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One less hotel leaves Nome with fewer Iditarod beds

The burled arch in Nome being prepared for the Iditarod finish.
Finishing touches being made to the burled arch and chute at the finish line of the 2020 Iditarod in Nome. Photo by KJ McElwee, KNOM.

Space could be short for visitors to the Iditarod finish in Nome.

As many as 500 visitors could be in Nome for the finish of the icy trek, Nome city manager Glenn Steckman said. He explained what Nome could expect in terms of visitors, both from race participants and spectators.

“We anticipate at least 500-plus more people will be in the city, but obviously not everybody will be in the city for a week,” Steckman said. “People will come and go, but it’s a consistent number that will be impacting the city during the 10-day to two-week period.”

Nome is short a whole lot of hotel beds, due to a fire that put the Nome Nugget Hotel out of business during Typhoon Merbok. The fire also gutted and destroyed the Bering Sea Restaurant, a bar and grill next door to the hotel in September 2022.

An earlier fire destroyed the Polaris Hotel in October 2017 and there was never a new one constructed to replace it.

Likewise, there are no plans to reopen the Nugget currently. That is leading to concern over where people will stay during Iditarod. The Chamber of Commerce was asked to conduct outreach on the issue, and that there are several bed and breakfast businesses in the community, Steckman said.

“We encouraged the Chamber to reach out to the community to see if there were a number of people that might be willing to rent their houses out, as has been done in the past, to provide additional housing,” Steckman said. “There’s also housing that has been converted to bed and breakfasts over the past few years.”

Even though there are two hotels and 8 bed and breakfasts open during the Iditarod, the hotels are full, and only two BnBs said they had even partial availability — for no more than two or three days maximum in the middle of March.

Beyond the Iditarod, the temporary housing situation is dire enough during March that Bering Straits Regional Housing Authority president Jolene Lyon won’t even schedule in-town board meetings during the month.

“There’s so many things going on, and we’re not the only entity in town that has a board, so we try to plan well in advance … but for the most part, I just try not to have a board meeting in the month of March,” Lyon said.

Miranda Musich owns the Golden Sands bed & breakfast in Nome. She says her business started getting full for the Iditarod months ago.

“I started booking out six months in advance, so I was starting to get bookings as soon as my calendar opened up,” Musich said.

Another bed and breakfast, the Noxapaga Inn, is owned by Jessica Farley. She says visitors who haven’t found a place yet should reach out to the Visitor’s Center in Nome.

“I generally tell people that, at this point, they need to be calling the Visitor Center for help finding space on somebody’s couch or a spare bedroom,” Farley said. “We’re at 100% occupancy … we are generally booked out about six months before the race, and it was the same this year as it was last year.”

Paul Kosto is the director of the Nome Chamber of Commerce. He says, one way or another, everyone who wants to come to Nome for the race’s finish finding somewhere to lay their head.

“Somehow or another the folks in Nome seem to accommodate all the visitors that want to come for Iditarod,” Kosto said. “(They) open their homes, they make room underneath the dining room table, they shuffle kids into one room and make available another room. Many people sign up and host visitors and mushers and their team of helpers.”

For more information, visit the Nome Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center website.

Image at top: Iditarod in Nome. Photo by KJ McElwee, KNOM.

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