The event that launched snowmobile racers like Chris Vincent, Blair Morgan, Tucker Hibbert and Levi LaVallee into the national spotlight is welcoming snowmobile racing back this coming winter.
One year after dumping snocross racing out of its high profile event, ESPN has announced that the roar of Pro Open engines will again thrill the crowd at X Games Aspen 2013. It’s a part of a re-shuffle of events, which includes cancelling other long-running events — in this case, Snowboarder X and Skier X — and the retun of both Snowmobile SnoCross (their spelling) and Speed and Style.
The event will be January 24-27 in Aspen, Colorado.
In a story on ESPN.com, six-time X Games gold medalist in snocross Hibbert is quoted:
“I’m bummed for boardercross and skiercross; I know how those guys feel,” Hibbert said in the story. “We’re kind of at the organizers’ mercy in terms of whether we’re in or out, but I’m thankful that SnoCross is back in and I’m going to do my best to make sure we’re in for years to come.”
The news of snowmobile racing’s return lit up social media, with several racers and teams excitedly spreading the news Thursday night.
“Snocross is back at the X Games,” Polaris racer Ross Martin wrote on Facebook. “I’m going for the gold this year.”
“It’s going to be a fun one,” LaVallee tweeted with a smiley face, and a link to the ESPN.com story about snocross racing’s return.
“I spy in my eye the chance to compete for another gold medal! That’s right, snocross is back at X Games for 2013!” Hibbert posted on his Facebook page, along with a photo of him holding one of his X Games gold medals.
While the X Games exposure never produced the sort of burst of sales that some snowmobile manufacturers officials had hoped for since it started including sled racing back in 1998, it has provided much television exposure for the sport and has generate some hype in an important demographic – generations X and Y and Millennials. (See the related story with past X Games Snocross Gold Medalists here.)
It also became an important part of the contracts that snowmobile snocross racers would sign with the manufacturers each year. We heard from several race team owners and managers last year that their contracts included big bonuses for qualifying for the X Games — and that was money that the race teams needed to run their operations for the rest of the season. With the lack of X Games exposure, several race teams worried whether factory support would dry up.
Snocross was the first snowmobiling exposure at the then-called Winter X Games, and it was followed in the door closely by a few years of Hillcross. In more recent years, easier-to-televise freestyle-type events have expanded snowmobiling’s reach into the event. Some snowmobile industry insiders have questioned, however, the value to the sport of having high-flying tricks by risk-taking stunt drivers on television – stuff that is really fun to watch, but doesn’t seem very accessible to a common person.
Speed and Style is an interesting combination of snowmobile racing and freestyle combination, where a racer’s time on a course is combined with points earned on a couple of freestyle jumps to determine winners in one-on-one competitions.