Ojibwa Casino Hillclimb expands!

May 28, 2019

The MASTERS – Ojibwa Casino Motorcycle Hillclimb at Whealkate Bluff in South Range will expand this 4th of July weekend to include snowmobiles and side-by-side off-road vehicles. The second annual event will take place on Saturday, July 6.

The MASTERS, which stands for Mid America Snow and Terrain Expert Racers, with the help of Triest Forest Products, brought the motorcycle hillclimb back to life last year. The event was a popular attraction in the 1970s. With numerous changes in property ownership and extensive erosion on the hill, it wasn’t until last year that a sanctioned motorcycle hillclimb took place.

Officials from the MASTERS first ran a snowmobile hillclimb in 1991 as a cooperative event with the Range Snowmobile Club. Then in the latter 1990s, the MASTERS began sanctioning professional snowmobile hillclimbs.

“Close to 20 years ago we became the Midwestern States’ representative to qualify snowmobilers to compete at the World Championship Hillclimb in Jackson, Wyoming,” explained Jason Kleinschmidt, MASTERS Director of Race Operations. This past winter, James Marietta of Hubbell, Roger Strack of Painesdale, and Tyler Robinson of the Pat’s Motorsports Team of Greenland competed at the World Championship. Robinson qualified for the finals in two classes.

It was one of the circuit’s top snowmobile hillclimbers, Mike Fraki of Atlantic Mine, who suggested having snowmobiles run straight up the hill at the Motorcycle Hillclimb.

“At first we didn’t think a snowmobiler would want to do this, but after putting out a ‘feeler’ on social media, we were pleasantly surprised,” stated Kleinschmidt.

Planning on competing in the snowmobile hillclimb includes some of the circuit’s top professional snowmobile hillclimbers. This includes Fraki, Travis Kaurala of Pelkie, and Jordan Wolfe, an MTU Mechanical Engineering student.

According to the MASTERS, that opened the doors to possibly expanding into off-road vehicles, such as the increasing numbers of side-by-sides (SXS).

“When the landowner, Triest Forest Products, also asked about the SXS, we inquired with a dealer and SXS riders. To be upfront with everyone, we really don’t know at this time what interest in that class we’re going to have,” commented Kleinschmidt.

Mike Chopp at Whealkate in 2018

The MASTERS is going to have strict safety measures for those who want to run an SXS up the hill. This includes a solid welded roll cage, along with a 5-point harness. These ORVs compete in races such as the one in Crandon, Wisconsin.

“Whether we will get any of these to compete at this time we simply do not know. However, we do know that we’re going to have some good competition in the Snowmobile class,” said Kleinschmidt.

There will also be changes for the motorcycles climbing the steep bluff. This includes a couple of gates for the motorcycles to go around and a small jump at the base of the hill. This past winter the snowmobiles had to go around five gates and a steep “wall” at the top of the hill for both the Triest Forest Products-Vollwerth’s Mid America Championship Hillclimb and the Ojibwa Casino WINTERNATIONALS Hillclimbs.

The event will continue to have a class where two motorcycles will race side by side straight up the hill, along with having the 10 fastest racers advance to the King of the Hill “shoot-out.” The three fastest snowmobilers will advance to the “King of the Dirt” shoot-out at the end of the day.

Racers in motorcycle classes will range from the children running the small bikes all the way up to a class for the heavily modified motorcycles with extended suspension.

Triest Forest Products invested thousands of dollars into construction work on the hill, the fan and racer parking, along with the entrance and exit roads to the event. The Spalding-based company will once again be working on the hill and the property for the July 6 event.

“This event draws racers and fans from all over to South Range, Houghton, and Hancock. It is a great boost to the area’s tourism economy and supports the established South Range 4th of July weekend festivities,” concluded Kleinschmidt. “Expanding into snowmobiles and possibly SXS will draw even more racers and fans.”

The expansion of the Ojibwa Casino Motorcycle Hillclimb coincides with this summer’s expansion at the Baraga Ojibwa Casino and the construction of the new casino and resort in Marquette.

For more information, see other pages on this web site, their Facebook page, or call 906-884-9101.

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