January 1, 2005

Let The Racing Begin




There I was, standing on the edge of the race track in McCall, ID, trying to get a good angle for a photo and through my camera lens I see Todd Tupper’s sled—with him aboard—coming straight at me. I dove for cover, landing on my camera, just in time to not get center punched by the No. 24 sled. Tupper instead center punched the orange barrel I was standing next to.

I have lots of memories—most of them fond—of my days covering snowmobile racing. While we don’t publish SnowActionany more, we have managed to stay close to snowmobile racing. We try to go to races. We’re still the title sponsor for the biggest snocross in the West—the SnoWestSnoCross—held in West Yellowstone each March. We did what we could to help the fledgling FSX tour get going. Most of our staff has, at some point or another, raced competitively.

And we still have a "race issue" of SnoWestevery season. This issue is where we highlight western racing, as well as the national circuit, and talk about how your fellow snowmobilers-turned-racers are doing. We also like to take a look at the newest race hardware, much of which eventually ends up in consumers’ hands. The list is long on what features, chassis, engines, you name it, were first tested on the track or up a hill and are now on the sleds we ride every winter. If a new feature can make it through the battle test of racing, it can usually survive—even thrive—on a consumer sled. Need an example? Race fans saw the Rev chassis coming a year before the consumer got to buy one because Blair Morgan was racing one in the Pro Open snocross class. Not a bad marketing ploy either.

As we started to put this issue together, lots of race memories flooded my mind. Here are a few.

• Finishing fourth out of six racers in my first ever snocross race (or snowmobile race for that matter) that pitted media folks in Vermont against each other. I lost to a weekend sports anchor pretty boy, for crying out loud.

• Freezing to death on the edge of the track at Eagle River during the Derby when it was a bajillion degrees below zero (they finally halted the racing for the day because it was too cold), trying to figure out how to keep my camera batteries warm, let alone other body extremities.

• How mad I was at being told to move from a certain spot on the track at Duluth, MN, so that ESPN (the "real" important media) could have a better shot of the racing.

• Riding down the last part of Exhibition Run in Jackson Hole with a hillclimber (yes, because I didn’t want to walk down), thinking, are those ski brakes working? And, does he know you’re not supposed to be racing downhill?

• Watching more crashes and wrecks than I can remember. One in particular was when Toni Haikonen, the Flying Finn, raced in one of his first ever snocrosses on American soil and got landed on by another racer. I was one of the first ones to Haikonen, and well, it was a bit gruesome. He later recovered and went on to have a successful snocross career in the United States.

• Watching the first Winter X Games and quickly deciding that the race is definitely more hype than substance—a real made-for-television event—and how disappointed I was when it was all over.

• Watching (well kind of) racers battle each other at Haystack Mountain in southern Vermont during monster snow squalls that cut visibility to a few yards. Man did my pictures suck that race.

• Seeing Blair Morgan start his snowmobile racing career at the SnoWest







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