This Friday marks the start of the Arctic Ski Race in Greenland. The race takes place through the magnificent countryside around Sisimiut on Greenland's west coast approx. 65 km north of the Arctic Circle. The total race distance is 160 km. The three-day race takes competitors through the magnificent, varied and sometimes harsh Greenlandic terrain.
3 Olympic participants
The ski legend Bjrn DÃ¦hlie from Norway who is the most winning participant at the winter Olympic of all time will be on the starting line Friday. He has won 12 Olympic medals — 8 gold medals — at the Olympics in Albertville in 1992, Lillehammer in 1994 and Nagano in 1998. Furthermore he has won 9 World Championships, the overall World Cup 6 times and 48 single victories in the World Cup.
Over 25% of the participants are going to be women. This is a record high percentage for the race. It is especially the Greenlandic women who have registered. Maybe the local female Greenlandic participants will have the advantage of knowing the area; the downhills; the change between the cold in the shadows and the warmth in the sun; the drinking posts and not to forget: the coldness in the tents during the nights. No one knows these conditions as well as Uiloq Slettemark who participate for the 8th time and is favourite to win her 6th ACR in a row.Â
Arctic Circle Race for the 8th time
This year’s race is 8th in a row since the start in 1997. Arctic Circle Race has thereby shown that is race you can count on, and with 7 successful races so far, ACR has been a frontrunner for Greenlandic Events. Arctic Team Challenge, Greenland Adventure Race among others have followed in the foot steps of Arctic Circle Race.
Arctic Circle Races success has also been registered outside Greenland, and since the start of ACR many other cross-country races over several days have appeared, but ACR is still something special.
There is not just a single factor behind the success of Arctic Circle Races. It is a combination of the magnificent and rugged landscape, exiting tracks, development, volunteers, intimacy and sponsors.
The landscape of Sisimiut
No doubt that spectacular Arctic landscape makes Arctic Circle Race unique. The high mountains, the deep fjords, the naked landscape without trees, the changes in temperatures from pleasant warmness in the sun during daytime to sometimes down to minus 30 Celsius degrees in the night; and the unpredictable.
It is the unpredictable Greenlandic weather which they last two years have given the paople behind ACR grey hear. After having perfect weather before and during the race for 4 years in a row from 1999-2002, the preparations for the last two years have been very difficult as a consequence of the weather. Last year the camp had to be moved because of the lack of snow and ice. However, during the race the sun shinned from a cloudless sky.
This year Arctic Circle Race hopes for a repetition, since the preparations for this year have been as problematic as last year. Again it is the weather which teases ACR. Warm weather and a huge rainfall in end of February followed by stabile frost has made the snow very hard.
First that meant that ACR had to place the camp the same place as last year, since the fjord didn’t freeze. Secondly the hard snow has meant that the preparation machines have had several break-downs. The ski center of the municipality of Sisimiut which takes care of heavy transport and track making fights a fierce battle right now to get ready in time. The fight is taking place 24 hours a day.
The exiting tracks
The tracks for the first and second day for this year’s race are basically ready, but there are still some problems with the second day. After having the same tracks for the first 4 years Arctic Circle Race has since 2001 always changed the tracks every year. Partly because of the weather, partly as a wish to give the participants new experiences of the Greenlandic landscape, since many come back year after year.
This year the first racing day will give the participants the opportunity to see to two new areas which they haven’t been able to see with skis during ACR. From Sisimiut town the track goes out to the future of Sisimiut: the coming Akia. Here after the tracks take the racers up to the viewpoint over the Amerdloq-fjord, where there also is a spectacular view down on the now closed village of Assagutaq before the racers get to the camp. This day the racers will get an extraordinary experience of the present, future and past of Sisimiut.
It is not only the tracks which change in ACR. Or the names of the participants for that matter. In 2001 MIKI ACR came along, and since then the children has had the possibility to get a feeling of the real ACR-atmosphere by participating in the MIKI ACR. This year Sander and Sivert DÃ¦hlie are participating when the start goes on Saturday at 2 PM.
Another newcomer came in 2002 with the Â½ACR — a race of 80 km — which this year has become ACR-100 — a race of 100 km. This means that racers can participate in ACR in all age groups and this year the youngest is 15 and the oldest 70 years old.
This year ACR has in cooperation with Air Greenland and local tourist operators given the participants another possibility. Now it is possible to come a week before ACR or stay a week longer to experience the wonders of Sisimiut and Greenland. 3 Englishmen are right now up on the Aqqutikitsoq-glacier, where they do some randonnÃ©e ski.Â
The 3 Englishmen are not the only participants who arrived in Sisimiut a week before the ACR-week. Klaus Jeckel of Germany has arrived a week before to help building the camp. Klaus is participating for the 5th time in ACR, and he loves the feeling among the volunteers that he just had to come and be part of that.
No doubt that the volunteers are the soul of the race. Again this year around 150 volunteers have worked hard to make it possible, and all 150 will be ready when the start takes place on Friday. They are making Arctic Circle Race â€œthe best ski race in the worldâ€ — to cite Klaus Jeckel.Â
Source: Arctic Circle Race website