Sullivan wins annual Arctic Man
Truckee’s Marco Sullivan of the U.S. Ski Team added another title to his resume after he and Tyler Aklestad claimed victory in Alaska’s famed Arctic Man Ski and Sno-Go Classic in the Hoodoo Mountains from April 8-12.
The Arctic Man opens with a downhill in which a skier or snowboarder is intersected on course by a snowmobile. The pair link up in motion and the snowmobile tows the athlete through a canyon at speeds near 90 mph. Through the final leg, the skier lets go of the tow rope to rip across the finish line solo.
“It was a lot of fun to claim such a unique title,” Sullivan said, “but for me the race is more about just completing it and having a great time. We practiced the towing section of the course for a few laps, so we knew about the trouble sections, but in reality the sled driver is hammering as fast as he can go and he just has to trust that his skier is going to hold on.”
Sullivan and Aklestad posted a winning time of 4:19.00 over the 5 1/2-mile course, which traverses a turny and extremely bumpy canyon trail. From the start, the course drops 1,700 feet to “hook-up,” then climbs 1,200 feet to “release” before dropping 1,200 feet to the finish line.
Fellow U.S. Ski Team athlete Scott Macartney of Crystal Mountain, Wash., who missed this year’s race while recovering from a head injury suffered in January at Kitzbuehel, Austria, holds the Arctic Man record of 4:01:49 along with Tyler Johnson.
“Last year I was intimidated by the length of the course, so I skied it a little bit conservatively and that was my undoing,” said Sullivan, who finished second to Macartney in 2006. “This year I tried to hammer from start to finish. My legs were probably more tired than they have ever been, but it worked.”
The win comes on the heels of Sullivan’s most successful World Cup season, as he finished fourth in the downhill standings with two podiums, including a victory at the Kandahar downhill in Chamonix, France. He also was second in the opening downhill of the World Cup season in Lake Louise, Alberta.
“I first heard about (Arctic Man) when Sacha Gros, an ex U.S. Ski teamer, won it back in 2003,” Sullivan said. “He was talking about the scene and how it is just a crazy convergence of 10,000-plus snowmobiling fanatics out in the middle of nowhere in Alaska.
“The skiers are definitely in the minority up there, but it is one of the few places where those two cultures can meld into one for this crazy race.”
Sullivan traveled directly from the race to Cordova, Alaska, where he connected with Olympic snowboardcross gold medalist Seth Wescott (Carrabassett Valley, ME) and cameraman Tom Day to film big mountain skiing and riding for a movie to be released in the fall.