After Elias Ishoel wrapped up his fourth consecutive points championship on the ISOC Amsoil Championship Snocross series in March, an intense debate was initiated among Snow Goer family and friends about where this young racer fits among the greatest to ever participate in the “modern” form of snocross racing – meaning the deep-snow, big bumps sort of racing that the sport evolved into in the early 1990s.
That discussion blossomed into this: The Top 10 Snocross Racers Of All Time list. It was created after polling many top snocross industry “insiders” including select race circuit officials, factory race directors, major team owners, media personnel, aftermarket industry leaders and others who were involved very directly in the sport over the past 30 years. We combined their input with an intense review of past race results and points standings to finalize our rankings. In addition, we also created an online poll and let fans create their own list. Read about No. 9 on our list Kirk Hibbert below, then check out No. 10 Dennis “DJ” Eckstrom here. Check back to see the rest of the list as it is unveiled over the next two weeks.
No. 9: Kirk Hibbert
Ask us (or many others) to name the best overall snowmobile racer of all time, and Kirk Hibbert would finish much higher on our list. We’re talking about a guy who won multiple cross-country I-500 races, titles at the Jackson Hole World Championship Hill Climb plus countless victories in the original ISOC circuit, which was a mix of cross-country and ice lemans racing.
Plus the Idaho native was dominant on the Rocky Mountain Cross Country Racing Circuit before moving to the Upper Midwest, and was key in the development of the Arctic Cat race sled for many years. Had this legend decided to race the Soo I-500, the Haydays grass drags or even the Eagle River World Championship, we certainly wouldn’t have bet against him.
This story ultimately is about on-track snocross performance, and though the sport grew when the elder Hibbert was rather late in his Hall of Fame career, he still easily earned Top 10 status.
SNOCROSS CLAIM TO FAME: When the modern form of snocross racing was first being formed at ski hills in northern Minnesota in 1990-1994, Kirk Hibbert was there, mopping up more than his fair-share of victories. In fact, he won Pro classes at the then-season-opening snocross at Quadna Mountain in Hill City, Minnesota in 1992, and then won both the Pro-Lite and Pro-Open classes at the very first Duluth Snocross in 1992, took one class in 1993 and then three more classes at Quadna is 1993. He would then most often return to other circuits and chase points championships elsewhere.
AN EARLY PIONEER: “Captain Kirk” certainly wasn’t afraid to get his Arctic Cat snowmobiles into the air, but like many early pioneers in snocross who came from other facets of the sport, Hibbert knew that the track had to be on the ground to propel himself forward. Therefore, he’d double or triple through rough sections when necessary, but he wasn’t out there trying to impress anybody with big air acrobatics or tricks.
In fact, looking back at now at old video of the Kirk Hibbert era, it’s interesting to see how quickly Hibbert and other racers of his era returned to a seated position after landing a jump. Hibbert in particular looked rather lanky on those sleds with their now-considered-old-school ergonomics. But while working at Arctic Cat, he was one of the leaders in moving the sport forward by developing better race sleds. He also had a little something to do with a kid named Tucker Hibbert who would lake take charge of the sport.
MOMENT IN TIME: Kirk Hibbert dominated the ISR World Series of Snocross in the early 1990s, including taking two of the three Pro classes at the lake-top event at Garrison, Minnesota in the 1992-93 season. But that was a different type of snocross. Four months before that event, the first MRP Snocross at Duluth’s Spirit Mountain ski hill was held was held on Thanksgiving weekend, and Hibbert showed mastery of the deep-snow/big-air type of racing that snocross was evolving into. He won both the Pro Lite and Pro Open finals while showcasing Arctic Cat’s new ZR line of race sleds, which he was instrumental in creating and preparing for competition.
BALLOTING: Among our “expert” panel, Hibbert was selected as high as second on one ballot, yet he was completely left off of five ballots. The fans remember him well, though: He placed third in the popular voting.
CATCHING UP: Kirk Hibbert no longer works full-time for Arctic Cat, though he did spend part of this winter out west helping some of the brand’s top hill climb racers with their sleds. He spends most of his time farming his own land or helping others in Northwestern Minnesota. Below is a link to a cool video that Fox Shox has created in 2014 talking about Kirk and Tucker Hibbert.
Editor’s Note: 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! This story is from the November 2021 issue’s Cold Tested department. Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive issues delivered to your door or your computer for a low cost.