FAIRBANKS—The Iditarod won't be heading north to Fairbanks this year.

The executive director for the famed sled dog race said this afternoon that the race will begin normally in Willow on March 2, a day after a ceremonial start in Anchorage. Race officials said two weeks ago that they were considering a Fairbanks start instead, thanks to an unseasonably warm winter that has left much of Southcentral Alaska with sparse snow cover.

Executive Director Stan Hooley said the race's board of directors met on Monday and decided the trail had enough promise to proceed normally.

"We just felt in the end we had the chance to use some equipment to improve a poor trail, so that's what we decided to do," he said.

Fairbanks has come to the aid of the Willow-to-Nome race once before when poor trails scuttled the traditional course. The Iditarod started in Fairbanks in 2003, taking a Yukon River route for much of the trip.

Hooley thanked Fairbanks officials for providing that option again this year, even if it wasn't deemed necessary.

"We certainly appreciate the effort that was put forth," Hooley said.

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMbusiness.