When Marco Sullivan first heard about the Arctic Man Ski & Sno-Go Classic, he was intrigued. As a profes- sional skier racing on the World Cup circuit, the Tahoe City, Calif., skier couldn’t resist. The adrenaline of skiing at speeds reaching 90 mph, and the sweet pot of prize money waiting to be earned at the finish, were enough to draw him to the Hoodoos and give it a try. And he has succeeded.
“I started doing it in 2008, and I did miss a couple of years in there because I was also racing professionally on the World Cup tour,” Sullivan said. “So I’ve raced it eight times total and we’ve been fortunate enough to win it six of those times. It’s been a wild ride.”
This year, Arctic Man is enjoying what could be its last featuring skiers and snowboarders being towed behind snowmachines, and Sullivan says he is looking forward to being part of the last hurrah. As sad as he is to see the race go, he also understands that chang- ing circumstances – including shrinking budgets, unpredictable weather and dwindling sponsorships – drive the event’s success.
“It’s always been an adventure up there and we look forward to that week,” said Sullivan, who won the 2017 ski-snowmachine race with longtime partner and Iron Dog champion Tyler Aklestad. The pair have become a hard-to-beat duo because they’ve learned that
consistency and trust are the key to success.
“When it comes to training now, we do one or two runs and we
are totally ready because we know how the other operates,” Sul- livan said. “Tyler’s a professional in his right on the snowmachine, and we are both confident in each other and our respective sports.”
The Aklestad-Sullivan combo has been atop the podium six times since their arrival at Arctic Man – first in 2008, then again consecutively from 2011 to 2014. In 2013, they set the record for best time, finishing in 3 minutes, 52.72 seconds.
Still, amid their success, racers not on the pro circuit — persis- tent Alaskans still battling among the big boys — managed wins as well. Longtime racer Eric Heil and snowmachine partner Len Story took the 2009 ski-sled race, and they still hold the speed record
for their blistering 91.6 mph victory in 2005. That mix of pro and semipro racers is yet another aspect of Arctic Man that makes it such a unique event.
“I have such respect for guys like Eric Heil who have been doing Arctic Man year after year, kind of putting their health on the line and doing so well,” he said. “I’m sad to see Arctic Man as it is go, but I have a feeling that it is such a cool event that it might start up again and resurrect itself.”