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Iditarod Tries to Ease Avalanche Risk

February 25, 2006

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ Iditarod officials said they plan to bomb trails in an effort to ease the avalanche risk ahead of the annual race from Anchorage to Nome.

A helicopter, an avalanche expert and explosives were in place at the Rainy Pass Lodge Thursday in preparation for bombing potential danger areas to bring down snow, Iditarod officials said in Friday’s Anchorage Daily News.

Some 80 teams will head north from Anchorage on March 4 for the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Officials have been worried about avalanche dangers in and around Rainy Pass since Richard Strick Jr. of McGrath was caught in a snowslide Feb. 14. Strick’s body was found Friday under about 11 feet of snow, officials said.

``They’re going to try to stabilize the pass,″ said Bill Merchant, director of the Iditarod Trail Invitational, which runs through the area before the Iditarod race.

About 40 Invitational competitors on mountain bikes, skis and on foot are scheduled to leave Knik this weekend on a journey to the isolated community of McGrath.

Avalanche expert Jill Fredston said it appeared many of the more dangerous avalanches had fallen. With some avalanche-control efforts, the trail down from Rainy Pass into the Dalzell Gorge could be rendered relatively safe, she said.

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