World's longest sled dog race cancelled due to climate change — Here is how

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Equipped with boots and goggles, this team is one of 85 in the annual Iditarod sled dog race, which covers a course of 1,000 miles between two towns in Alaska. —Reuters
Equipped with boots and goggles, this team is one of 85 in the annual Iditarod sled dog race, which covers a course of 1,000 miles between two towns in Alaska. —Reuters

This year, the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races, the longest sledge dog race in the eastern United States, faced cancellation due to insufficient snow coverage, raising concerns about potentially hazardous trail conditions. 

The event, scheduled to commence on March 2 in Fort Kent, Maine, more than 300 miles north of Portland, near the US-Canadian border, typically draws thousands of spectators for its 250-mile race course through the vast Allagash Wilderness.

The decision to cancel this year's race was announced by Can-Am President Dennis Cyr, citing the lack of snow and the forecasted heavy rainstorm, coupled with unseasonably warm weather, which could further degrade the trails. 

The Fort Kent area has experienced a snow deficit, with only 4 feet of snow since October 2023, about 2 feet below the average through February. The region is witnessing its warmest winter on record, with temperatures averaging 6 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

Organisers emphasised the priority of health and safety for participants, including mushers and their dogs. This marks a recurring challenge for the event, as it has been altered or cancelled in the past due to weather-related issues, including a pandemic-related cancellation in 2021.

Scientists highlight the climate crisis's potential impact on snow conditions in the Northeast, anticipating decreased snowfall and a shorter snow season due to warmer temperatures, leading to more precipitation falling as rain instead of snow. 

The Can-Am organisers express hope for the event's return in 2025, recognising its significance as a tradition celebrating the bond between mushers and sled dogs amidst the rugged beauty of Maine's winter landscape.