Whiteouts prompt first-ever cancellation of Arctic Man

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Whiteout conditions over the weekend prompted the first cancellation of the Arctic Man Ski and Sno-Go Classic in the event's 16-year history.

Organizers say its $44,000 purse will be rolled over into next year's purse.

Thirty-five teams had signed up to compete in the event, held annually in the Hoodoo Mountains near Paxson, Race Director Howard Thies said.

''It's a disaster,'' Thies said after arriving at Arctic Man's base camp from the 5 and 1/2-mile race course where even he became lost briefly Sunday because of poor visibility.

Thies said he canceled the race out of concerns someone would get hurt.

''It's a safety issue,'' he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''I think this is a good call.''

The Arctic Man is an event where skiers and snowboarders race down a hill, are towed up another hill by a snowmachine -- sometimes at speeds exceeding 80 mph -- and then race down that hill to the finish line.

It serves as something of a gathering place for snowmachiners from across Alaska, who gather by the thousands to watch.

The bad weather began Saturday morning when low clouds moved in. Without sunlight, horizon and terrain blend into one chalky mass that seems to extend forever, and snowmachiners and skiers find it difficult to see bumps and ruts.

Two men died in unrelated accidents at the event a year ago. 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.

The only injury reported so far this year involved a skier from Europe who was supposed to have competed in the race. He was medevaced from the area by an Army helicopter for treatment of a bone broken during a practice run.

Thies said he hopes next year's projected $90,000 purse will attract more competitors to the Arctic Man than usual.

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