By Suzanne Freeman

Iditarod Trail Committee president Stan Hooley points out the new route for this year's Iditarod sled dog race. The start was moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, some 200 miles north of its traditional starting line in Wasilla. (Photo: Al Grillo/AP Wide World)

A lack of snow and an unusually warm winter in Alaska have combined to throw mushers off the trail. The official start of the race was moved 200 miles north from Wasilla to Fairbanks, and a new loop will add 70 miles to the already 1,100 mile-long race.

The ceremonial start was also shortened because of the warm weather. The Saturday, March 1, kickoff was cut from 20 to 11 miles. The restart, which is usually the next day, was moved to Monday, March 3.

The New Route
This year, mushers will take their dog teams along the Iditarod's southern route, a twisted trail that begins in Anchorage and ends in Nome. The trail changes from a southern to a northern trail every other year.

Officials changed the route after receiving reports of open water on creeks and a lack of snow at checkpoints in Cripple, Ophir, and Iditarod. Mushers will now follow a loop along the Yukon River from Grayling to Kaltag. From there, mushers will follow the usual trail to the Norton Sound coast and on to the finish line in Nome.

The rerouted trail is new territory to even the most seasoned mushers, including last year's champion, Martin Buser.

"It's going to be a totally new experience for everybody on a format never tested before," he said. "I'm getting excited."