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Troopers plan to beef up their presence at Arctic Man

Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Alaska State Troopers say they plan to double their presence Saturday at the Arctic Man Ski and Sno-Go Classic in the Hoodoo Mountains near Paxson.

Organizers describe the Arctic Man as Alaska's premier snowmachining attraction. The race is in its 16th year, and it's something of a daredevil event where skiers and snowboarders schuss down a mountain, are towed quickly by snowmachine up another and then ski down a second slope.

Race speeds can hit more than 80 mph.

Thousands of spectators line the race course, some of them drinking beer, barbecuing or doing their own stunts.

Two men died at the event last year. One was killed in an avalanche while highmarking on an unstable hill. The other died after being thrown from his snowmachine when it collided with a parked trailer.

At the time, the number of Alaska State Troopers on hand at the Arctic Man was roughly one per 2,000 people.

This year will be different.

Troopers are hoping their augmented presence will make things safer. Troopers said they plan to enforce existing laws by stopping people driving snowmachines on roadways, driving erratically and driving while drunk.

Organizers are embracing the change.

''I want people to come down and have a good time and feel confident while they're here,'' said race director Howard Thies. ''We want to make this a family event.''

Troopers said they were a bit overwhelmed last year. But about 10 troopers will be on patrol this weekend, aided by a jail and two dispatchers in a communications center near a bar-restaurant-vendor area.

Trooper Sgt. Ron Wall, who is in charge of the undertaking and describes it as a mobile trooper post, said authorities don't want to ruin anyone's fun. They just want the event to be safer than in the past.

''Howard does a phenomenal job setting the race up. As long as the speeds are down (in public areas), we're there to help people be safer,'' Wall told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''If somebody's out doing something that is risky to the public, we're going to take some action.''



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