You there — how'd you like to win a fantastic vacation prize package to an exotic locale? You'll join an exclusive crew of jet-set adventurers in a whimsical race to the top of the world, where you'll enjoy local perks like -60 temperatures, extensive possibilities for hypothermia, and numerous polar bear encounters. Better yet, you'll sample these cultural delights while dragging a 265-pound sled across 320 nautical miles to the North Pole!
Best of all: No experience required!
If this sounds like a welcome Spring-Break alternative to packing the kids in the van or signing up for a cruise, you might be the perfect candidate to enter the Race For America contest, which aims to select three random U.S. citizens to join Team America in the Polar Challenge 2009 race. Since 2004, the annual corporate-sponsored event has commemorated American adventurers Robert Peary and Matthew Henson's successful first visit to the North Pole by awarding winning teams the Peary & Henson Cup. The BBC televised the April-to-May race in the past, and Polar Challenge organizers are in talks to bring the race to U.S. television.
Ironically, no American team has ever won the Peary & Henson Cup. But the contest to join the 100th-anniversary team is a bit more involved than signing up to win an Escalade at the mall. Marketing Director Noel Guinane told us that 50-100 semifinalists will be chosen to undergo "a series of physical and mental challenges during a training day at a U.S. facility, likely a military facility. In the U.K., they do what the Royal Marines do, and we gauge how well they complete the [physical] course as well how they fare in mental challenges and whether they get on with each other as team players, which is very important in the Arctic."
The three winners will then fly to Norway, where they'll get Arctic training that includes glacier skiing, GPS navigation, and the ominous-sounding "ice-break drill, which plunges contestants through a hole in the ice into freezing cold water - they have 8 minutes to haul themselves out, into a tent and change into dry clothes to avoid frostbite and hypothermia." If that didn't sound tough enough for you, you'll also learn how to "safely move" polar bears "using specialist techniques."
After that, it's off to Canada's Resolute Bay and the start of several chilly race weeks.
Lest you question the monetary vacation value of what sounds like frosted torture, rest assured: Registration for this race usually costs a cool $45,000, and you'll get to participate for free, free, free. Aspiring polar racers and masochists alike can apply in a few weeks at the official web site, www.polar-challenge.com. The contest form isn't live yet, but when it is you'll be asked to answer a questionnaire and submit a short bio.
If you already know how to move a bear using "specialist techniques," I'd imagine that's a plus. Happy vacationing!
— Ted Alvarez