Racing a modern snowmobile 500 miles in challenging conditions may seem like an incredible accomplishment to some people, but can you imagine doing it on a 1966 Polaris Colt, following everything from road ditches to a path made by dog sled teams, while wearing that-era clothing purchased at the neighborhood Sears store, in sub-arctic temperatures?
Herb Howe doesn’t have to imagine it — he lived it. Then a resident of Crystal, Minnesota, now a proud Wisconsinite, Howe wrote his name into the history books when he overcame a 1 hour, 3 minute deficit on the final day to win the inaugural International 500 race from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to St. Paul, Minnesota. A total of 57 racers entered that first test of man, woman and machine, and just 24 finished.
Last month, Howe attended a vintage snowmobile show and was cornered by an alert newspaper reporter from the Intra-County Leader, who realized the magnitude of the man that was attending the event and wrote a story.
“For that first race, I pretty much had on a Sears and Roebuck work suit, with a thin little lining inside,” Howe is quoted in the story as saying. “I didn’t get a real snowmobile suit until the next year, and then when I got injured in that (1967) accident, the doctors wanted to cut it open! I told ‘em ‘no way! Let me take it off first!’ They let me slowly, carefully take it off, but they weren’t too happy with me.” Click through to see the story.
Looking for more on this historic first 500-mile cross-country race? Check out this fascinating video on youtube.