If you attend only one incredible event before winter passes you by, pay some serious consideration to Arctic Man. This event, nearing its 30th year in action, has become an Alaska institution. Fans and competitors are so loyal, that organizers feel the races would likely carry on even in their absence. Arctic Man has a unique fan base, its very own hybrid discipline, and an incredible location, the Hoodoo Mountains. It’s a multiday rally, a ruckus, a rip-roaring good time, and campground fun starts on Monday, April 8, with races scheduled for noon on Friday, April 12.
In short, Arctic Man combines intense downhill skiing and snowboarding with high-speed snowmachine racing. Fans and competitors of either sport have plenty to get pumped about.
“This is one of the toughest events there is in the state as far as skiing and snowmachining,” says Howard Thies, race founder. “It’s an adrenaline rush, and you get excited watching it.”
Each team consists of one skier or snowboarder and one snowmachiner, and their objective is to complete a timed course through the mountains as fast and safe as humanly possible.
The course begins on a 5,800-foot peak known as the Tit. The skier drops from there like a bolt of lightning, relinquishing control over gravity while descending 1,700 feet. They tuck in tight, carefully adjust to every nuance of the snowy course, perhaps while chased by a helicopter overhead, and eventually vanish from view into a groomed creek bed. With skill and good luck they’ll appear once again for spectators gathered in a larger valley, the Hookup, where the skier decelerates onto more level ground.
Waiting impatiently, ready to rip out of the gate, is the snowmachiner. He or she will attempt to match the velocity of the skier or snowboarder, allow them to grab onto the end of a tow rope or tow bar, and tear away out of the valley toward higher ground, but not before catching a little air to heighten the excitement. Wipeouts are not uncommon.
The snowmachine may reach speeds of 90 mph while the skier holds on for dear life, keeping on course and preparing for a departure at a fast-approaching release point. Upon completing their ascent and under applause from more fans, the two will separate with a slight slingshot affect, propelling the skier into the next descent. The snowmachiner’s job is finished, as their partner makes a dart for a finish line below.
Through another eroded, yet snow-filled creek bed, the skiers must navigate under their own control before ejecting out of the creek toward the cheering crowd at the finish. Once there, the fast and furious few minutes of racing is over and the team’s name goes in the history books with a successfully complete run.
The action and melding of the two sports is the main reason why so many people return year after year to this remote location in Alaska’s interior.
“We had 13,000 to 14,000 people probably last year,” says Thies.
And the turnout seems to be increasing for obvious reasons. The Arctic Man campground will be brimming with visitors looking for a place to ride.
“It’s picking up,” Thies says. “In fact, there’s a lot more people wanting to get up there this year than I’ve ever had because we’ve got snow up here and they’ve got none down there (Anchorage).”
At the time of interview Thies boasted another 2.5 feet on the roads around Fairbanks, which could equate to even more in the mountainous areas.
Arctic Man’s setting is truly a heaven for those who love to ride snowmachines, but there’s so much more fun to be had – anything a visitor might want to do during their spring break. It’s an event to make your own.
“It’s the end of the year spring fling, and usually the weather’s good,” says Thies. “Come enjoy it with a bunch of your fellow Alaskans and have a good time and get some riding in, or you can just relax and enjoy yourself, or you can party.”
Race organizers stress, however, that while drinking is allowed at the event and in their beer tent, DUI laws will be in affect with officers patrolling the premises.
“We have a shuttle to shuttle you around, so if you drink don’t go on something with a key in it or you’re going to go behind bars. Just use your common sense,” says Thies.
And while thoughts of partying may make a poor impression on families looking for something new to experience, Arctic Man is large enough for everyone to play their own way and enjoy a host of side events.
“Now we have the hillcross, snowcross, jumping contests with jumpers, drag races, and look on the website; we might have a little four-wheeler race inside the pit, and all kinds of stuff to do,” Thies says.
For 2013, a poker run might be included with the fun, and further details will be posted online as the event nears. A Polaris Razor also will be raffled off for $10 a ticket, or six tickets for only $50. Odom and Rockstar Energy Drink will be sponsoring games in the compound’s main tent. North America Outdoor Institute will host avalanche games, and food vendors will be on location to keep visitors fed.
