Adrenaline rush in the Alaskan backcountry

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Brad Krupa and his snowmachiner Chris Carroll won the semi pro class skiing a the possibly final edition of the Arctic Man race at Summit Lake. Photo credit: Brad Krupa

Over the weekend of April 12-15, competitors and spectators from all over the world met at Summit Lake for the annual Arctic Man race, an adrenaline-packed winter sports event.

The Arctic Man is a team race in which a skier or snowboarder starts at the summit of a mountain and descends 2,000 feet into a narrow canyon where they meet their snow machining partner. From there, the participant grabs a tow rope and gets pulled up a second mountain.

The teammates separate again. After racing across the side of the second mountain and dropping another 1,200 feet, the athletes reach the finish line. The speeds reached in the race go up to a record 90 mph.

UAA ski coach and Olympian Anna Berecz won the women’s ski section at this year’s race in 4:23.19 with her snowmachiner Ashley Nicolai. She first heard about the race when she was still competing for UAA.

“I couldn’t wait to do it after I graduated. It consists of something that I know how to do — skiing — but adds the excitement of doing something unfamiliar — being pulled behind a snow machine,” Berecz said.

Once she tried the Arctic Man, she realized how fun this unique ski race was. This year was her fourth time competing in the challenging race.

She spent a major part of her training lifting weights to prepare for the race. The “hook-up,” or the section where the snowmachiner hands off the tow rope to the skier, is one of the most difficult aspects of the race, Berecz said.

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“Things can go really wrong there if you miss it and the race is over. [This] happened to me twice in my four years and it was quite disappointing,” Berecz said. “The canyon pull is also very challenging. You are towed behind a snowmachine spitting snow right at you.”

Despite its challenges, the Olympian enjoys the race at Summit Lake.

“Arctic Man is one of the hardest and most exhilarating races I have done in 20 years of ski racing,” Berecz said.

Brad Krupa and snowmachiner Chris Carroll earned the title in the men’s semi-pro skiing race, which was offered for the first time this year. They crossed the finish line in 4:26.41.

It was Krupa’s sixth time taking part in the Arctic Man. He has participated as forerunner, skier and snowmachiner.

The race has a special meaning for him because the 2011 race was dedicated to his father, Tim Krupa. He was known as a great supporter of the event, Brad Krupa explained.

“The day after we got home from one Arctic Man, we would start planning the next. It really brought my family together,” Krupa said.

This year’s race might have been the last one. The number of spectators and racing teams has been decreasing for the last years.

“Officially, Arctic Man featuring skiers and snowboarders will not happen in 2019. This portion of the event will be put on hold for review,” Race Director Howard Thies said in a statement on the event’s website. “After this year’s race, we will step back and decide its future in the years to come.”

More information about the future of the event can be found on its website arcticman.com.