Powder for Powder, ep. 4: Arctic Man
ARCTIC MAN was officially a go when I got a voicemail from Anchorage sled driver Spike Laskey at 6am. His message reassured us that all we needed to do was pull the trigger: “Hey this is Spike…I’m on my out there right now, not sure if I’ll have service, but yeah I’ll toss you a rope and tow you up a fucking hill if you want…” Click. I remembered Nate Holland’s shit-eating grin a while back when he told me that he knew just the driver for me.
Wyatt and I had done our time on Thompson Pass and were ready to move on. Although it was crushing snow in the parking lot and a full reset was probable, we wanted new scenery and stimulation, plus Nate and old pal Jayson Hale had guaranteed it wouldn’t be hard to find amazing snowboarding terrain in the Hoodoo Mountains. A quick stop in Glennallen for some Tok Thai and fireworks, and we were set for another week off the grid in eastern Alaska.
Arctic Man is held every year just outside Summit Lake, more or less in the middle of nowhere, to the northeast of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Now in its 28th year, the Tesoro Arctic Man Classic is a competitive backcountry race comprising a few dozen teams of skier/snowmachiner and snowboarder/snowmachiner. The skier begins at “The Tip,” with a summit elevation of 5,800 and a vertical drop of 1,700 feet in less than two miles to the bottom of a narrow canyon — riders go from zero to fast in a hurry. When the slope levels out, the snowmobiler meets the skier, on the go, with a tow rope and pulls the skier 2 1/4 miles uphill at speeds of up to 86mph. The skier and the snowmobile then separate, sending the skier over the “First Aid” jump and down another 1,200ft pitch to the finish line. Courage, training, and a well-tuned stock 600rpm sled are essential elements for a successful team.