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Alaska snow drought cancels Sheep Mountain 150 Sled Dog Race

Craig Medred
Courtesy: Tom Jamgochian

Despite snow in the forecast, or at least the promise of snow in the forecast, Sheep Mountain 150 Sled Dog Race director Zack Steer announced Monday the first legitimate mid-distance race of winter has been canceled. There just isn't enough snow in the Talkeetna Mountains to make racing possible, he said in a press release.

"The snowfall that arrived in Southcentral Alaska over the past weekend left less than one inch of new snow in the Sheep Mountain area. With only minor snow predicted in the coming week, the decision was made to cancel so that the mushers and race volunteers would have time to make alternate plans," Steer reported. "This is the third time in nine years of running that the race has been cancelled due to lack of snow, the others being 2007 and 2009."

Alaska's Southcentral region, which includes Anchorage, has seen extreme oscillations in recent winters. While there were snow droughts in 2007 and 2009, there was record snowfall last year. This year, there has been another snow drought that has afflicted much of the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage and broad swath of the state up into the Alaska Range, where there is usually a considerable amount of snow by now.

The lack of snow had forced mushers to train on four-wheelers behind their teams, instead of dogsleds, and left many of them anxious to get on snow. Steer reported 60 teams were hoping to get some on-sled racing time in at the Sheep Mountain 150, but that just isn't going to happen.

"... Rookies use the race to gain experience and possibly qualify for Iditarod," he said. "It's just a really fun event and I hate to have to cancel it, but there really was no other choice.  I’m looking into re-scheduling for this spring, possibly after Iditarod in March or April."

The Sheep Mountain 150 Sled Dog Race has a Facebook page with more information.