7 Days Of Cold: ‘Polar’ Training On Lake Winnipeg

Eric Larsen knows a thing or two about extreme cold. Howling winds, -50º weather, and goliath ice heaves are all in a day’s work for the polar explorer.

But when Larsen isn’t trekking to the Poles he teaches eager students how to survive harsh arctic conditions. His training camp utilizes the frigid conditions and easy access of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba to mimic life in the Arctic.

Related: ‘Larsen’s 5 Commandments Of Winter Warmth’

An hour north of Winnipeg, the enormous lake is the 10th largest in the world by surface volume. It is bitter cold, wind-scoured and dark in the winter — an ideal place for Larsen and others to prepare for expeditions into the Arctic.

“The snow surface is wind-packed and hard and almost identical to what you would experience in Antarctica or the Greenland ice cap,” Larsen said. “You regularly see snow formations called sastrugi, just like Antarctica.”

The landscape mimics polar conditions and helps to create the same kind of mental challenges.

Travel in bitter cold landscapes requires unique skills. The weeklong class costs about $4,000 and teaches students the fundamentals of polar travel philosophy, fitness and training, logistics, navigation, clothing, equipment, communications, safety and first aid … even how to deal with polar bears and wildlife.

“Winter camping in the northern hemisphere is difficult because it’s dark, cold and relatively humid at night. The camping on our Winnipeg training course is much more difficult than Antarctica (in the summer), which has 24-hour daylight and is very dry,” said Larsen.

The location is ideal as it allows clients to fly into Winnipeg and take the short drive north. Larsen starts his classes on the shore of the lake and then takes mini expeditions out onto the ice.

Don’t let this camp’s proximity to civilization fool you; you’re more likely to see wolves than other people.

Although Larsen’s polar exploits may seem out of the picture for most of us, his training camps on Lake Winnipeg help eager adventurers get a little taste of the arctic.

— All photos by Eric Larsen. Check out Larsen’s page for more information.

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Eric is a contributing writer based in Bozeman, MT. An avid climber, mountain biker, backpacker, and snowboarder, he earned his degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota – Duluth. When not living the GearJunkie life, he can be found exploring the Montana backcountry.

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