March events bring sports and culture
After 10 years abroad, the Arctic Winter Games return to Alaska this March 10-16. And for the first time, they will be held in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough north of Anchorage.
“This is an amazing opportunity,” says Karen Lane, general manager of the 2024 Arctic Winter Games Host Society. “Alaskans can watch athletes competing from across the circumpolar north and experience cultural activities not often seen here.”
Since 1968, the games have offered young athletes from northern and arctic nations a chance to compete on a global stage. Held every two years, they feature dozens of competitions, including skiing, hockey, and demanding Indigenous sports like the two-foot-high kick, kneel jump, and knuckle hop. An expected 2,000 athletes will compete this year from Alaska, Greenland, Scandinavia, Canada, and elsewhere.
February is crunch-time for the host society, which for over a year has been planning a blizzard of events that will surround the games. They include a three-day winter carnival at the state fairgrounds, a cultural gala, an Indigenous fashion show, music, fireworks, and the dramatic opening and closing ceremonies, which, like the Olympics, feature formal processions by the athletic teams.
“We’re also in charge of bussing athletes from the airport, securing lodging, and hosting a traditional feast for the participants,” says Emerald Kroeker, marketing program director for the host society. She adds that a cultural delegation will also perform at various locations. To do it all, Kroeker says the host society will bring on over 2,000 volunteers to lend logistical support to the athletes and their families.
Tackling the logistics will be an Olympic effort of its own, with the competitions occurring at venues across the Mat-Su and beyond. For instance, downhill skiing will happen at the new Skeetawk Ski Area in Hatcher Pass, biathlon will be at Kincaid Park in Anchorage, and Nordic skiing is scheduled for Government Peak Recreation Area in the Mat-Su. Archery, gymnastics, and figure skating are spread between Wasilla, Palmer, and Eagle River.
Kroeker says the broad distribution will make the games accessible to many Alaskans and provide a boost for businesses.