Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 27, 2016 - 7:00 am

Nunavut snowboarder enjoys Canada’s longest ski season

“I’d like to see snowboarding grow in popularity”

SARAH ROGERS
Etuangat Akeeagok built a snow jump outside his hometown of Grise Fiord this past winter so he could practice snowboard jumps. (PHOTO COURTESY E. AKEEAGOK)
Etuangat Akeeagok built a snow jump outside his hometown of Grise Fiord this past winter so he could practice snowboard jumps. (PHOTO COURTESY E. AKEEAGOK)
Akeeagok heads out for a ride in Grise Fiord with his companion Rocky. (PHOTO COURTESY OF E. AKEEAGOK)
Akeeagok heads out for a ride in Grise Fiord with his companion Rocky. (PHOTO COURTESY OF E. AKEEAGOK)

While the ski season has wound down everywhere else in the country, one of the territory’s few serious snowboarders is still happily shredding hills that surround his hometown of Grise Fiord.

And he’s got them all to himself.

Etuangat Akeeagok, 20, is often spotted walking across the tundra outside the hamlet of 150 with his snowboard tucked behind his knapsack, his black husky mix Rocky following closely behind.

He usually hikes up the craggy peaks by foot — sometimes he’ll take a snowmobile up — and then sails down the clear white pathways, kicking up clouds of snow behind him.

Akeeagok gathered footage of some of his rides over the last few months, using a Go Pro 4 strapped to his helmet along with a drone operated by his brother for an aerial view.

In the four minute video, Akeeagok takes viewers on a stomach-churning ride down steep and narrow valleys of snow and then sailing over a snow jump he made himself this winter — quite possible the only one in Nunavut.

The video, called Snowboarding in the High Arctic, has now racked up 9,700 views on Akeeagok’s Facebook page.

“Wow!” Anne Akeeagok, Etuangat’s mom, posted below the video. “Great but held my breath awhile, being that you’re my son. Proud I am of you for following your dream.”

Akeeagok didn’t take to snowboarding right away; it wasn’t until years after he first strapped his feet into a board as a young teenager that he started to practicing regularly.

Something eventually clicked — Akeeagok says it was the adrenaline.

“I love to learn new things,” he said. “And now, when I learn a new trick, like a jump, it feels really good.”

In 2013, Akeeagok saved up enough money to attend a training camp in Whistler, British Columbia, his first time snowboarding at a real ski resort.

After hiking the hills of Grise Fiord by foot, riding up runs in a chairlift was a major luxury, he said.

It was also the first time he’d ever snowboarded with other people.

“I expected the crowds,” Akeeagok said. “It wasn’t too weird — it was nice to see everyone sharing the same passion.”

The training camp helped Akeeagok to step up his game and he’s returned to Whistler twice since then, most recently in January.

He said that while in B.C., he rides with boarders from across the world who are always really interested to see his videos of the untouched mountains of Nunavut.

“They’re always asking questions,” he said.

Akeeagok has other plans for the future besides adrenaline on snow; he’s starting the Environmental Technology program at Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit this fall.

But he hopes to keep snowboarding, and he’d like to try hills in other communities.

“I’d like to see snowboarding grow [in popularity],” Akeeagok said. “I think that would be great. It’s a really awesome thing to do.”

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