It’s been more than 15 years since the International 500 cross-country snowmobile race has had a true “international” flavor, but next winter USXC competitors will race to the border, and cross it. Next year’s I-500 will be laid out in ditches, on rivers and through woods between Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Willmar, Minnesota.
The International Series Of Champions circuit was the last body to organize a true, multi-country, point-to-point competition when racers went from Beausejour, Manitoba, to Bemidji, Minnesota in 1997. Parts of recent I-500 race courses were laid out on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, which is a sovereign nation. The 2015 USXC I-500 will be February 11-14.
Also related to next year’s race, Yamaha announced last week that it will pay back the entrance fee to any officially registered rider who finishes the 2015 USXC I-500 on a Yamaha snowmobile. “We sincerely hope to see a large field of citizen racers challenging themselves and their snowmobiles at this event,” said Yamaha Snowmobile Marketing Manager Wade West. “Cross-country snowmobile racing is growing in popularity, and we are happy to encourage our customers to give it a try by offering this contingency program.”
Here is a release from the USXC about the 2015 USXC Winnipeg To Willmar I-500:
The stories are endless and legendary. The old grainy black and white photos of guys with names like Cormican, Lindblad, Duhamel, Nelson and Simonson. The Winnipeg to St. Paul International 500 cross-country snowmobile race set the bar for snowmobile racing from 1966 to 1980. Now a whole new generation of racers will get to experience the challenge of the gold standard in cross country races.
After a lot of work with more work to come, USXC Racing officially announces the running of the 2015 Seven Clans Casinos I-500. The 2015 I-500 will be a four-day passage from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Willmar, Minnesota. Over 500 miles of racing action awaits riders, following a good portion of the original I-500 route.
USXC owner and two-time I-500 champion Brian Nelson made the announcement official at this year’s Seven Clans I-500 awards presentation in February. “There is a lot of work yet to be done, but the race is a go,” Nelson said. ”We’re just so excited to be able to hold this legendary race once again for a whole new group of competitors.”
The original Winnipeg to St. Paul I-500 started in 1966 as an event associated with the St. Paul Winter Carnival. Over the 14-year span of the original race, it was run both directions between Winnipeg and St. Paul, depending on conditions and other factors. The early ‘80s was a difficult time for the race with a lack of snow and rough economic times for the snowmobile industry putting the race on a six-year hiatus.
The I-500 resumed in 1987 running routes between Thunder Bay, Ontario, and the northern Twin Cities suburbs. Then the race began its current format of running in loops, first around the Lake of the Woods area in Minnesota, followed by a one-off at The Sky Dancer Casino in North Dakota, and finally finding a home at The Seven Clans Casino in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. Other than the six-year gap in the ’80s the race has only been cancelled twice —2002 and 2012. There are a few multi-time winners of the race, but the king of the modern era I-500 is Bryan Dyrdahl, winning the race five times aboard both Arctic Cat and Ski-Doo sleds.
For 2015, the green flag will drop at the Winnipeg Speedway south of Winnipeg, and will cross the border and head to Thief River Falls and the Seven Clans Casino on day one. Racers will then be off to Bemidji, Minnesota, on day two. Day three will take riders 180 miles to the legendary Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, Minnesota. The 2015 I-500 closes out on day four with a 125-mile dash to the finish line in Willmar, Minnesota. There will be five total fuel stops throughout the race and will handled by a fuel truck and manifold system, saving riders the hassle of hauling their own fuel.
Racers will need to book motel rooms early and make other arrangements. An enhanced Minnesota driver’s license or quick pass will be needed for the border crossing. Racers should start preparing now, in order to make sure they are ready in time. Visit usxcracing.com and go to the special I-500 page for all the information you will need on the race. There is also interesting history about the race along with interviews and a list of past champions.