The Week Ahead: An uphill challenge

The organizers of Arctic Man hope that more machines will be what it takes to make Alaska’s counter-cultural winter sporting event great again.

By Kevin McGwin - April 9, 2018
Levi Lavallee pulls Daron Rahlves down the course while preparing to compete in the 2017 Arctic Man Race (Red Bull)

Ask the 13,000 people who show up for Arctic Man what the annual gathering in the Hoodoo Mountains, near Paxson, Alaska, is, and you will get 13,001 answers. Regardless of why else people show up, the main draw of Arctic Man since it was founded, in 1986, has been the Arctic Man Race, a combined speed-skiing event and snowmobile-pull (see video below).

From its inception, the race’s motto has been ‘Go fast or go home.’ The first part of that directive has been something that participants have strived to live up to; speeds on the five-mile course can reach up to 90 miles per hour.

This year, it is Arctic Man’s organizers who are heeding their own advice and packing up the race, cancelling it next year and perhaps for good.

The problem is that as the number of spectators at Arctic Man has grown interest in participating has flagged: the number of competing teams has fallen from a high of 60 to a dozen last year, this despite the introduction of a snowboard class aimed at making it more appealing to younger competitors.

Concerned that the race and the event had outlived itself (Arctic Man’s nickname, “‘sledhead’ Woodstock,” hints at the main interest and the average age of those showing up), organizers are looking for a way to appeal to the next generation.

Their solution is a snowmobile-only event named Arctic Man Extreme that will be introduced this year. In order to save the Arctic Man, they needed to put more horsepower into it.

Where and when
April 9-13; near Paxson, Alaska

For more information
Arctic Man

Further reading
Arctic Man: the anti-Burning Man draws ‘slednecks’ to remote Alaska
When Arctic winds blow: From Nome to Kivalina on fat-tire bikes 


Nunavut Mining Symposium
Currently in its 17th year, this four-day gathering bills itself as the premier event for industry leaders, government officials, regulators and others involved in developing Nunavut’s mineral deposits.

Such meetings could have an outsize impact on the territory’s future. Even though just three mines are in operation in Nunavut (Mary River, producing iron ore, and Meadowbank and Hope Bay, both turning out gold ore), mining is the largest private-sector contributor to the territory’s economy. But there is potential for more: At least a dozen projects are listed as being in “advanced stages.”

The silver clouds may have a dark lining the meeting cannot avoid: Efforts to open a uranium mine were halted in 2017, and the federal mining industry’s annual projection suggests exploration will lag behind other Canadian provinces and territories in 2018.

The Fraser Institute, author of another annual mining survey, confirms the outlook: In its most recent ranking of investment attractiveness, published in February, Nunavut places ninth out of Canada’s 12 provinces and territories.

These comparisons may make Nunavut look more tarnished than it actually is, however. Canada sets the gold standard as a mining nation, nabbing five of the top 13 spots in the Fraser ranking of 91 jurisdictions worldwide. Nunavut is ranked in the top 25 percent overall.

When and where
April 9-12; Iqaluit, Nunavut

For more information
2018 Nunavut Mining Symposium
NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines

Further reading
Canadian regulators predict plunge in Nunavut mineral exploration


International Maritime Organization Marine Environment Protection Committee, semi-annual meeting
When the Marine Environment Protection Committee convenes in London on Monday for its semi-annual four-day session, it will take up several important environmental issues, including greenhouse gas emissions, marine litter, invasive species and air pollution.

All of the items bear relevance for the Arctic in some way, not least in light of the increasing interest in using the Northern Sea Route, north of Russia, and the Northwest Passages, through Canadian waters, as shortcuts for maritime traffic. However, it is the deliberation over the extent that heavy fuel oil, a sludgy form of fuel that powers most of the world’s ships, should be barred from the Arctic, that has attracted most media attention.

This is understandable; heavy fuel oil could be a triple-whammy for the Arctic, damaging human health and contributing to global warming, while at the same time posing a considerable environmental threat, given its difficulty to clean up in the event of a spill.

