Dee Dee Jonrowe, of Willow, mushes during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Anchorage, Alaska, Saturday, 4 March 2017. Photo: Michael Dinneen / AP Photo

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, 5 March 2017 (Associated Press) – The sound of howling dogs filled downtown Anchorage on Saturday as mushers from around the world gathered for the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

About 2,000 dogs belonging to 72 mushers waited their turn — some more patiently and less vocally than others — to hit the trail this year. The race spans nearly 1,000 miles of Alaska wilderness, including the last stretch when the teams battle the frozen Bering Sea coast en route to the finish line in the community of Nome.

The ceremonial start is a fan-friendly event designed to show off mushing to fans in Alaska’s largest city. Spectators pet the dogs, mingled with mushers and even grabbed an autograph or two. […]

Anchorage had more than enough snow to stage the ceremonial start. But just a few hundred miles north, the Alaska Range — a mountain span that includes Denali — has little snow and open-water conditions.

That has prompted race officials to move the competition’s official start from the Anchorage area over the mountain range to Fairbanks to avoid the dodgy spots. It’s the second time in the past three years, and third in the past 14, that the race has had to move to Fairbanks to find suitable winter conditions to start. [more]

Event kicks off Alaska’s Iditarod

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