National News

Nov 4, 2013 3:00 PM by NBC News

Snow shortage hits mushers

(KTUU) A snow shortage in Alaska is impacting the way Iditarod mushers are training for their next big race.

"Typically nowadays they pull 4-wheelers. It used to be old cars or chassis, all kinds of contraptions, now most everybody uses 4-wheelers to get their dogs in base conditioning," says four-time Iditarod champion Martin Buser.

Buser and his team are also relying on a secret weapon just in case Mother Nature doesn't cooperate.

"I not only have the means to travel if I have to, but I have a training facility indoors, I have the worlds largest treadmill," Buser explains.

The treadmill once belonged to Maggie the elephant during her time at the Alaska Zoo, but after she was shipped to California six years ago the treadmill has found a new home.

"I can run 10 or 12 dogs on that treadmill all together at once. That's sort of a secret weapon that nobody else has," Buser says.

Despite his back-up plan, Buser knows there is no substitute for what he calls "time on trail".

"You've got to be out there on the trial, you've got to deal with the uneasiness of the terrain, you've got to deal with the conditions, you've got to cover ground in the real environment," he says.

Buser says he will be forced to take his team to a place with more reliable snow if conditions remain the same through Thanksgiving.

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