Arctic Winter Games 2024 Wraps Up, and Alaska Dominated for America

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A little talked about in the mainland event, the Arctic Winter Games came to an end on March 18th. Welcoming competitors from six Arctic nations: Canada, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the United States, which is represented by Alaska, the athletes battled it out for the coveted ulu: a medal shaped like a curved Inuit knife.

Hosted in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough along Wasilla, Alaska, over 1,700 athletes came to the area. Competing in traditional winter sports like skating and skiing, many consider this to be like a secondary Winter Olympics. However, the playing of futsal, a type of indoor soccer, as well as the inclusion of gymnastics and table tennis, make it vastly different. Additionally, the inclusion of the Dene Games and Indigenous Arctic sports, better known in Alaska as the Native Youth Olympics, make this a unique competition.

Alaska dominated the field, taking home 221 ulus, 70 of them gold. Team Yukon, which also took second with 162 plus and 59 golds, won the Hogsdon Award. This seven-foot-tall trophy, hand-carved from a narwhal tusk, is highly coveted amongst the teams and goes to the team that personifies the spirit of the games. Standing for the Arctic Winter Games’ values of team spirit, cooperation, and fair play, it is a towering reminder of the integrity of the games.

While the athletes themselves are kids, they dress up going to or coming from the games as if they are pro athletes. Dapper, custom-fitted suits, and good manners are the norm. Even if countries have been battling it out in competition, all that ends when the final whistle blows.

Founded in 1959 by late Alaska governor Wally Hickel and other Arctic nation leaders, the goal was to unite circumpolar nations, celebrate living in the North, and unite the people of the Arctic. With roughly 4,000 people making their way to the Mat-Su area, the estimated economic impact of the games is $10 million.