Everyone can spend a little time browsing some of the other vendors, too, which will include leading snowmachine and ATV manufacturers.
Arctic Man can be an adrenaline rush, riding haven, reunion, a carnival and at the very least an eyeful of one of the most unique cultural gatherings Alaska has to offer. Roughly 14,000 annual visitors already know that, and they keep going back for more.
Learn more by visiting the Arctic Man website, www.arcticman.com.
Reaching Arctic Man is a cinch. From Anchorage, follow Glenn Highway north, past Palmer and on to Glennallen. At the T intersection in Glennallen, follow the Richardson Highway north past Paxson and farther past Summit Lake to Mile 197.5, about 265 miles total.
From Fairbanks, follow the Richardson Highway South for approximately 165 miles to Mile 197.5.
Bar tent and shuttle bus
As a free service provided by Alaska Salmon Berry Tours, Arctic Man guests can be transported from the bar tent back to their camp on a shuttle bus. The bus is for anyone who has been drinking, not only the folks who… don’t know how to pace themselves.
If you plan on drinking, walk to the bar to begin with so there’s no vehicle to be tempted by, and make a plan to use the shuttle. As always, watch out for friends and family. If needed, put them on the shuttle to save them the embarrassment of stumbling into a trooper.
Got a little cash? Consider giving the shuttle driver a tip.
Ken Peltier in concert
Don’t be surprised; 14,000 visitors demand a big show. That’s why Arctic Man will once again have live entertainment. Back by popular demand is Ken Peltier, Alaska’s country star. Find him performing live at the main tent. Great Alaskan Holiday and Polaris sponsor the concert.
Radio race updates and music
According to Howard Thies, race founder, communication at Arctic Man has always been a major challenge. This year the Official Arctic Man Radio Station should be up all weekend with music and race updates: KASH-FM 107.5.
Race officials will attempt to broadcast race times as they become available. Spectators should bring their small FM radios in the event that plans come together.
and race day updates
Facebook users, find Arctic Man on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Arctic-Man/177882763753. Become a fan and stay informed.
Arctic Man is also using Twitter. Find them at www.twitter.com/arcticmanalaska.
Cell phone coverage
Arctic Man organizers would like to thank AT&T for the cell phone service they’ve provided for the past two years. According to the Arctic Man website, they should be back for 2013.
When’s the last time you went to an event and could rent your very own outhouse? Well, at Arctic Man it makes perfect sense. Some of the folk who make the annual pilgrimage to the Hoodoo Mountains like to setup a fancy camp of their own complete with grill, chairs, coolers, all the comforts of home and, yes, even their own porta-potty.
If you don’t want everyone messing up your RV toilet or if you don’t think it will function properly in the extreme cold, then call (907) 452-1480 to secure your very own outhouse.
Fires are permitted in your camp area. Bring your own wood or purchase wood from the provider at Arctic Man. Just be sure to call well in advance to make arrangements so you’re not left out in the cold.
Rules of the camp include no burning of pallets (nails have been a problem in the past) and no throwing glass in the fires.
To purchase firewood call Brad Russell at (907) 378-6312.
The Arctic Man compound is starting to become a pretty cushy place! Even an ATM will be on site so you buy your vendor snacks, event T-shirts and buy rounds for all your pals.Camping Registration
The Arctic Man compound is plowed and constructed annually and offers limited space for campers and RVs. Camping groups must reserve campsites and register with Arctic Man organizers. The cost to do so after Feb. 15 is around $130. PayPal credit card payment are available.
Campsites include plowed parking, access to the medical tent, outhouses, garbage dumpster and the opportunity to be close to all the action. Previous Arctic Man campers have the first opportunity to reserve their campsite. After Feb.15, however, all sites are up for grabs.
Find the registration form online at www.arcticman.com. Be prepared to be placed on a waiting list as sites are often claimed long before event day.
Although a propane and gasoline provider is expected to be on the premises, it is best to bring extra fuel or plan on making a lengthy drive to the nearest gas station south on the Richardson Highway. For those that plan to leave the compound, be sure to park your vehicle in a manner that allows for easy exit. Back trailers and campers in and leave vehicles free to exit when needed.