“Go fast or go home” is the motto of Arctic Man. This year, the race is staying home. The delays and jacked up costs from the Department of Natural Resources became so unreasonable for Arctic Man, a ski, snowboard, and snow machine race that has taken place for decades, that the race has been canceled this year, organizers said.
It’s been canceled before, due to weather and one year because of the Covid pandemic, but this time it was because by the time DNR came up with the promised five-year permit structure, the cost was a surprising $100,000 a year, and the organizers said they couldn’t do it — there was too little time left to raise the money.
DNR disputes that characterization. In a note, the agency said, “The first renewal option was exactly the same as previous permits (annual $6,480 multi-day commercial land use permit plus $4 fee for each registered event participant. In 2019 the total cost for permitting the 4-day event on State of Alaska land was $6,640). The second permit option could reach $10,000 annually based on the number of attendees ($1,440 multi-day commercial land use permit plus $4 visitor day use fees for each registered parking spot and each registered event participant).”
The race is a much-loved event for extreme sports enthusiasts all over the world. Skiers or snowboarders begin at 5,800 feet and dropping 1,700 feet to a canyon where they meet up with their snow machine partner-driver and catch a tow rope while on the go, pulling the skier 2.4 miles up hill at speeds of up to 86 mph. Then the skier drops over the side of a second mount and skis down 1,200 feet to the finish line.
When organizers couldn’t get DNR to act on their permit fast enough, they eventually went straight to Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
“He and his team were fantastic and they got it all straightened out,” said one of the organizers. But by then, it was too late. The organizers have to have everything coming together for the big gathering no later than December; the event is in April.
Thousands of people converge on the race area for the event each year. In 2022, there were 13,000 spectators, who camp and party for a few days in the Hoo-Doo Mountains at Summit Lake, near Paxson, which is about 3 or 4 hours south of Fairbanks down the Richardson Highway.
“The area the race is held is some the of the best snowmachine riding country in the world. The snowcapped peaks and beauty make this spring event one that you will treasure for a lifetime,” Arctic Man’s website states.
But all is not lost.
“We’ll resurrect it in 2025,” said Jeremy Wise, one of the event organizers. “But for this year, it’s shot.”
Watch this 2016 documentary of Australians as they tackle the world’s craziest race: