Lincoln alum wins opportunity to go dogsledding in Norway


Elliott Houha’s video did not have the most votes, but was selected by Fjallraven’s jury. Photo taken by Dan Feldman.

Lincoln alum. and snowboard team coach Elliott Houha will be participating in Fjällräven Polar, a 300 kilometer dogsled trek across Norway to Sweden on April 7. Fjällräven is a Sweden-based company which produces outdoor clothing and accessories. The company sells its products in the United States, Canada, China, and 12 countries in the European Union.


Fjällräven organizes this event every year, allowing anyone over the age of 18 to participate. They cover the airfare, lodging and other expenses of all 20 winners. To qualify for the trek, Houha only had to receive a physician check in order to confirm that he was in good health. He said that he submitted a scanned version of the reference along with his video.


The contest gives ordinary people the opportunity to ride on terrain which they have never explored before. Fjällräven Polar is not a competition which is why it only requires a video entry. It is a tradition which was started by Kenth Fjellborg, one of sweden’s top dog sled drivers. He met the owner of Fjallraven, Åke Nordin, and discussed fabricating the world’s most difficult dogsled competition (called Iditarod, held in Alaska) in a way that would invite anyone to participate. After their planning, the first Fjallraven Polar was held in 1997. Ever since then, the company has been inviting participants from all over the world to take part in the trek.


Houha auditioned by creating a video called “The Mountains Are Calling” which he named for his passion towards snowboarding. He worked on the video with his friend Dan Feldman, who helped edit and film the video. The four-minute video showcases Houha’s love of the natural world, but also how living in New York City has gotten in the way of him coexisting with it. “To me, being human means being connected to the natural world however possible,” Houha said in his video. His entry was ranked 37 of 1121 entries, receiving 1217 votes. The video did not receive the most votes out of all the entries from the United States, but because it was well produced and proved that he wanted to be a part of the trek, the video won by vote of Polar’s jury.


His trip begins when Fjallraven flies him from Portland to Oslo, Norway where he will stay in a hotel with the other participants. The next day, he will be flown to Signaldalen, a small town within the arctic circle. It is here where he will train with the dogs and learn basic maneuvers and techniques such as mushing and camping in the snow. After training for three days, the adventure begins. The nearly 190 mile trek will most likely take him four days to complete. Once everyone has finished in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, the group will stay in a hostel called the Chapman boat hostel, located in Stockholm and across from the Royal Palace of Sweden. He would then return home, but he decided that he would stay in europe to visit Denmark, Finland, Germany, and France for one week each.


Houha graduated from Lincoln in 2012, and was on the snowboarding team. He placed runner-up at six competitions and went to state three times out his four years at Lincoln. He became certified as an Oregon Interscholastic Snowboard Association coach in 2013 and has been instructing Lincoln’s riders ever since. Previous coach David Rovianek enjoyed having Houha on his team. “His Positive attitude always shines through even when everyone else is not having fun,” Rovianek said. “By the end he was one of the most improved riders for sure. I know he thinks on a whole new level of creativity than I do. He is a talented artist and loves to use his hands to create things.”


Fjällräven will be filming Houha on his journey of endurance and patience as he crosses both the arctic circle and the border between Norway and Sweden. “I cannot express in words how much winning means to me,” Houha said. “I want to thank Dan Feldman, who helped me with the video, Fjallraven, and, above all, everyone who voted for and supported me in making this dream into a reality