From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage –
It was a disappointing weekend for middle-distance mushers, many of whom were planning on knocking out a 300-mile qualifier for the Iditarod/Yukon Quest at this year’s Copper Basin 300.
The contest was expected to end sometime this morning at Red Eagle Lodge. Instead, mushers began to pile up after the Meier’s Lake checkpoint – less than a third of the way into the race.
Aliy Zirkle, of Two Rivers, described the scene on her SP Kennel blog: “I really began to have my doubts about the trail when I came head on with three of the lead trail breaking snow machines headed the wrong direction - one was being towed.”
By 9:36 a.m. Sunday, racers organizers declared the event canceled.
“Heavy snows and high winds obliterated the middle section of the trail; the race trail is impassable,” race marshal Greg Parvin said in a statement posted on the race Facebook page and website. “Furthermore, temperatures have consistently ranged between 45 and 50 degrees below zero."
John Schandelmeier, of Paxson, was near the front of the pack when the race ground to a stop. Schandelmeier says the stoppage likely could have been avoided with better trail preparation.
For example, a five-mile stretch deemed impassable could have been broken if trailbreakers approached from the opposite direction or had more assistance before race day, Schandelmeier said. Other portions of the race were broken more than a month ago, but apparently hadn’t been touched since, he said.
“Somehow, down the line, we’ve got to get more people down there (working) on this trail if we’re going to put it in,” Schandelmeier said.
There’s clearly some discord behind-the-scenes at this race, based on posts from Trail boss Bruno Baureis on the race Facebook page today, and from Kirk Wilson, of Tolsona Lake Resort, on the outdoorsdirectory.com forums.