“All people should do something heroic in their lives. For me, the Arctic Circle Race was not a sports competition – it was a heroic event!”
The goal was to create the world’s toughest cross-country race.
There is always someone out there ready to push the limits of what is considered the norm.
Adventurers and fireballs, who are not satisfied with the existing opportunities, mix vision and action in an ‘enterprising pot’ and create new tings from the bottom up, bursting the current framework and changing a local activity into an international event.
It was the desire to create the world’s toughest race on skis which, during the 1990s culminated in the first Arctic Circle Race taking place in 1998. The local backers were exactly the type of pioneers needed to create the foundations for a race, which today has become an important cultural and athletic institution in the community in Sisimiut, where the Race is based.
"I took part in a 7-day, 440 km race in Russia once, but it was not as hard as this because of Sisimiut's high mountains!"
Three days of adventure skiing in Greenland
Competitive cross-country races around the world often have the same or longer day stages than the Arctic Circle Race. This applies to the Vasa Race in Sweden and to the Birkebeiner Race in Norway.
The Canadian Ski Marathon Race is similar in length to the Arctic Circle Race, but no other race combines the element of competition with a 160 kilometers adventure skiing race, happening in the wilderness over very mountainous terrain and with camping in the back country as part of the event.
That kind of long distance pain endured by body and mind is of course not something we all think of as entertaining. It is not only three days in the mountains, staying overnight in sleeping bags, and eating instant pre-packaged food; it is very much a do-it-yourself race, as you have to look after yourself, handle your own food preparation and your own equipment.
Yet, the Arctic Circle Race is an event for skiers of all levels of proficiency and every year there are participants in the Race from around twenty countries, including many Greenlanders. The Race includes amateurs, as well as professional cross-country skiers, so participation can’t be all that bad.
- The Arctic Circle Race is a three-day race with a length of 160 kilometers.
- The Race starts and ends in Sismiut.
- The very first race was run in 1998; and the Race is usually run during the end of March or the beginning of April.
- There are more than 150 participants each year.
- The Arctic Circle Race is governed by a board and is based on volunteer labour.
- Entry happens through the Arctic Circle Races website
- The Race is a cross-country challenge as well as a cultural experience
Volunteerism and community are the cornerstones and the identity of the Race
A substantial volunteer workforce and a deep-rooted local skiing culture make up the foundation of the Arctic Circle Race. During the Race, you will meet many people from Sisimiut who are part of this large group of volunteers, and whose contributions shape the Race as much as skiers themselves do.
Alongside the ski run there are manned feeding stations. The heaviest camping equipment is driven to the camp by a piste machine (cross-country track cutter). Every night the piste machines will cut and ready the tracks for the next day’s race. The police and the fire department are on hand to ensure the safety of the participants on the ski run; snowmobiles are on standby to transport anyone ill or injured, and in the camp’s food tent, kitchen staff will make sure the tent is stocked with snacks and beverages.
The culture of volunteerism is an integrated part of the Races’ identity and several hundred inhabitants of Sisimiut’s small population of just 5.600, are involved weeks in advance of the Race and as well as during the Race itself. As a participant, you will be in close contact with the local population the entire time, making this unique event much more than just another ski race.
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