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Organizers cancel 2024 John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon

Jan. 3—DULUTH — For the third time in its history, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon has been canceled.

Amid nearly snowless conditions in northern Minnesota, organizers canceled the 2024 edition, slated to be the race's 40th, in a news release posted late Tuesday on social media.

"This was not an easy decision," the release said. "But with concerns over the weather, safety of the dogs, mushers and volunteers, it was the only decision we felt comfortable with."

Much of the region experienced the warmest December in recorded history, 13 degrees above normal, prompted by strong El Nino conditions in the Pacific Ocean and the effects of climate change. There were no days with subzero temperatures, and rain fell on Christmas Eve, only the third such holiday with no snow on the ground in 82 years.

Only 7.8 inches of snow have fallen since the beginning of the season, the lowest total at the National Weather Service's Duluth office on Jan. 1 on record. Officially, 1 inch of snow is on the ground.

In December, organizers said they would decide in the first week of January if they would postpone the event to the first week of March, but long-range forecast projections didn't bode well for improving conditions. Further, the potential rescheduled start date of March 3 overlaps with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, and at least four teams were signed up for both.

"In the effort to find a postponement date and in the spirit of sportsmanship, there was not another date that didn't impede on another established race," the release said.

Since it became an annual event in northern Minnesota in 1984, the race has been called off on two previous occasions, in 2007 and 2012. It was delayed in 2013.

This is the earliest of the three years in which the race was canceled. The 2012 event was canceled on Jan. 15, while the 2007 race was postponed to late February and then canceled outright on Feb. 13.