By C. A. Prescott
Imagine partying with thousands of extreme sports enthusiasts, for an entire week in the powder hills of Alaska, representing “the middle of nowhere.” Branded as the “Motorhead Woodstock,” the Arctic Man Ski and Sno-Glo Classic attracts well over 10,000 spectators to the Hoodoo Mountains. Featuring competitions for hardcore skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers alike, it goes down every April in Summit, Alaska. At the recent 25th anniversary of the competition this year, Scott Macartney and Tyson Johnson captured the top prize taking home $25,000.
Days ago, we got an interview with Dan McKay, an Arctic Man competitor, who competed in the big event against Macartney and Johnson. In the midst of studying for finals for his MBA, McKay took the time to shed some light on the popular competition for us, and to detail his experience as a skier there.
“The Tit” – is where the main even commences – a 5,800 foot summit, where a skier advances down 1,700 feet of elevation dropping into a narrow canyon.
At the bottom, comes the “hook up” via tow rope with his already-moving teammate on a snowmobile, who lugs the skier uphill for 2 ¼ miles, reaching insane speeds over 90 mph.
After reaching the top of the second hill known as “First Aid,” the most wicked and treacherous part of the course, the skier releases the tow rope. The skier then plummets down 1,200 feet of elevation, and drops to the finish line where anxious spectators await. A true test of athleticism and stamina, the grueling race is around 5 ¾ miles, attracting adrenaline junkies from near and far.
So tell me how many years have you been participating in Arctic Man and why do you compete?
“We all work really hard to make it down that course – and risk a lot. At 88 mph in spandex, it’s pretty easy to get f**ked up fast, if you’re not focused. I’ve only competed in the race the past two years, but I’ve attended three years in a row. The most obvious reason to go there as a competitor is for the cash…I will give it Hell to win that 25K.”
Can you explain Arctic Man’s popularity over the years and how does it differ from other ski/snowmachine events?
“The popularity comes from the pure experience of the event…there is nothing even close. No other event pushes a skier or snowmobiler to this kind of limit.”
Arctic Man lasts several days so aside from prepping for the main event what do you do while you are there?
“You work hard training every single day until the big competition.”
When you are not working what are you doing?
“There are hundreds of small parties going on in one giant area. The reason that everyone goes every year is because there is more fun to be had in that week, than there is all winter long. Alaskans get a little restless during the long winter, and this is the time when we come out of hibernation.”
What was the scene like right after the big competition this year?
“I came through the finish line and my legs were screaming of acid and fire. When I finally gained control to stop, an excited spectator rushed over to me with a beer and a flask. Before I knew it, I was shotgunning a beer on the spot, before I had a chance to even get my skis off or catch my breath!”
What sticks out in your head relative to Arctic Man aside from the extreme competitions?
“You see it all when you are there. From people having sex on a snowmobile to a grandmother riding a dirt bike. Mullets to spandex…you are numb when you lease that place because you have seen it all…but what happens at Arctic Man, stays at Arctic Man.”
Well, at least until now.
Photos courtesy of John and Wade Binkley