Posted on behalf of the MASTERs circuit
Levering, Michigan’s Joe Van Kalker and Roseau, Minnesota’s Nick Gustafson won the coveted Copper Peak Championship Snowmobile Hillclimb Pro Stock and Pro Mod King of the Hill this past Saturday. Gustafson, who took a second in last years competition edged out last years Pro Mod King of the Hill, Matt Tingstad. Van Kalker defeated the 2007 and 2008 Pro Stock King of the Hill, Wyler Miller.

Van Kalker followed Coon Rapids, Minnesota’s Jesse Stanton as the first two drivers to qualify for the Pro Stock King of the Hill ‘shootout.’ Stanton won the Pro Stock 500 Class, followed by Van Kalker taking the Pro Stock 600 Class. It was in that Pro Stock 600 Class that Van Kalker first defeated Tingstad. Tingstad took a second in that class. Van Kalker beat Tingstad by over 4 seconds. Then in the Pro Stock 700 class, the Ski-Doo driver kept Miller from securing a spot in the ‘shoot-out’ by beating the 2007 Pro Stock King of the Hill by over 4 seconds, with an amazing second qualifying run of 17.46 seconds. Miller came back to win in Pro Stock 800 and Pro Open Stock.

That meant only 3 drivers would compete for the $1000 ‘winner-take-all’ Pro Stock King of the Hill, and the automatic invite to the World Championship Snowmobile Hillclimb in Jackson, Wyomng. Miller drew first in the ‘shoot-out’ and posted an impressive 17.26 second run. Van Kalker went next and narrowly beat Miller with a 16.61 second run. Miller came back and ran a 17.53 second run. This left only the Pro Stock 500 qualifier, Stanton, to have a shot at defeating Van Kalker. Stanton in his first time competing at Copper Peak posted a 19.14 second run, giving Van Kalker the Pro Stock King of the Hill.

With so much on the line, and people from all over the Midwest looking to dethrone the perennial favorites in the Pro Mod Class, MIller and Tingstad, Wyler “Wild Man” Miller of Pelkie, Michigan and Tingstad of Bessemer, Michigan, brought an arsenal of sleds this year. Tingstad on Arctic Cats and Miller on Ski-Doo’s. Miller took one of his Ski-Doo’s to a slim win in the Pro Mod 600 Class over Tingstad. Miller posted an 18.22 in his second qualifying run, with Tingstad having an 18.76. Long-time Copper Peak competitor, Lance Forcia., Jr., of L’Anse, Michigan, took a third on a 2009 Polaris.

Tingstad, known as Tinger in the World of Snowmobile Freestyle competition, got revenge in Pro Mod 700 by beating Miller’s first qualifying run time by two seconds. Miller failed to make the hill on his second attempt. That meant that time was running out for last years Pro Mod King of the Hill runner-up, Nick Gustafson. During the first round of competition it appeared that this was not going to be the year for Gustafson, formerly of neighboring Hurley, Wisconsin.

The driver that works in the Polaris factory turned to his crew to make sled adjustments for the changing hill conditions. In the Pro Mod 800 class Gustafson opened the second round by turning in a fast 17.58 second run. The huge crowd then thought Gustafson secured his spot in the Pro Mod King of the Hill. Problem was, Van Kalker was the last to run in Pro Mod 800. Van Kalker turned in a 17.15 second run, and left Gustafson wondering what happened.

That meant that Gustafson would have to win the Pro Open Mod class to earn a shot in the Pro Mod King of the Hill ‘shootout.’ After the first round of qualifying in Pro Open Mod the leader was Miller with a 19.80 second run. With the second run being on a different route around the 3 gates and to the ‘timing shoot,’ Gustafson knew he had to go ‘all-out.’ Due to the draw on Friday Night, Gustafson had one ‘ace’ in his back-pocket. That is that the Polaris Assault driver would be the last to run at the very steep Copper Peak cliff.

