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Mushers ponder Fairbanks Iditarod start

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Posted: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 5:15 am, Tue Feb 11, 2014.

FAIRBANKS — A potential change in starting location for the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, from Willow to Fairbanks, didn’t have racers making major modifications when the deadline for dropping off supplies arrived on Monday. 

Race officials are worried lack of snow, particularly from the Alaska Range to Nikolai, may make the trail too dangerous. A decision will be made by Feb. 17 on whether to relocate the start of the race to Fairbanks.

Only once, in 2003, has the Iditarod begun here.

Musher Aaron Burmeister, of Alaskan Wildstyle Racing in Nenana, is preparing for his 15th Iditarod. 

He was a competitor during the 2003 race that started in Fairbanks. He said race officials have done a good job balancing food drops, and is excited about the prospect of new trails and villages if the race starts in Fairbanks.

“It makes everyone a rookie again,” Burmeister said.

White canvas bags inscribed with mushers’ names were being unloaded from truck beds on Monday at Airland Transport in Fairbanks, then stacked on pallets and wrapped. Two forklifts waltzed between the unloading zone, a scale and a tractor-trailer where the drop bags were loaded to be shipped to Anchorage for sorting.

Burmeister’s addition of extra food was evident when his food and gear registered close to 2,300 pounds, at least 100 pounds more than his estimate. 

Palletized supplies usually fill two 45-foot semitrailers, according to Liz Benham, terminal manager at Airland.

“We might see all this back,” she said, referring to the potential Iditarod restart in Fairbanks on March 3.

Kaz Zirkle, of SP Kennel in Two Rivers, dropped bags off for her sister, Aliy Zirkle, and 2014 Yukon Quest champion Allen Moore. Kaz handled for Aliy during the 2003 Iditarod.

She said race officials let them redistribute items in the drop bags during that rerouted race, so they might move food and blankets to bags for the northern checkpoints, provided the opportunity is given.

Kaz Zirkle estimates 99 percent of the bags’ contents are for the dogs. Lots of “Snicker snacks,” Kaz said, named after the popular candy bar. They include chicken, turkey skins and beef-liver tripe, as well as a “really stinky” beef and fish blend the dogs go crazy for.

“The smell is powerful,” said Bob Kubanyi, a warehouseman helping unload bags.

Kaz also made some high-protein pumpkin cookies her sister Aliy requested.

Contact the newsroom at 459‑7572. 

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