Call it an adventurous PR stunt or a wild trip tinged with education. Paul Hubner, president of Baffin, is testing his company’s boots during an arduous North Pole expedition. He explains his motivation and experiences in the ice-covered landscape.
Digital Journal — “I’m exhausted but satisfied.” Paul Hubner tells me this from the North Pole, speaking from a satellite phone on an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean. He’s camping on a sheet of ice in the Arctic, where skin-numbing temperatures can sink as low as -68C (-90 F). The 47-year-old’s goal is to reach the geographic North Pole, the last degree of longitude in the Northern hemisphere. Why is he going through all this trouble?
Hubner is pulling a Richard Branson, Canadian style. As president of Baffin, a footwear firm based out of Stoney Creek, Ontario, Hubner wants to promote the ruggedness of his company’s trademark boots. In January, he tested Baffin Boots in the South Pole, where he said they withstood chilling temperatures and blowing snow.
On April 16, Hubner embarked on his North Pole mission, aiming to be one of the first Canadians to ski both poles within a three-month period. His plan is to ski more than 100 kilometres over 12 days. “There’s a sense of accomplishment at seeing both ends of the world,” he says.
He has several other incentives to journey to a region most people would be afraid of even visiting for a day: he is skiing with his two sons in the North Pole, and his youngest son Brent, 17, will become the youngest Canadian to complete the trek. “Even though the trip can be hairy at times, the rewards my sons get out of this definitely makes it worth it,” Hubner tells DigitalJournal.com.
Baffin Inc. president Paul Hubner (left) and friend Doug Stoup test the company's boots in the North Pole
His North Pole expedition is also moonlighting as a fundraising cause: as he did in the South Pole, Hubner hopes to raise money for charities Polar Bears International and Northern Youth Community Charities. In January, Hubner raised $500,000 for charities during that trip.
Hubner can’t resist extolling the advantages of the polar adventure for Baffin. “Sure, the marketing benefits are there. And it’s good to get the message across that we’re a small company and not a massive corporation with shareholders sitting around a board room.” Instead, Baffin’s president is skiing across ice sheets in the North Pole.
How is Hubner expertly navigating over treacherous terrain? He and his team had to ski around mountainous rubble that resembled “a building blown up.” They had to steer around pressure ridges before finding easier areas to ski across.
“Some people fly up here, camp out for a day and then go back to the lodge for champagne and dinner,” Hubner says. “Not us. We want to come out and spend a dozen days on the ice.”
A trip like Hubner’s also has a corollary effect: seeing global warming up close. As one of the rare adrenalin junkies to experience the effects of climate change in the Arctic, Hubner has important insight to share.
“There is far more shifting and breaking ice than there ever has been before,” Hubner notes, who skied the North Pole with his friend two years ago. “Scientists I’ve spoken to have told me I won’t be able to make this trip 50 years from now.”
He ends the conversation on a bittersweet note. “Hopefully, the world will see the deteriorating ice conditions in the Arctic. Maybe that will spark some change.”