HOUGHTON - A U.P. snowmobile event is returning to its roots in South Range this January.
The Mid America Snow and Terrain Expert Riders, or MASTERS, Circuit will host the Winternationals Snowmobile Hillclimb Jan. 16-17 at Whealkate Bluff in South Range.
Whealkate hosted the first professionally sanctioned hillclimb in Michigan almost two decades ago. The event replaces the Copper Peak Hillclimb, which could not be held this year because of construction of ski flying equipment on the hill.
Wyler Miller of Pelkie negotiates a gate during the 2007 Copper Peak Hillclimb. Miller and the region’s other top snowmobile hillclimbers will move their act to Whealkate Bluff in South Range in January 2010. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
"This event is going to help our ailing tourism economy, as we expect well over 1,000 fans," MASTERS president Skip Schulz said in a press release. Schulz also thanked the private landowners of Whealkate Bluff, as well as Jordan Stank and the Michigan Tech Sledheads Club for making it possible to stage the event in South Range.
The event is planned to attract top hillclimbers from throughout the Midwest, with the King of the Hill in the Pro Stock and Pro Mod classes to represent the MASTERS Circuit at the World Championship Snowmobile Hillclimb in Jackson, Wyo. March 25-28.
There will be four different classes for Pro Stock drivers and five for Pro Mod. The pros will have to pass through gates on their way up the bluff.
"A few will make it to the top, a few will be able to use the 'hill-jockeys' to save their sled, and many will simply just hope the sled is usable after it tumbles to the bottom of the hill," Schulz said.
Schulz said the 2009 King of the Hill, Nick Gustafson of Roseau, Minn., is committed to the event, as well as top hillclimbers from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The King of the Hill winners will earn $1,000 apiece.
There will also be a Sport Division for amateur and young drivers in which the sleds will race straight to the top of the bluff.
Construction work began on the road into the bluff this week, as well as construction for parking. Snowmobile traffic can also be accomodated via the Bill Nichols Trail.
The event will only use the Sunday date if entry numbers require it.
Gate admission will be $10 per day with children 6 and under free. VIP Parking will be $25 with regular parking $5 and snowmobile parking free. Profits from the event will benefit Motorsports Enthusiasts That Care, a fund to support families battling cancer.
Snowmobilers interested in entering should contact MASTERS at (906) 884-9101.