Where does the Iditarod start? It depends on the weather

You’d think a race that’s been taking place since 1973 would have a starting line that never changes, but that’s not the case for the Iditarod — it has several starts, and some of these change from year to year.

The National Historic Iditarod Trail begins right here in Seward (see photo). Originally a mail and supply route, the trail became, in 1925, “a life saving highway for epidemic-stricken Nome. Diphtheria threatened and serum had to be brought in . . . by intrepid dog mushers and their faithful hard-driving dogs.” This one trip inspired today’s Iditarod, or what is called “The Last Great Race.”

The ceremonial start of the race is 125 road miles north in downtown Anchorage, and this past Saturday mushers took off down 4th Avenue while an announcer introduced each musher and team. Snow is trucked in so sleds can roll along the road, and bundled-up crowds gather on both sides to cheer the mushers and their teams on.

Mushers ride to East Anchorage, where they load their teams in trucks and drive even farther north for the official start (or “restart”) of the race the next day. This location is what changes from year to year — usually the competitive start has been in Wasilla, a bedroom community of Anchorage. This year, however, the start was in Willow — 30 miles north of Wasilla. Msnbc reported in January that the move to Willow was due to urban sprawl and a warming climate — and is permanent.

The conditions have been so terrible that the race hasn’t restarted in Wasilla since 2002, and in 2003 the restart actually took place in Fairbanks — 200 miles north of Wasilla.

If Alaska continues to warm up, the Iditarod may be no more, but until then I imagine the competitive start will continue to be pushed north until there’s nowhere left to go.