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Massive Alaska Snowfall Cancels Dog Sledding's 'Toughest 300 Miles'

dog sledding alaska
'Mushers' in Alaska. (Image credit: Bureau of Land Management.)

The "toughest 300 miles in sled dog racing" was no match for Alaska's recent massive snowfall.

The Copper Basin 300 (about 483 kilometers), with a purse of $18,000, was cancelled Sunday (Jan. 15) after heavy snow in Alaska "obliterated the middle section of the trail," said Greg Parvin, the race marshal. Temperatures around race time were minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 45.5 degrees Celsius).

Alaska has been hit hard by snow this year. After a jaw-dropping blizzard on Jan. 9, a record-breaking 81.3 inches (207 centimeters) of snow has fallen in Anchorage this winter, according to the National Weather Service. That's nearly 7 feet (2.1 meters) of snow. The total is anew record for most snow from July to Jan. 11 for Anchorage. This year's total so far is nearly double what Anchorage usually receives by that date — certainly not the wimpy winter the rest of thecountry has had.

Heavy snow has been a problem in several towns near Anchorage. The snow has been so heavy in Cordova that an emergency shipment of heavy-duty shovels was needed. A small Alaskan fishing village called Maine Bay has had more than 100 inches (254 cm) of snow in the first 11 days of January.

The Copper Basin 300 starts and finishes about 170 miles (275 km) northeast of Anchorage, in Lake Louise, Alaska. The impassible section, Meier's Lake, was 75 miles (171 km) into the race. The snow was so deep here that even the snow mobiles got stuck.

The decision to cancel the race was made "in the interest of the dogs, mushers and race staff," according to Parvin.

The Copper Basin 300 has been held every year since 1990. The winning dog sledders, known as mushers, typically take more than 50 hours to finish.

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Live Science Staff
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