Marquette, Michigan’s Jason Carter opened up the second round of Pro Open Mod qualifying with an 18.49 second run. That knocked Miller out of first place in the class. Stanton on a different Arctic Cat from his Pro Stock 500 qualifier had an 18.61 second run, then Tingstad had an 18.74 second run, then Cheboygan, Michigan’s Chuckie Robiadek had an 18.75 run. This left it down to Van Kalker, Miller, and Gustafson. Van Kalker had an 18.75 shot up the hill, Miller posted a time of 18.51.

Now it was up to Gustafson with one last shot to get into the ‘shoot-out’ and keep Carter from getting his first shot at qualifying for the much heralded Pro Mod King of the Hill.

Gustafson took off out of the ‘starting shoot’ like a rocket. He made a perfect turn around the first gate and the second gate. Then he had to get over the steepest part of the hill, what is known as ‘the wall.’ Gustafson easily cleared ‘the wall.’ Problem a majority of the drivers had on the second qualifying course was that the approach to the third gate was down to dirt, with an erosion-preventing log fully exposed. Gustafson went over the log fully under control, and then made a ‘bee-line’ to the timing shoot. After the roar of the crowd dissipated, Skip Schulz, Mid America Snowmobile Tournament of Expert Racers, MASTERS Circuit, announced ‘Nick Gustafson just turned in a time of 16.83 second, thus winning Pro Open Mod and qualifying for the Pro Mod King of the Hill shootout.”

In the Pro Mod King of the Hill ‘shoot-out’ four drivers would compete for the $1000 ‘winner-take-all’ and an invite to the World Championships. Tingstad drew first, Gustafson second, Miller third, and Van Kalker would end the competition.

Tingstad had a 23.00 run. Gustafson had a very ‘beat-able’ 19.13 second run. The attention was now on Miller. Miller failed to make it around the tough 3rd gate. Last at the line, Van Kalker, who had already won Pro Stock King of the Hill and pocketed $1650.00. Van Kalker failed to make it over the top, giving Gustafson the Pro Mod King of the Hill.

Even though Miller failed to win a Stock or Mod King of the Hill competition for the first time in 3 years, Copper Peak was not without a Miller at the top of the throne. However it would not be a “King of the Hill,” but a “Queen of the Hill.” Wyler’s daughter, McKenna, captured the 120cc “Queen” of the Hill. McKenna went higher up the mountain then Eli Talsma and Morgan Miskovich.

Due to warm weather, the hillclimb was postponed from the Saturday before. While 6 inches of snow did fall from the ‘melt-down’ of the previous week, the hill and the snowmobiles took a beating. Numerous snowmobiles came tumbling down to the applause of the crowd and the ah’s of the drivers. In one attempt, De Pere, Wisconsin’s Matt Cook’s Arctic Cat went off the course and the stand that one of the Videographers was perched on. The cameraman was knocked off the stand and came tumbling down the hill. While bruised and beaten, the individual was able to complete the filming of the event. Other then this person and dozens of snowmobiles, once again this year no one was hurt.

The MASTERS Circuit that sanctions this event selects the top drivers from throughout the Midwest to compete at this event. “Copper Peak is the most extreme Snowmobile Hillclimb in the Midwest and that is why we select a limited amount of drivers,” stated Schulz. “While we don’t have the ‘distance’ of the hills that the Pro drivers compete at in the Rocky Mountains, Copper Peak is 700 feet that is so steep, one cannot even see the bottom of the hill from the Timing shoot at the top,” remarked Schulz.

With all the carnage on the hill one would think that the majority of the drivers would leave the Western Upper Peninsula dismayed.

“I look forward to competing in this event every year,” stated Layne Stank of Menomonee, Michigan.
“I wouldn’t miss competing, no matter how many sleds I’ve destroyed,” said Scott Smith of Ewen, Michigan.
“I didn’t know I was competing until a few days before the event. When Skip (Schulz) told me he had a spot for me with a cancellation due to the postponed, I jumped at the chance,” stated Jesse Stanton of Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The same misfortune on the change of the date for some drivers, also opened up a spot for Jordan Sherwood of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota. However Sherwood was not as fortunate as Stanton. Sherwood failed to make it over the top after four runs.

