Dave Norona pauses to admire the Alaska Range on the Iditarod trail.


On Valentine’s day 1999, I was freezing my butt off in the Iditasport 160-kilometre cross-country ski event in Alaska. After the race I swore I would never participate in the event again. I was done, finished, finito!

Well, a day later, I was guzzling a few beers at the after-party when the race organizer announced that, for the year 2000, he was going to allow participants to travel the full distance of the famed Iditarod Trail. I was instantly mesmerized and swore I would return to compete.

It was some thought-provoking months later when I finally made the decision and enlisted the strongest person I knew to join me, Kevin Valley. Kevin did not say yes immediately, but when he found out how sick and twisted this adventure would really be, he just nodded my way and said, “Let’s get planning!”

Over the next six months, we plotted, schemed, and found sponsors that would be willing to gamble on a couple of yahoos. We left nothing to chance and even bulked up by 25 pounds each with a diet that consisted of McDonald’s Big Macs, litres of beer and, of course, butter. The Iditarod Trail is 1,800 kilometres of total barren landscape and is no place to mess around. The only safety was in the 12 villages that line the course — that is if you could make it to a village!

In late February at noon, we headed off the start line with more than 200 other hardy souls. Most were just racing to Finger Lake, which lay 208 kilometres up the Iditarod Trail. A few more were going to McGrath, some 560 kilometres away. Only 25 of us were tackling the race to Nome, appropriately dubbed the Iditasport Impossible. This number would change to 16 as people saw what they were in for along the first part of the course and quickly dropped out.

Kevin and I assumed our pace, which seemed to be in sync with the only other cross-country skier in the race, Andy Sterns. We quickly became fast friends and decided to work together to the finish line some 1,600 kilometres away. The other 13 souls braved the elements on mountain bikes made for the hard, icy packed snow of the frozen north.

Norona with the elements of Alaska on his face.

Each day we would ski for 10-15 hours and then either pitch our tent, find a shelter cabin or end up in a village where we experienced the amazing generosity of the Alaskan people. We encountered insane storms and temperatures of –65 C.

After 33 days of constant battles with our minds, our bodies and Mother Nature, we arrived at the Board of Trade in Nome, Alaska, ready for a beer!

I think about the struggles and things we endured every day since crossing that finish line. Completing the trek was no doubt my proudest accomplishment. The bonus is that while we were fighting our way, we took out my mom’s video camera at every possible opportunity and after six years I have finally found the ideal opportunity to capture the essence of our accomplishment.

Metro Vancouver, Chris Wilberg and Barney & Oscar Films presents the Iditasport Impossible film on April 26 at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver. It promises to be an amazing night with laughter, amazing tales and tons of draw prizes.

  • Please visit www.davenorona.comfor more information or call 604-984-4484 to reserve your tickets.

gear guide

Coleman F1 Powerboost Stove

Description: Tons of cooking power in this fully adjustable 23,000 BTU backpacking stove. Features include a push button, electronic ignition, super light and compact design and a limited lifetime warrant.

Price range: $59.99

Where to find it: www.coleman.com

Nalgene Wide-Mouth Bottle

Description: Keep hydrated on any adventure with Nalgene’s lightweight and strong Lexan water bottle. The wide-mouth design allows you to add ice or drink powder with ease and the 63-millimetre tread is compatible with most water filter units. Price range: $9.50 Where to find it:


Mountain Hardwear Viperine 2 Tent

Description: Lightweight, watertight and roomy, the Viperine 2 Tent is a great shelter for three-season camping. Features include near vertical walls to maximize interior space and a large vestibule for storing your gear out of the elements.

Price range: $325

Where to find it: www.mountainhardwear.com

The North Face Women’s Vaporwick Crew

Description: Stay warm and comfortable whether spring skiing or hiking with the North Face Vaporwick Crew. The soft, easy care fabric moves moisture away from the skin.

Price range: $49

Where to find it: www.thenorthface.com

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