Nome-Golovin racers expect rough conditions, weather could delay start

About 40 racers registered for the annual Nome-Golovin Snowmachine Race on March 9 at Nome Elementary School. That number is down from last year, according to race manager Kevin Bahnke.

After all the bib numbers were drawn, there were 14 registrants in Open Class, 14 in the 600 Class, four in the Fan-Cooled Class and four in the Women’s Class.

During the registration, Bahnke told everyone in attendance that weather conditions will likely push the race start back to Sunday, March 12, instead of the normal Saturday start. Although no blizzard or heavy snow is expected, near-whiteout fog is predicted to blanket the region on Friday and Saturday.

Safety is the number one priority for him and race organizers, Banke said.

“Our biggest concern is the safety of the racers,” Bahnke said. “We don’t race unless we have air support, that’s our biggest concern. If someone gets hurt on the trail, we want to be able to help them.”

The room was packed with race hopefuls, from rookies to seasoned, and competitive vets.

Mike Morgan, who also runs in the Iron Dog Snowmachine Race, has won the Nome-Golovin event three times, and taken the top-of-class two other times. He said conditions this year look harsh.

“It’s really not a not a race to push this year, it’s just rugged, and I’ve done this thing a lot,” Morgan said. “I don’t think I’ve seen it this harsh out there (before).”

Traci Karmun is racing for the first time in any snowmachine competition. She said she is nervous, adding that her preparation for the race is, “Scary and nerve racking.”

When it comes to the young racers — those who are 16 and 17 years old — Bahnke said organizers are trying to provide an opportunity for them to run with the big dogs.

“We are trying to develop young kids that want to race,” Bahnke said. “The industry … doesn’t provide smaller machines for these kids, so we’ve had to adapt with the industry for what we can provide for the kids.”

Fuel pits for racers will be at Topkok and White Mountain. Ham radio operators will be stationed at the starting line, Safety, Topkok, the White Mountain shelter cabin in-between Topkok and Timber, as well as Golovin. 

Right now, the race is scheduled to start at noon on Saturday from the sea ice east of town. Whenever this year’s Nome Golovin does get underway, Bahnke warns racers to expect rough trail and broken up chunks of ice along the way.

Image at top: Racer Andrew Peterson IV signs up to run the Nome-Golovin Snowmachine Race on Thursday evening at Nome Elementary School. Photo by Greg Knight, KNOM (2023.