“This event is not only good for the tourism economy of the Western Upper Peninsula, but it also gives us the chance to showcase the Western Hemisphere’s highest Ski Flying jump,” stated Charlie Supercynski of Copper Peak Ski Flying. Some of the money raised at the Snowmobile Hillclimb goes to a fund to bring Ski Flying back to Copper Peak. Fans were given the chance to take the chair-lift up the steep bluff to get a view of the acres of cars in the parking lot for the Hillclimb.

Plans and the date for the 2010 Copper Peak Championship Snowmobile Hillclimb will begin in March. Till then the MASTERS Circuit now focuses on this coming Saturday’s Snowmobile Drag Race in Sidnaw, Michigan for Habitat for Humanity.

Results of 2009 Copper Peak Championship Snowmobile Hillclimb
Pro Stock 500: 1) Jesse Stanton, Coon Rapids (MN), Arctic Cat; 2) Cory Bull, Ironwood (MI), Arctic Cat; 3) Tim Staddick, New Ulm (MN), Ski Doo
Pro Stock 600: 1) Joe Van Kalker, Levering (MI), Ski-Doo; 2) Matt Tingstad, Bessemer (MI), Arctic Cat; 3) Jesse Stanton, Coon Rapids (MN), Arctic Cat
Pro Stock 700: 1) Joe Van Kalker, Levering (MI), Ski-Doo; 2) Wyler Miller, Pelkie (MI), Ski-Doo; 3) Layne Stank, Menomonee (MI), Polaris
Pro Stock 800: 1) Wyler Miller, Pelkie (MI), Ski-Doo; 2) Matt Tingstad (2nd Run), Bessemer (MI), Arctic Cat; 3) Tingstad (1st Run)
Ironwood Super 8 Pro Open Stock: 1) Wyler Miller, Pelkie (MI), Ski-Doo; 2) Nick Gustafson, Roseau (MN), Polaris; 3) MattTingstad, Bessemer (MI), Arctic Cat
Pro Mod 600: 1) Wyler Miller, Pelkie (MI), Ski-Doo; 2) Matt Tingstad, Bessemer (MI), Arctic Cat; 3) Lance Forcia, Jr., L’Anse (MI), Polaris
Pro Mod 700: 1) Matt Tingstad (2nd Run), Bessemer (MI), Arctic Cat; 2) Wyler Miller, Pelkie (MI), Ski-Doo; 3) Tingstad (1st Run)
Mountain View Lodges-Silver City Pro Mod 800: 1) Joe Van Kalker, Levering (MI), Ski-Doo; 2) Nick Gustafson, Roseau (MN), Polaris; 3) Wyler Miller, Pelkie (MI), Ski-Doo
Ironwood Super 8 Pro Open Mod: 1) Nick Gustafson, Roseau (MN), Polaris; 2) Jason Carter, Marquette (MI), Ski-Doo; 3) Wyler Miller, Pelkie (MI), Ski-Doo
Indianhead Motel of Ironwood 120cc King/Queen of the Hill: 1) McKenna Miller, Pelkie (MI), Ski-Doo; 2) Eli Talsma, Bessemer (MI) Polaris; 3) Morgan Miskovich, Wakefield (MI), Polaris
Pro Stock King of the Hill: 1) Joe Van Kalker, Levering (MI), Ski-Doo 2) Wyler Miller, Pelkie (MI), Ski-Doo; 3) Jesse Stanton, Coon Rapids (MN) Arctic Cat
Pro Mod King of the Hill: 1) Nick Gustafson, Roseau (MN), Polaris; 2) Matt Tingstad, Bessemer (MI), Arctic Cat; 3) Wyler Miller, Pelkie (MI) Ski-Doo

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