Sept. 3, 2009
Rick Ward, a longtime Polaris hillclimber, cross-country racer and manager of the company’s Western racing program, died September 1 in a motor vehicle accident near his home in Sugar City, Idaho. He was 47.
According to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Ward was traveling on a motorcycle and collided with a minivan that was going through an intersection from a stop sign.
During his long hillclimbing career, Ward won 18 world championships, countless class titles and numerous King of the Hill honors at events throughout the West. He was not only a successful racer but a mentor and inspiration to many younger racers who admired the way he prepared his sleds, the way he rode and the way he graciously accepted the outcome.
Win or lose – and it was most often “win” – he was a sportsman. He celebrated victory with dignity and was always ready to congratulate competitors, according to a release from Polaris.
“This is a tragic loss of a great friend and an amazingly talented snowmobile racer,” said Polaris Racing Manager Tom Rager, Sr. “He was a tremendous asset to our racing program and he set an outstanding example, particularly for Western racers.”
Ward made his living as a farmer and was a multi-time winner at the Jackson Hole World Championship Hillclimb. He was a fixture in the Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Hillclimb Association circuit. He raced exclusively on Polaris snowmobiles, and in recent years served as the manager of the company’s Western racing program.
As recently as 2007, Ward was still winning titles at Jackson Hole. That year he added to his legendary Jackson Hole resume, winning three classes.
In 2006, Ward won Stock King of the Hill honors at Jackson Hole after winning the Pro Masters Stock and Pro 600 Stock classes.
Ward was talented at building hillclimb sleds, and he had extraordinary riding skills. When flatland-based Polaris racers traveled to the Winter X Games in Colorado or snocross racing at West Yellowstone, Montana, Ward helped them tune their engines to perform at high altitude.
Each year when new Polaris mountain sleds were developed, Ward dissected them to learn how they could best be set up for hillclimbs, and he shared that information with Western Polaris racers.
Survivors include his wife Michelle, two daughters and a son.