Reporting from Greenland’s Arctic Circle

Gary Rolfe

If you’ve ever wondered about the versatility and durability of modern snowshoes read on. I’m a professional dog musher and live in Greenland’s Ittoqqortoormiit with my 17 dogs: 16 males and 1 female. Her name is Girly and she’s very popular.

Ittoqqortoormiit is very remote but it’s home for 460 people and over 400 working Greenland Dogs, the only breed allowed above Greenland’s Arctic Circle. By remote I mean 500 miles from the next community. There are no roads leading in or out of Ittoqqortoormiit. Outsiders coming to work here have been known to freak out, panic and want out because it’s so isolated. There’s no plumbing. Storms and cold are brutal and polar bears are always about. It’s a tough place.

Ittoqqortoormiit is a place of extremes. Despite summer’s 70 days of perpetual daylight it’s very rarely T-shirt weather and there’s not a single day in the year when you can’t see snow.  We get only two re-supply ships per year and what’s here by September is what we rely on until the following July, for me it means gear that withstands abuse and brutal cold.

Come winter we have 56 days when the sun never rises and we live in total polar dark. It can snow any month of the year in Ittoqqortoormiit and Christmas here is always white. Gravity-sped cold dense air can rush down vertically off cliffs to create colossal coastal 100-knot piteraq winds. Windows pop and houses have been known to explode. Everyone is vigilant for polar bears wandering about houses, bears that fear nothing and have a tendency to eat people. No-body walks far unarmed. Reach twelve and kids can legally carry a firearm.

The Ittoqqortoormiit sea ice sledding season – November to July – is probably the longest in the world and sometimes I’m away travelling with my dogs for three months. Minus 40 temperatures aren’t rare here. There’s no getting away from the cold and there are only three things I can do to warm up: put on more clothes, eat, or exercise. My dogs don’t carry me. Skis or Tubbs snowshoes enable me to generate heat and stave off hypothermia while breaking trail for my dogs through snow that’s sometimes chest deep.

When I’m home I train twice daily by running, whatever the weather even in deep snow I run my own trail system wearing Tubbs snowshoes.

I know about other makes of snowshoes, enough not to be impressed.

If you’d like to know more about how and where I use my Tubbs snowshoes: