What started as a $100 bet between friends in a bar back in 1985 has become one of the biggest snow- machining/skiing events in Alaska. The Arctic Man is the fourth largest city in Alaska, built seemingly overnight, a city built on camaraderie between snowmachiner, and skier and snowboarder. The race is teams of skilled competitors that test the strength of an athlete and horsepower of a snowmachine. Training and trust are the key elements of this dynamic duo.
The skier or boarder begins at the summit elevation of 5,800 feet and drops 1,700 feet in less than two miles to the bottom of a narrow canyon where they meet up with their snowmachine partner. The snowmachiner meets the skier, on the fly, with a tow rope pulling the skier a little over two miles uphill at top speeds of nearly 90 mph, they then separate, the skier goes over the side of the second mountain and drops another 1,200 feet to the finish line.
The theme of the Arctic Man is “GO FAST or GO HOME.” A true adrenaline rush for spectators and competitors alike.
Approximately 13,000 spectators come from around the world to enjoy this spectacular Alaskan event. The location of Arctic Man is some of the best snowmachine riding country in Alaska, and arguably the world. A spring event that you will treasure for a lifetime. Don’t miss your opportunity to join in the fun. Go online and register today. There are plenty of spaces available, according to event founder Howard Thies.
Arctic Man has been cranking now for 31 years, and because of its longevity organizers can give participants a pretty good idea of what to do and what not to do. There are plenty of opportunities to have fun, but the man behind the curtain, Howard Thies, warns that common sense is a requirement.
Troopers and medical staff will be present on the Arctic Man compound to help decrease danger, but that is not an invitation for reckless behavior. No one wants to have to rescue you. Because this isn’t one of your buddy trips into the mountains, rather a community event, have consideration for others, Thies says. If you plan to ride in the mountains and nearby trails, tell someone where you’re going, carry GPS, and proper safety equipment. There are all levels of riders in attendance at Arctic Man, be sure to ride within your limits and use caution around other riders and local wildlife. It is wise to ride with people who are familiar with the area. Steer clear of glaciers, ice bridges and sketchy terrain.
Because alcohol will be present, Thies warns to abstain from drinking and riding. If you drink and ride you’ll likely end up in jail, he says. Fighting is another no-no. The Arctic Man compound is like its own city, complete with laws and regulations. Follow the rules, and you’ll be fine.
Food vendors will be present, but it is recommended that you bring enough food with you to last the duration of the event. Same goes for fuel and propane, there will not be anywhere to purchase propane at Arctic Man so make sure you top off before you arrive. Fuel is expected to be available for sale on the compound.
April is considered springtime for much of the northern hemisphere, however it is not unheard of to have cooler temperatures while attending Arctic Man. Some have even experienced temps in the minus 20s. Packing riding gear that’s suﬃcient for the cold temperatures and elements is crucial.
The nuts and bolts of enjoying Arctic Man
Following the race
If getting to Arctic Man just isn’t an option – maybe the budget is limited or you can’t get the time off of work – don’t worry. Arctic Man organizers have created many ways in which you can follow the race from the comfort of home. Radio station KZND-FM 94.7 will be announcing times and places to the crowd on site, and hopefully communications will allow it to extend beyond just the venue. There will also be Facebook updates in the morning and evening – find the Arctic Man page at www.facebook.com/pages/Arctic- Man/177882763753. Twitter updates will be at www.twitter.com/ arcticmanalaska.
The spectacular Hoodoo Mountains are the venue for this annual event, which attracts nearly 15,000 spectators each year. To get here from Anchorage, follow the Glenn Highway to its intersec tion with the Richardson Highway, at Glennallen. Turn left (north) on the Richardson for approximately 82.5 miles. From Fairbanks follow the Richardson south. Follow the Richardson for another 62.5 miles past Delta Junction. General GPS coordinates for the Arctic Man campground are 63°12’7.21”N, 145°30’35.30”W.
Events & entertainment
Arctic Man race director Howard Thies says to expect the usual forms of entertainment, Alaska Motor Mushers Club races, drags, live music, food, beer tent – all the things that make Arctic Man just that much more fun. Of course, spectators are always encouraged to get creative and make their own forms of family-friendly entertainment as can be seen by the elaborate camps, cookouts and general camaraderie.
