Yep, it’s summer. Your lawn probably needs mowing this weekend and various activities have you hustling to the ballfields, the lake or graduation parties. And you know what that all means, right? It’s time to start thinking about winter and snowmobiling events!
Here’s our list of the Five Best Historic Snowmobile Events for 2012-13. Combined, these events have 209 years of history in our sport, and even more notably, they are more than “just” a race: Each has grown into being a larger, regional event that draws racers and fans from across Snowbelt.
With very sincere apologies to the Canadian Power Toboggan Championships in Beausejour, Manitoba, (which dates back to 1963) our rules say there can only be five in our Friday Fast Five list, so here it is. We’ll change the format this week and go countdown style to build the suspense. Each title below is also a link, so you can find more information.
5. Grand Prix de Valcourt – It was 30 years ago this coming February that an event then-called the Festival International de la Motoneige (International Snowmobile Festival) was launched in Ski-Doo’s hometown of Valcourt, Quebec. It’s since been known as the Grand Prix de Valcourt, the darling event of the Northeast. Dates have yet to be posted for the 2013 event, but you can expect first-class oval and snocross racing and a city-wide celebration in one of the coolest little towns in the Snowbelt in mid-February. While you’re there, work in a Ski-Doo factory tour and visit the J. Armand Bombardier museum. Even at 30 years old, however, the Grand Prix is the baby on this list…
4. Soo I-500 – Known by many as the Daytona 500 of snowmobile racing, the Soo is a 500-lap race around a one-mile oval in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Celebrating its 45th annual event on February 2, 2013, the day-long Soo features intense side-by-side racing, NASCAR-style pitstops and well-crafted and executed strategy, but that’s all on the track and in the pits. For many fans, it’s also an all-day party on the hill and celebration of winter at the Snowbelt’s centerpoint, where the U.S. meets Canada.
3. Jackson Hole Hillclimb – Speaking of parties for the fans, the Jackson Hole Snowmobile Hillclimb in Jackson, Wyoming, will be held for the 38th time next spring. Like Valcourt, no dates have been posted yet for Jackson, but it’s always the last weekend of March or first weekend in April. The strategy and skill the drivers must employ to navigate the hill is fascinating to watch, and some of the Open class machines are true pieces of engineering genius. Spending time in Jackson in spring is an added bonus. The weather is usually warming by then, so an occasional bikini top is often spotted on the hill watching the action. The nightlife is tons of fun (make sure to visit the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar) and there’s usually still great snowmobile riding up the road in the Togwotee Pass region. The Jackson Hole Hillclimb is a great way to wrap up the snowmobile season.
2. Haydays – Jackson may cap the season, but Haydays kicks off the next one. Held the second weekend of September near North Branch, Minnesota (after years in the Forest Lake, Minnesota, area), Haydays has it all: Grass drags (including awe-inspiring mod sleds), freestyle shows, a huge vendor area, vintage sleds, carnival foods, racer autographs, monstrous sled manufacturer displays and perhaps the largest snowmobile (and misc. other stuff) swap meet in the sport. The 46th annual Haydays will be Sept. 8-9 this year – we’ll be there, will you?
1. Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby – All of our other Top 5 events are must-see events at some point in your snowmobiling life, but if you can only make it to one event in the coming year, make it the 50th Annual Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby in Eagle River, Wisconsin, January 17-20. Oval racing, snocross racing, fireworks shows, tremendous snowmobile trail riding in the area and a general festive atmosphere make it fun, and the crowning of a true World Champion on Sunday always makes it historic. But this year, with most past champions coming back and 50 years of history to celebrate, Eagle River should be extra special.