WASILLA — For the first time in five years, teams will take the southern route from Willow to Nome.

Poor snowfall and bad trail conditions prevented the Iditarod Trail Committee from green-lighting the use of that section of trail since 2013. But in early February, the ITC announced the 2018 race will once again follow that route.

“We are very much looking forward to returning to the communities of Iditarod, Shaguluk, Anvik and Grayling, as well as the Eagle Island checkpoint, that are situated along the southern route,” ITC race director and race marshal Mark Nordman said in a press release. “We value the longstanding support from these communities and look forward to bringing the race back to this route.”

Sixty-seven mushers are slated to leave the restart on Willow Lake March 4, beginning at 2 p.m., with hopes of traveling more than 1,000 miles to the finish line on Front Street in Nome. Sixteen mushers are racing for the first time. The list of rookies includes Wasilla’s Andrew Nolan, the defending Junior Iditarod champion.

Defending Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey leads the cast of 51 veterans in the field. Last year, Seavey needed 8 days, 3 hours, 40 minutes, 13 seconds to win the Last Great Race for the third time. Seavey has five straight finishes in the top 3, and has placed in the top 10 in 13 of the past 14 years. He has 15 total finishes in the top 10.

Seavey is also one of eight mushers who finished in the top 10 last year who is back for the 2018. Seavey’s son Dallas, a four-time champ and the 2017 runner up, withdrew from the 2018 race, opting instead to compete in the Finnmarkslopet race in Finland. Dallas Seavey has been at odds with the ITC since four of his dogs tested positive for the drug Tramadol during the 2017 race.

Iditarod veteran Paul Gebhardt of Kasliof is also not in the 2018 race after a 10th-place finish last year. Gebhardt was diagnosed with cancer in September.

Iditarod offering shuttle service

Fans hoping to hit the Iditarod restart in Willow can catch a shuttle on race day. The ITC will have shuttle buses leaving Anchorage, Wasilla, Houston and Talkeetna in the morning and early afternoon March 4.

There will be buses at a pair of locations in Wasilla. Buses will leave Wasilla High School at 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., noon, 12:15 p.m., 12:30 pm., 12:45 p.m. and 1. There will also be buses at the Menard Center, which leave at 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and noon. Buses are expected to return to each location at 4, 5 and 6 p.m.

The cost is $2 per person, roundtrip. Children 12 and under are free.

Valley fans can also catch buses in Houston and Talkeetna. Buses leave Houston High at 11 a.m. 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and will return at 4, 5 and 6 p.m. Those in the Talkeetna area ban board a shuttle at the Talkeetna Sunshine Restaurant at 11 a.m. and noon, and the buses will return to the same location at 4 and 6 p.m.

The cost is $2 per person, roundtrip. Children 12 and under are free.

There will also be shuttle buses available in Anchorage, at the Lakefront Anchorage off Spenard Road. Buses for volunteers and spectators leave at 9:30 a.m., and at 11 a.m. for fans. Buses are expected to return at 4, 5 and 6 p.m. to the same location.

The cost is $10 per volunteer, roundtrip, and $20 for spectators.

In a press release regarding the shuttle buses, the ITC issued a reminder to those interested in driving to the event that parking is limited, and there is a $10 charge per vehicle for parking.

2018 Field:

Tom Schonberger, Chugiak; Cody Strathe, Fairbanks; DeeDee Jonrowe, Willow; Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Norway; Nic Pettit, Girdwood; Shaynee Traska, Gladwin, Michigan; Michael Willimas Jr, Akiak; Richie Diehl, Aniak; Zoya DeNure, Delta Junction; Ramey Smyth, Willow; Scott Janssen, Anchorage; Peter Kaiser, Bethel; Jessie Holmes, Nenana; Lev Shvarts, Willow; Brett Bruggeman, Great Falls, Montana; Mitch Seavey, Seward; Tom Knolmayer, Wasilla; Linwood Fielder, Willow; Magnus Kaltenborn, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory; Tara Cicatello, Buffalo, New York; Misha Wiljes, Willow; Matt Hall, Two Rivers; Jeff Deeter, Fairbanks; Charley Bejna, Addison, Illinois; Anna Berrington, Knik; Meredith Mapes, Palmer; Jessie Royer, Fairbanks; Martin Buser, Big Lake Jim Lanier, Chugiak Mats Pettersson, Sweden; Rick Casillo, Big Lake; Ray Redington Jr, Wasilla; Rob Cooke, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory; Robert Redington, Willow; Larry Daugherty, Eagle River; Ryan Redington, Wasilla; Kristy Berington, Knik; Tim Muto, Willow; Andy Pohl, Knik; Allen Moore, Two Rivers; Anja Radano, Talkeetna; Michelle Phillips, Tagish, Yukon Territory; Marcella Fressineau, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory; Ally Zirkle, Two Rivers; Jeff King, Denali; Wade Marrs, Willow; Emily Maxwelll, Iowa City, Iowa; Bradley Farquhar, Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia; Mathew Failor, Willow; Lars Monsen, Norway; Dave Delacourt, Wasilla; Noah Pereira, Brockport, New York; Jason Stewart, Wasilla; Scott White, Snohomish, Washington; Alan Eischens, Wasilla; Andrew Nolan, Wasilla; Michi Konno, Willow; Peter Fleck, Soft Spring Island, British Columbia; Monica Zappa, Kasilof; Aaron Peck, Grande Praire, Alberta; Keti Reitan, Kaktovik; Travis Beals, Seward; Steve Watkins, Topeka, Kansas; Hugh Neff, Tok; Aaron Burmeister, Nome; Kelly Maxiner, Big Lake; Katherine Keith, Kotzebue.

2018 Checkpoints:

Willow to Yentna Station (42 miles); Yentna Station to Skwentna (30 miles); Skwentna to Finger Lake (40 miles); Finger Lake to Rainy pass (30 miles); Rainy Pass to Rohn (35 miles); Rohn to Nikolai (75 miles); Nikolai to McGrath (48 miles); McGrath to Takotna (18 miles); Takotna to Ophir (23 miles); Ophir to Iditarod (80 miles); Iditarod to Shageluk (55 miles); Shageluk to Anvik (25 miles); Anvik to Grayling (18 miles); Grayling to Eagle Island (60 miles); Kaltag to Unalakleet (85 miles); Unalakleet to Shaktoolik (40 miles); Shaktoolik to Koyuk (50 miles); Koyuk to Elim (48 miles); Elim to Golovin (28 miles); Golovin to White Mountain (18 miles); White Mountain to Safety (55 miles); Safety to Nome (22 miles).

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