Betty Russell, Palmer

Betty Russell of Palmer earned the highest score at Arctic Man winning the BCA AirBag

Betty Russell, who was born and raised in Alaska, has been going to Arctic Man in the Hoo Doo Mountains near Paxson for as long as she can remember. “There is always a big group of us that go every year,” she said.

This year, when she and her husband made a stop in the main tent, they were greeted with the Alaska Avalanche Information Center’s Arctic Man Pea Pod Poker Challenge.

“We’d heard about this game from some people in our group but we didn’t really know what it was or decide to play it until we saw it operating in the bar,” said Russell.

“I just thought, we might learn something and we might win something too. Sounded cool to me.”

And so she and her husband Danny took the challenge and started on the ‘five card’ discovery path. “What I really liked the best were all the ‘instructors’ giving the classes (card challenges.) These guys all made you feel welcome and were excited to share. They had great information and you could tell they were passionate about this stuff. It was awesome,” Russell said.

The other element that made the training… er ‘game’ fun for Russell was her mounting score. “I kind of knew I had a chance to win something because of all the big numbers I was rolling.”

In the end 159 people agreed to accept the challenge. “That is 159 riders who might not otherwise have taken any type of training,” said Kyle Sobek, AAIC Lead Arctic Man Forecaster and Instructor. “I call that great success. For some reason we find it challenging to get people to take time to learn this stuff and yet it could save their lives. This was an idea that seems to finally have found the right approach because it is fun, simple, and everyone wins something.”

There are both indoor and outdoor in the snow versions of the game. Sobek, along with Trevor Grams, an intern instructor from Fairbanks, and David Parr, Sterling Storm and Larry White, volunteer guest instructors, all agreed this was an entertaining, successful way to educate people that made it easy and a good time for everyone.

Sheldon Krier

Sheldon Krier won the BCA T-3 avalanche safety package from Backcountry Access

Russell scored 157 points by visiting the five skill stations, the highest of all 159 entries received, earning her a Back Country Access (BCA) Float Air pack.

Terry Hull of Anchorage, who scored the lowest with a 39, walked away with a BCA Tracker 3 avalanche transceiver.

Everyone who played the game and was present for the awards presentation on Saturday evening also scored prizes from BCA, Smartwool, Karakoma, Black Diamond and Team CC of Wasilla. AARP Alaska and the Alaska Department of Public Safety, Alaska State Troopers, made this ‘training’ game possible thanks to their financial support.

Look for more programs like this coming to a community near you at or email [email protected] and request a program for your school, club or community.

Kyle Sobek teaches how to submit an observation to a group of poker players at Arctic Man

Outdoor version of the Poker Challenge where players dig in the snow and pull snowmachines with a pulley system.













Dave Narona. ABS Airbag representatives, awards an Arctic Man Game winner with a new airbag. Take the Pea Pod challenge at Arctic Man 2018 for your chance to win.

The Alaska Avalanche Information Center will be back at Arctic Man bringing forecast information and educational training opportunities.

Thanks to support from AARP Alaska and the Alaska Department of Public Safety, the AAIC instructors will be on hand conducting and issuing forecasts and offering backcountry skills workshops that include a wide range of hands-on activities to fit every skill level and interest.

Play five-card stud poker for your chance to win and learn. This is not your typical poker run. Players will travel to five stations to learn and practice safe backcountry skills in exchange for a random number. The player with the highest hand will split the cash pot and be entered to win a variety of prizes contributed by sponsors including Klim, Team CC, Black Diamond, Eagle River Polaris Arctic Cat, Anchorage House of Yamaha, Alaska Mining and Diving Supply… More prizes being added daily.

If you register to play the Arctic Man Pea Pod Poker Challenge in advance at you can exchange your registration for a poker chip redeemable for your game card plus be automatically entered to win the grand prize package.

Anyone can play the game but you must register online to qualify to play for free and be entered to win the grand prize.
Bring your family, friends and adventure partners and make your backcountry travel experiences fun and safe.

Game Times:

  • Wednesday evening from 7-10 pm in the Main Tent at Arctic Man
  • Thursday from 11am to 2 pm in the field
  • Thursday 4-6 pm. at Eagle River Polaris Arctic Cat on Arctic Man Main Street
  • Thursday evening 7-10 pm, main tent
  • Friday/Saturday (depending on Race Schedule) near the action. (We’ll have a tent those days so if we’re set up and open, come play!)

Register to play for free here!  Registration is valid for ALL workshops.

Posted in AAIC News & Announcements.

Debra McGhan