Christine Dennison is currently training for a North Pole endurance ski race sponsored by The Mamont Foundation, which promotes arctic awareness, education, and conservation.
The event will be held from April 14-24, 2015 and will begin in Svalbard, Norway and move to the ice camp Barneo. There are four teams of five athletes who will be participating in this self-supported race, which means setting up their own camps and pulling seventy-pound sleds full of supplies across the frozen ice pack. On top of that are the added challenges of ice, snow, wind, polar bears, and open water.
Christine is the only American woman on the all-women’s team, and while she emphasized that she is not a professional athlete, she is also no amateur explorer. She’s the founder of Mad Dog Expeditions, an elite group that has been taking scientists, film crews, and adventurers to the world’s hard to reach places, including the Arctic, for twenty years. She’s excited to have this opportunity to go back North.
Tell me about this race. Have you done anything like it before?
This is all new for me. I am competitive with myself, but I’m not a RACE-type person.
How do you feel about skiing?
I am not a great skier (third degree ACL tear). We are cross country skiing which will be on difficult terrain, but its the only way to travel up north.
How have you been training?
I live a fairly healthy lifestyle and am always active, but last month I started a training regime which has me in the gym on an elliptical machine and light weights — resistance training is my choice for gearing up for expeditions. Getting strong and lean.
What is the women’s team like — are you a pretty tight-knit group or is this your first time doing something together?
This is our first race together. We will have a few days to train as a team in Norway prior to getting to the Russian Ice Camp. These ladies are all amazing and very cool.
What is the most challenging part of this race? (Also, what is the best part, aka, why are you doing this crazy thing?)
In my experience with expeditions (especially in the Arctic) the mental challenge is the most difficult. The cold is hard on the body and the starkness and solitude of the region is also something that can make some people uncomfortable. There are no trees or anything green, so I would equate it to a lunar landscape of snow and ice.
I love the Arctic and like the cold…I am thrilled to have been selected to participate. I also believe that bringing awareness to the poles and their conservation is vital. The teams that are assembled are all seasoned arctic explorers and we have a love and passion for this part of the world. I am personally involved with education and conservation through speaking presentations, press, and expeditions which involve and invite younger audiences to take an active interest in the region, its people, and wildlife.
What is Mad Dog Expeditions?
We started as a boutique company which took clients on scuba expeditions to the High Arctic, Papua New Guinea, The Amazon’s Rio Negro, to see great whites in South Africa, and dolphin and shark diving in the Bahamas. I continue to work with my team of experts on customized expeditions for filming, research, and fun.
Where do you lead trips?
‘Have passport will travel’ has always been my motto, and I am privileged to work on very interesting projects and with very talented colleagues. Clients contact us with an expedition or film project they want to accomplish and we work on making it happen.
What are the most popular expeditions?
The Arctic is always on someone’s list but it’s not an easy trip because we are a land-based not ship-based company. And there is a lot of physical demand on those who truly want to experience the North.
What are you going to wear?
We will have our team uniforms of a warm parka, ski pants, usual suspects. I am currently looking to test the best available undergarments for women that will be comfortable, practical, and work at keeping me warm!
Women have challenges in the this department as we have special considerations that men need not worry about.
Any gear tips?
It’s not advisable to have metal on you (watch, jewelry) as it will freeze. Everything I take has to have double or triple duty.
Things you will not be leaving the states without?
In addition to my basic supplies, I am packing a great face cream, Chanel perfume (it’s a personal pick me up at end of trip or in my jacket along the way), polarized sunglasses, warm socks and underwear, protein bars and a locket from my mom.
I also carry mint and lavender tea bags as they smell great, are very calming, and help with refreshing clothes.
When is the best time of year to go to Norway?
I have great Norwegian friends who are always outside, year-round. That’s how they’re raised! Norway is beautiful year round and in my opinion there is never a reason not to go to Norway!
Any advice for our readers?
On expeditions, or really anywhere, leave your ego at home. It’s important to remain humble as there will always be someone better than you, with more experience and talent, so learn from the best whenever possible. Don’t give up on your dreams, never let go of your goals, no matter how extreme (going to the North Pole, for example). It’s so important to stay focused, and yet be ready for an opportunity when it appears. Surround yourself with supportive people, good people, and they’ll be there for you no matter how crazy your dreams are.
About this trip, I wanted to emphasize that I’m not a professional athlete. I look at people who can run marathons in complete awe. This type of trip and this type of goal is a mental thing. It takes mental training and the drive to want to get there. I hope because of that I can inspire women to try anything.