Snowmobile hillclimb canceled this weekend

Courtesy of Skip Schulz With racers such as past Queen of the Hill, Destiny Welch from Minnesota, not coming to the area due to this weekend’s snowmobile hillclimb in South Range being canceled for lack of snow, this will not help the area’s winter economy.

The popular Snowmobile and Snow Bike Hillclimb that was scheduled for this weekend is another casualty to the low-snow winter the area has been under. Not only does the hill already show signs of dirt, the forecast is not conducive to a major snowstorm.

“After talking to two of our past King of the Hill professional hillclimbers, Jimmy Marietta and Jordan Stank, the MASTERS had no choice but to cancel this weekend’s Pat’s Motorsports-Wildlife Refuge Cabins Hillclimb,” commented Sandy Schulz of the MASTERS. “When you have two of the most hard-core, die-hard hillclimbers say they prefer not to compete without snow, we had no choice.”

The first concern of the MASTERS (Mid-America Snow & Terrain Expert Racers) is racer, officials and fan safety. With little to no snow, it would be difficult for the hillclimbers to control their sleds around the gates.

“We would have had to run straight up the hill, and turn the hillclimb into a drag race. Other snowmobile race circuits may do drag races up a hill and call them ‘hillclimbs,’ the MASTERS will not do that,” Stank explained.

Stank is one of only two MASTERS racers that have advanced to the finals at the world championship hillclimb in Jackson, Wyoming.

“My father (Layne), Mike (Fraki), Wyatt (McIntyre) and others worked hard this past summer to widen the hill. This will give us more room to make a very challenging course. That is what we will now focus on for the Feb. 24 and 25 hillclimb,” Stank said.

Marietta was also concerned about racers doing a lot of damage to their sleds on Whealkate Bluff with little snow.

“One has to remember, not everyone has a lot of money to repair a sled that may not make the hill and end up rolling on dirt,” Marietta said. “Once that happens to many riders, you can rest assured they will not be coming back to compete on Feb. 24.”

The Feb. 24 and 25 MASTERS Hillclimb will be the Pat’s Motorsports – Wildlife Refuge Cabins Mid America Championships. It will be at that Hillclimb that the MASTERS will qualify riders for the world championship.

“I’m confident that by the end of February South Range will get dumped on with snow. They better get dumped on,” Marietta said.

Marietta has won more money through the MASTERS than anyone else in the 30-plus years the staff and/or circuit has been running snowmobile hillclimbs.

The MASTERS originally had a Terra-X & V5 Enduro scheduled for Jan. 13 in Ontonagon. That race has been rescheduled for Feb. 17. The North Country Snowmobile Club race hosts that race behind its clubhouse. The club will also host a Terra-X & V5 Enduro on March 2.

“I live outside of Milwaukee, and I know a lot of fans that come from all over to the hillclimbs. This includes a lot of racers from Wisconsin and Minnesota. Having my Dad and I being with the MASTERS for over a Decade, we have seen how the MASTERS brings a lot of people and dollars to an area. Just too bad what this winter’s done to the Copper Country’s economy,” Stank said.

Stank is a Michigan Tech Mechanical Engineer alumnus. Marietta works for MTU’s Snow Research Department.

“We have had cancellations from major corporations that need snow to do their testing and research,” Marietta said. “Plus my Dad (Neil) has seen the loss of business at his Keweenaw Motorsports business.”

At press time, the Keweenaw Snowmobile Club was forced to stop grooming on many of their trails, and this is not the only club that has had to stop grooming in the Copper Country. Many fans and racers that go to the hillclimb also go snowmobiling.

“They wouldn’t be able to go riding on groomed trails, like usual,” concluded MASTERS official Larry Madgewick.


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