The season-opening snocross race at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, Minnesota, has often faced unique challenges in its 27 years. Low snow and warm weather has caused its delay some years; blizzards have trapped teams at the site for an extra night; one recent year the Sunday portion of the program was “fogged out” when the ski hill was completely socked in, making racing impossible.
The challenge this year, though, was really unique, and it helped create some sarcastic mainstream media attention because a planned race for the best over-snow vehicles man has ever produced was cancelled because of… wait for it… too much snow!
Actually, the 24 inches of snow that fell in Duluth between November 29 and December 1, 2019, was only part of the problem – that snow was whipped by extremely strong winds that pretty much shut down the entire city. Days later, roads were still impassable.
The planned three-day race included some competition on Friday and Saturday, but it ended early on Saturday when conditions made racing unsafe and local roads started closing. Sunday’s show was completely cancelled because conditions just got worse overnight – and realistically nobody could make it to the host ski hill because most of the local roads were closed. The vast majority of race teams, race circuit officials and fans who were in town for the event were literally trapped in their hotels.
Further proof that you can mess with Mother Nature!
Now, in the wake of the chaos, some details are emerging on what’s next:
New Race Dates
The two rounds of the ISOC Amsoil Championship Snocross series that were cancelled in Duluth will be made up at two upcoming events – so the big national series will still have 17 rounds of racing.
The ISOC circuit announced on social media that an extra day of racing has been added to its next two events, making both the Country Cat National near Fargo, North Dakota, (now Dec. 13-15) and the Pirtek Snocross National at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota, (expanded to Jan. 3-5) three-day racing events.
Previously, those two races were both schedule to be Friday-Saturday events. So, you might consider the Saturday Duluth races to be made up on Sunday, December 15, at Fargo, and the Sunday Duluth races will take place on January 5 at Shakopee.
Unlike some other races where the race circuit “hosts” the race and collects the spectator entry fees and such, the Duluth race is hosted by the Duluth Convention and Visitors Bureau and Spirit Mountain, and Spirit Mountain in particular is saying the impact of the race’s cancellations are devastating.
In fact, in a recent article in the Duluth News Tribune newspaper, the executive director of the popular ski hill says the facility needs the city of Duluth to immediately give it $235,000 in cash so it can make payroll and keep operating, or the ski hill might have to shut down.
UPDATE: On Monday, December 9, the Duluth City Council approved a $235,000 one-time payment to Spirit Mountain on an 8-1 vote, taking the money from the city’s excess tourism tax collections.
“If that’s not available, that means we are locking the doors,” Brandy Ream, Spirit Mountain’s executive director, told the Duluth News Tribune. “And that means we have $1.2 million in season pass revenue that will need to be paid back. That means we have hundreds of thousands of dollars in vacation our employees have earned that’s going to have to be paid out. And we have payables that are currently on the books that we’re responsible for.”
The newspaper article includes other details that might be interesting to insiders, including the sanctioning fees paid to the race circuit and the fact that the contract between the ski hill and the race circuit is now “up.”
Editor’s Note: This review was originally published in the October 2020 issue of Snow Goer. Every issue of Snow Goer magazine includes in-depth sled reports and comparisons, aftermarket gear and accessories reviews, riding destination articles, do-it-yourself repair information, snowmobile technology and more! Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.