days ago, AccuWeather.com reported that snowfall in Nome has been 31 inches since January, and that Iditarod officials have “no concerns” about snow on the trail.
Yesterday on his blog, Runyon confirmed that snowfall has blanketed the entire trail and mushers should have good conditions all the way to Nome. He adds a caveat, however: the treacherous Dalzell Gorge, the steep downhill run following Rainy Pass summit that takes mushers out of the Alaska Range. Winds blowing through this side of the Range have downed trees in the Gorge, and officials have been out with chainsaws cleaning the area up.
Even more potentially dangerous are areas along the river at the bottom of the Gorge where drum ice appears. Drum ice occurs when the water below the ice drains out or recedes, leaving a thin layer of ice over a gaping hole. When covered with snow, such areas can appear safe to mushers, but if hit just right can act like a trap door swallowing dogs and musher. Mushers will need to be careful to stay on the trail in this part of the Gorge.