Arctic Man organizers say they are expecting record snow this year. With much of the region lacking in good snowfall, Arctic Man is one of your best hopes for spectacular, spring riding.
Bar tent and shuttle bus
As a free service, Arctic Man guests can be transported from the bar tent back to their camp on a shuttle. The shuttle is for anyone who has been drinking … not just the lightweights. So hop on board and tip the driver. After all, he or she is putting up with a rowdy bunch. If you plan on drinking, walk – don’t ride – to the bar. Make a plan to use the shuttle. Watch out for friends and family. If needed, put them on the shuttle to save them the embarrassment of winding up on the Alaska State Troopers TV series. It’s a poor representation of Alaska, and gives Arctic Man a bad name.
The Paxson Lodge and fuel station likely will be closed after shutting down two years ago. If driving up from the south (Wasilla, Anchorage, Valdez) fuel up in Glennallen, and plan accordingly.
Cell phone coverage
Arctic Man organizers would like to thank AT&T for the cell phone service they’ve provided for the past few years. 4G service will again be available.
Do you consider yourself a king of Arctic Man? Then you deserve a proper throne. 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. Arctic Man has not secured a vendor as of yet for purchasing at the compound so be sure to check their website and plan accordingly.
Rules of the camp include no burning of pallets (nails have been a problem in the past) and no throwing glass in the fires. And, as weird as it is to write these words – feel free to bring a couch but do NOT leave it behind, attempt to burn it or dump it in the Dumpsters.
Campground reservations start at $140 if paid early. Sites are secured for the previous occupant each year until March 1. After that, sites are given up to waiting list. The Arctic Man compound is plowed and constructed annually and offers limited space for campers and RV’s. Camping groups must reserve campsites and register with Arctic Man organizers. The cost to do so after February 15 is $145. Paypal credit card pay- ments are available online.
Campsites include plowed parking, access to medical tent, out- houses, 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 March 1, however, all sites are up for grabs.
You can find the registration form online at www.arcticman.com. Be prepared to be place on a waiting list as sites are often claimed long before the event day.
Putting on the race
We asked Howard Thies, creator and executor of Arctic Man, what goes into putting on an event like this? “To put on Arctic Man is a lot harder than people may realize. Hours and hours of answering emails filled with questions and us contacting sponsors. “We have five days to plow the snow for parking, then we stake all the spaces and set up headquarters, also add in vendor spaces. We groom the race course early so that racers can train for up to four of five days, we also mark the course with a safety fence and offer crowd control for the safety of spectators, racers, and oﬃcials. “Once the race is over we take all of this down and haul it some five miles back to equipment/transport to be taken back to town. So yes, it is not just show up to Summit and it happens, many hours of planning, working in tough conditions to pull this event off without a hitch.”
Going for the Guinness
How would you like to be part of setting a Guinness World Record?
Arctic Man is giving everyone that opportunity. Currently the largest parade of snowmachines is 1,047, an achievement made by Whitecourt Trailblazers in Alberta, Canada, on Feb. 12, 2015. The parade took place as part of the World Snowmobile Invasion, held in Whitecourt. Howard Thies, Arctic Man founder, is confident attendees at this year’s event will be able to make history and beat the record. The parade of snowmachines will be held on Saturday, April 9, and admission is free. Check the Arctic Man website for details at www.arcticman.com.
The A-Man Economic Boom
We become the fourth largest city in Alaska overnight,” says Howard Thies of his famed Arctic Man event. “With 900 motorhomes that burn gasoline or diesel propane for heat, food for all these people and events, over 8,000 snowmachines at the event that require fuel and parts, that adds up to a lot of money. I would guess that over a million, maybe even 2 million dollars, are spent in conjunction with the Arctic Man.” Those who have experienced Arctic Man first-hand know that’s a pretty accurate number. It makes you think of the popular credit-card commercials, and that must be why year after year people continue to make the journey to Arctic Man … the experience is priceless.