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  • Kendra Zamzow

Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland)

Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) is the most northerly of jurisdictions involved in the Arctic Winter Games. They have been participating since 1990, and hosted the Games in 2002 and 2016.

“The best I ever coached was Vittus Olsen, who won gold in snowboarding in the last [2023] Arctic Winter Games,” said Svend Lynge Larson, who helps with the team. “But he is too old to participate this time.”

This year, they have a contingent of 65, including coaches and assistants. Of these, four boys are participating in the snowboard events, ages 12, 13, 14, and 15. “The kids are really enjoying it,” he said. “I don’t think any of them have been to the Arctic Winter Games before.”

Although Kalaallit Nunaat is Danish, most of the people have Inuit heritage. They are proud of their culture and language, which is different from Danish. Some words are similar to words that people here would know, such as Qujanaq, “Thank you”, which sounds very similar to the Yup’ik “Quyana”.

Alaskans would recognize some of their lived experience as well. There aren’t many roads, and you often have to get around by boat, plane, or Skidoo. And, said Larson, “There are some people that have to be exactly on time, but we operate around sila, the weather. We have clothes for the weather and carry a wind jacket because it can change suddenly.” If you’ve traveled much around Alaska, you’ll recognize this as a version of “The plane will fly. Weather dependent.”

Their weather, however, is changing. “We have rain when we used to have snow. We can only train for two months when we used to train for four. We can’t ski until mid-February.” So perhaps we’ll see more of our friends from Kalaallit Nunaat; maybe they will come here more often to train! Asked what they would like to see before leaving, “Moose,” said Larson. “We have caribou, but we’ve never seen a moose before. The kids would really like to see one.”

Next time you see Team Kalaallit Nunaat in their distinctive red jackets, try out a happy “Ullaq nuanneq” (“Good day”), and if they respond with qujanaq, you can smile and say “illilla” (“you’re welcome”).


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