The discussion about heavy fuel oil, scheduled to take place on April 11, is expected to focus on three proposals for how emissions can be limited. Conservation groups are hoping for an outright ban on not just using heavy fuel oil, but transporting it as well, as has been the case in the Antarctic since 2011. They fret that introducing alternate methods of dealing with the problem will only cloud the issue.

When and where
April 9-13, London

For more information
Marine Environment Protection Committee, 72nd session

Further reading
A potential Arctic ban on heavy fuel oil gains momentum


Toonik Tyme
Regardless of your perspective, Toonik Tyme, has a considerable history. Begun in 1965, the 10-day event draws heavily on traditional Inuit activities. Its name, meanwhile, pays homage to a group the Inuit call the Tuniit (of member of which is called a ‘Toonik’). More commonly known as the Dorset Culture, the Tuniit lived in present-day Greenland and eastern Nunavut before the arrival of the Inuit in about the 14th century.

If the festival is way for modern-day residents of Nunavut to know their history, it does not condemn them solely to repeat it. Alongside activities like dog-sledding, igloo-building and seal-hunting, are bingo nights, billiard tournaments and zumba dancing. To everything there is a season. And a Tyme.

When and where
April 12-22; Iqaluit

For more information
Toonik Time

Further reading
Nunavut capital’s Toonik Tyme festival ends on a high note


European Geosciences Union General Assembly
The 2018 EGU General Assembly brings together geoscientists from all over the world to a 10-day meeting that coverers all disciplines of the earth, planetary and space sciences. A number of topics related to the Arctic, either directly or indirectly, are included on the program.

When and where
April 8-18, Vienna, Austria

For more information
European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2018

Further reading
For Brussels, there’s no Arctic business without the science business


Nordic defense ministers meet
The defense ministers from Denmark, Iceland and Norway (all NATO members) and Finland and Sweden (both outside NATO) meet to discuss security issues in the region (read: Russia) and continued defense collaboration through the NORDEFCO alliance. The meeting comes after Russian missile tests closed an area of commercial airspace in the Baltic last week, and as land and sea drills in the Barents region are being held this week.

When and where
April 10-11; Bergen, Norway

For more information

Further reading
Nordic Defense Ministers Discuss Russian Exercise
Mind the GIUK


Arctic Business Forum
Investment, infrastructure and Europe’s role in the Arctic feature on the agenda of the ninth annual Arctic Business Forum. Expect considerable discussion of the recently published proposal to build a railway from Rovaniemi, Finland, to Kirkenes, Norway. Highly touted by Finland’s Transport Ministry, the railway’s benefits have been questioned by an Economy Ministry agency. Progress could be bumpy.

When and where
April 11-12; Kemi, Finland

For more information
Arctic Business Forum

Further reading
Finland wants to show the world what it means to be Arctic


Northern Forum general assembly
The Northern Forum, an association of 17 sub-national Arctic jurisdictions, including Akureyri (Iceland), Alaska (U.S.), Lapland (Finland) and the Sakha Republic (Russia) hold their annual meeting, where they will discuss a familiar issue: “the development of the Arctic and northern territories in the light of global changes in the Arctic.”

The meeting, titled “The Northern Forum: the Present and the Future,” is also billed as having the potential to influence the shape of further development of an organisation often considered to be an alternative to the Arctic Council for discussing regional issues.

When and where
April 11-12; Krasnoyarsk, Russia

For more information
Northern Forum

Further Reading
Local Arctic leaders in North America hope closer ties will boost development in the region


Barents Euro-Arctic Council Joint Working Group on Youth meeting
The goal of the Joint Working Group on Youth is to increase cooperation among young people in the Barents Region. The meeting precedes a conference titled Youth Perspective for the Future, being held next week.

When and where
April 12; Umeå, Sweden

For more information
Joint Working Group in Youth
Conference program

Further reading
Barents project helps families in Komi

The Week Ahead is a preview of some of the events related to the region that will be in the news in the coming week. If you have a topic you think ought to be profiled in a coming week, please email [email protected].