People are gathered at Summit Lake for the annual Arctic Man Ski and Sno-Go Classic. It’s the 30th running of the extreme sporting event that’s also Alaska’s biggest tailgate party.
Arctic Man Founder and organizer Howie Thies of Fairbanks is ready for a big turnout for this year’s event in the Hoodoo Mountains off the Richardson Highway.
“Because it’s the 30th anniversary and we had snow compared to come of the other places in the state,” Thies said.
Arctic Man is an Alaskan rite of spring, a far cry from the humble beginning Theis recounts.
“We started out as a bar room bet and 19 show up 20-30 people, and I’ll have anywhere from 10,000-15,000 people watching this even from all over the U.S.,” he said.
Arctic Man’s main event involves skiers and snowboarders racing up and down mountains. On the way up, they’re towed at high speed by partners on snow machines. Theis predicts intense competition again this year.
“The Olympian who’s won it, Marco Sullivan who has won it four times in a row, is coming back to claim his honors,” Theis said. “Jimmy Scott, a local, young kid from Fairbanks grew up here and started racing this race when he was 16 years old, he’s coming back to claim the snowboard division, he beat a couple Olympians.”
“Yeah, I’ve got some new blood, coming from Australia, coming from Czechoslovakia, I’ve got them coming from everywhere.”
Other Arctic man events include drag and snow cross races, plus endless terrain for recreation. People have died in avalanches, falls and other mishaps during Arctic Man over the years, and Theis urges caution.
“Be safe, watch what you’re doing,” he said. “If you’re gonna drink alcohol, ladies and gentlemen, you can’t drive any motorized vehicle if you’ve been drinking.”
DUI and other arrests are a part of Arctic Man, and State Troopers maintain a large presence at the event, but Theis downplays the rowdy side of things.
“It’s a party atmosphere, to say the least,” he said. “But we’re catering more to bring your kids, bring your family, have a good time.”
Arctic Man main event, the ski and snowboard races are scheduled for Friday but could run into the weekend depending on weather and snow conditions.