By April, winter is starting to recede in most of Alaska. The people who enjoy snowmobiling, skiing, and snowboarding begin heading to the last vestiges of good snow. Many of these winter sports nuts that want one last winter party before it is too late can head off to the Arctic Man Ski and Sno-Go Classic.
If you have ever driven the scenic Richardson Highway in Alaska, you know all about the long stretches of remote and beautiful terrain passing through valleys and mountains. It is in this same area, near Paxson, that will go from population negligible to over 13,000 people during Arctic Man. The travel trailer city pops up in the Hoo Doo Mountains almost overnight. This creates Alaska’s fourth largest city, if only for a week.
Arctic Man began in 1986, and has since begun attracting people from all over the world to participate and watch the events. In the last few years, Arctic Man has been broadcast on NBC and other networks. The main event is one of the most unique races found anywhere: it combines a snowmobiler and a skier or snowboarder, depending on the division entered.
In the main event race, the skier or boarder begins at a 5,800 ft summit and quickly drops over 1700 ft in two miles. At the base of this first mountain, the skier or boarder meets up with their snowmobiling partner, grabs on to a towrope, and is pulled up the second mountain for 2.25 miles. The idea is to go maximum speed, and racers have been clocked at speeds up to 88 mph. At the crest of the second mountain, the skier or boarder races down 1200 ft to cross the finish line.
Entrants come form a wide background. There are schoolteachers, military members, and even Alaska’s former “first Dude” Todd Palin making up entrants. According to an article in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner, a 2010 4-team division winner named Kate Morrell of Gresham, Oregon hadn’t even heard of Arcticman until two weeks before she competed.
Timing by the snowmobiler and both posturing and timing by the skier or boarder are some of the most important elements in the main event race. Practicing good towing technique along slopes can make a huge difference come competition time.
There are no reserved tickets or seats for spectators at Arcticman. You can request a pad spot for your RV while you stay, though. Be prepared for one big party. This is Alaska’s answer to Ft. Lauderdale or Lake Havasu for Spring Break