The BIG Hillclimb is BACK!

by Laura Burke on February 9, 2018

After an absence of seven years, the biggest and most challenging snowmobile hillclimb is back! It’’s the Ojibwa Casino WINTERNATIONALS Snowmobile Hillclimb at Whealkate Bluff. This major snowmobile attraction will take place on Saturday, March 3. The steep hill is located in South Range.

The WINTERNATIONALS actually started in the early ’90’s, sponsored by the Range Snowmobile Club. Due to landowner changes, the event than went into hibernation until 2010, when the Mid America Snow and Terrain Expert Racers (MASTERS) brought it back to life. After two years and more land-owner changes, the event went back into hibernation.

With the hill and the land surrounding Whealkate Bluff now being owned by Triest Forest Products, the MASTERS was able to get permission to hold a snowmobile event. However, the fan and pit parking area was in dire need of heavy construction equipment to not only clear the land of snow but also work on the entrance and exit roads.

It was the Ojibwa Casino that provided the funds to bring in Siler Construction to do the needed work. Then it was Vollwerth’s Meats, along with the Range Lounge VFW, that picked up the sponsorship for the $500 Pro Mod King of the Hill and the $500 Pro Stock King of the Hill. Dave’’s Service of Laurium, Pat’’s Motorsports of Greenland, and Toucan’’s Auto Repair of South Range all came on board to sponsor select classes. The Daily Mining Gazette along with Eagle Radio are two of the media partners in promoting this event.

Organizers of this event are currently looking for other class sponsors. If you’r business is interested in getting great promotional exposure, you’r asked to call the MASTERS at 906-884-9101.

The MASTERS will run two Professional Divisions: Pro Stock and Pro Mod. Each class will have a 600, 700, 850, and Open class. For those between the ages of 13 and 18, a Junior Division will also run, along with the children between the ages of 5 and 12 running Stock and Modified 120 cc snowmobiles.

It’’s not just how steep Whealkate Bluff is that makes this event so popular amongst both racers and fans, but the fact that in the Pro Divisions, the snowmobilers have to go around a series of gates. To top it off, they then must go through a narrow ‘timing chute’ at the top of the bluff.

In past hillclimbs at Whealkate Bluff, only a few of the racers were able to make it around all the gates and through the timing shute. The winner in each class is either based on the best time or making it up the hill the farthest, which is called a ‘high-mark.’ Winners in each Pro Class gets both cash and first-place trophy.

While the cash helps and the trophy looks good on the fireplace mantel, it is the winner in each Pro Stock Class that then qualifies to run in the Range Lounge-VFW King of the Hill, where the winner in that shoot-out gets an additional $500. Same for all the class winners in the Pro Mod Division, where the Pro Mod King of the Hill will win $500 from the ‘King of Meats,’ Vollwerth’s.

Fans will see the return of the #1 Professional Snowmobile Hillclimbers in the Midwest. This includes Greenland’’s Al Turin, Alston’’s Travis Kaurala, Bessemer’s Matt Tingstad, and the King of the Hill winner from this year’s Mid America Championship Hillclimb at Keyes Peak in Florence, Wisconsin: Cory Burrows. Burrows will make the long trip from southwest Michigan’’s South Haven.

The event will begin at 9:00 am ET. To get some of the best viewing of the event from their hill, the MASTERS recommends people come early.

Gate admission will be $10.00, children 12 and under free with a paid adult. Those wanting to park with a good view of the event will be charged $5.00 per vehicle.

The MASTERS has received help from the Range Snowmobile Club, Patriot Towing and Snowmobile Recovery, and Josh Bramble in putting up fencing on the hill to prevent snowmobilers from running the hill before the event. The fencing also assists in creating snow drifts on the hill.

The event is looking for someone to handle the concessions. Call the MASTERS if you’’re interested in having a concession stand.

“This hillclimb has drawn thousands of fans over the years. It is GREAT for South Range and the Copper Country. We’’re looking at holding this event every year and possibly bringing back a Motorcycle Hillclimb,” commented Jason Kleinschmidt, MASTERS Director of Race Operations.  This would not happen without the generous support of the Ojibwa Casino of Baraga.”

Final racer registration and the mandatory Friday night drivers meeting will take place on March 2 from 6 to 8:30 pm in the conference room of the Ojibwa Casino in Baraga.

The MASTERS will also have the Minnesota State Championship Hillclimb at Mont du Lac, outside of Duluth, Minnesota, on Saturday, March 17, then the Grand Nationals Snow Drags at this popular ski hill on Sunday, March 18.

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