What went wrong with the 2016 Iditarod

It’s the most famous dog sled race in the world. Likely, unless you religiously follow sled dog racing, it’s probably the only race you’ve ever even heard of. That’s how popular the Iditarod is – people who have no clue about the sport can rattle that off with ease.

“Unfortunately for race organizers and promoters, that’s about all that’s been easy about the 2016 race. If you want to start assessing blame, maybe you can point your finger at the weatherman.”, says New York Entrepreneur Jonah Engler.

The epic Iditarod wilderness race had to be cut short by eight miles this year because there just isn’t enough snow. No snow in Alaska? Well, not “no” snow … just not enough snow. The weather has been so warm it forced race organizers to cut the ceremonial start to the race by eight miles. Warmer than usual temperatures kept up so long that even the city’s storehouse of “extra” snow melted.

That’s not all: the lack of snow is so pronounced, Alaska Railroad had to bring in a train full of snow-filled freight cars just to put down enough slush to allow the 85 teams in the race to make it through town for the kickoff ceremony. Organizers are promising that race fans won’t even know the difference as they line the course to watch the dogs and mushers slide through town.

That may not be the case, however. See, there were issues last year too. When organizers in Anchorage tried to host the race last year, there wasn’t any snow at all. They had to move the starting line all the way to Fairbanks just to conduct the race. Worse, they had to reroute 600 miles of the race just to have it at all.

Why are these weather-related issues a PR problem for Iditarod organizers? Well, when your event’s biggest selling points are location and tradition, but you haven’t been able to deliver the full experience of either for two consecutive years, that can become an issue for fans.

While it’s true that event planners managed to find temporary fixes for problems that were beyond their control, they will lose valuable word of mouth and social media advertising because of the weather-related issues. Any time an event gets canceled or postponed or changed because of the weather, people talk about that rather than what they would have talked about had the event happened as planned. If that happens enough times, it will be all people talk about.


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