With major snow falling for the first time this season in the Northeast and great ice-making weather descending on the Upper Midwest, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the 50thAnnual Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby is now just three weeks away. Yet we are.
The most anticipated snowmobiling event in a long time is January 17-20, 2013, in Eagle River, Wisconsin, where the sport of snowmobile racing will celebrate 50 years of history at its most epic event.
Preceding the event, we’ll have several stories here on snowgoer.com both looking back at this event’s long history and looking forward to the crowning of a 50th World Champion. For this week’s Friday’s Fast Five, however, we provide some insider analysis.
Some may know Tom Anderson as the tall guy with the deep voice who runs the Snowmobile USA shows in places like Novi, Michigan, Wausau, Wisconsin, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Or as the guy who brings the Sneak Peek Snowmobile Tours across the U.S. every spring, showcasing the next year’s models. Others may know him as the founder of the World Snowmobile Headquarters in Eagle River, featuring a museum and showcase of the sport. Insiders on the grassroots network may know him as the guy at the International Snowmobile Congress who serves many
different roles. And Derby regulars may think of him as the guy who is on the track prior to the World Championship final, addressing the racers and having them all gather around the Snow Goer Cup before the flagman turns them loose on their quest for history.
But Anderson’s start in the snowmobile racket was as a journalist, including running a regional publication called “Hummer” back in the day. That, and his friendship with the host Decker family, has resulted in Anderson being a regular at the World Championship Derby since 1975. From standing in the corners with a camera around his neck and a notebook in his hands back in the day to now enjoying the glorious view out the window of his luxury suite in turn two, Anderson has seen it all at the Derby over the years.
So, who better to turn to for some Derby memories? We asked Anderson for five memories that are burned into his brain from the Derby. Everything below this point are his words:
To me, the Derby is not just a race – it’s a tradition, a total emotional experience and a gathering of thousands of snowmobilers who come to enjoy still another part of this great sport.
1. My first Derby in 1975: I was a neophyte publisher of a small state magazine and was awestruck by the grandeur of the Derby. I found myself in the company of so many big names that I had only read about. It was the start of 37 years of great Derby experiences.
2. The bitter cold of 1977: How cold? I have a pin that says “35 below keeps the riff-raff out.” The motor on the track sweeper broom never shut off. Those of us on the infield held onto the exhaust pipe with our bare hands to warm them up. Film would shatter as we loaded it.
3. Bobby Donahue’s win in 1988: After nine tries this very personable and super nice guy finally won. Most important to him was finding his dad to ride with him on the victory lap. It showed the value of character and family in this great sport.
4. Ed Schubitzke in 1976: I took a picture of him in turns three and four that Yamaha bought to use for sales promotion the following fall. What they paid for that photo was used to pay for our third child’s birth. I told Ed the story many years later and he was happy to hear his win helped others.
5. The Cup: The honor of addressing the starting field just prior to the race as we gather around the Snow Goer Cup is my most memorable time at the Derby. Looking into the eyes of each racer and sharing the intensity, tension, anticipation and attention of the crowd with these young gladiators as we touch the Cup bearing the names of all of the past winners is totally awesome and extremely emotional.
So, there you have it. Some, of many, of my recollections from the many years of the Derby.