Snowmobile Hillclimb Comes to Duluth/Superior!

December 11, 2013

While the exciting sport of Snowmobile Hillclimbing is well known in the Western States, the Midwest has been home of competitive Snowmobile Hillclimb events for over 20 years. Now, the ‘carnage on the hill’ is coming to the Duluth/Superior market.

It will be on March 29th that the Mid America Snow and Terrain Expert Racers (MASTERS) Racing Circuit will sanction the Minnesota State Championship Snowmobile Hillclimb at Mt. du Lac. While Mt. du Lac is legally located in Superior, this challenging Ski Hill will provide Minnesota Snowmobilers with the chance to qualify for the 2015 World Championship Snowmobile Hillclimb in Jackson, Wyoming.

It was the MASTERS Racing Circuit that started running Snowmobile Hillclimbs in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the early ‘90’s. The event that brought Snowmobile Hillclimbs to prominence in the Midwest was the events at Copper Peak, outside of Ironwood, Michigan. With the success of the Hillclimbs, Copper Peak reorganized its Ski Flying Board and has changed its focus from Snowmobile Hillclimbs to Ski Flying.

Even without having Copper Peak as it’s ‘staple’ event, the MASTERS started running Hillclimbs at other locations. The Minnesota State Championship Hillclimb at Mt. du Lac will be the circuit’s first event in the Duluth/Superior market.

While some events ‘billed’ uphill drags, and hill cross, as a ‘hillclimb,’ the MASTERS Snowmobile Hillclimbs are truly a test of driver skill. The drivers have to go around a series of ‘gates’ as they try to make it to the top of the hill. Then at the top of the hill, the drivers have to go through a narrow ‘shute.’  Those that make it around all the gates and through the ‘shute’ are then timed.  The best time in each class then qualifies for the “King of the Hill.”

The MASTERS runs a Pro Stock, Pro Mod, and this year plans on bringing back a Vintage Division. This 20+ year Snowmobile Sanctioning Race Circuit also runs a Junior Division and 120 cc Division.

“For years the MASTERS has wanted to run a Snowmobile Hillclimb at Mt. du Lac. With the support of Mike O’Hara and the staff at Mt. du Lac we’re finally going to get the chance to host a Professional Snowmobile Hillclimb in this popular snowmobile market,” commented MASTERS Racing Circuit President, Skip Schulz.

It was in the early 1990’s that the MASTERS also announced and promoted the Marquette, Michigan, Uphill Snow Drags. At that time, those Uphill Drags, were ‘billed’ as a Hillclimb. Then in the latter 1990’s, the MASTERS ran a couple Hillcross events at Marquette Mountain. 

Mt. du Lac is going to host a MASTERS Hillcross event the day after the Minnesota State Championship Snowmobile Hillclimb. The Mt. du Lac Hillcross will run on Sunday, March 30th. The Hillclimb and Hillcross will be on separate hills.

“With all the snow that Mt. du Lac makes throughout the year, and as steep as the hill we’re going to run the Hillclimb on, this will be exciting for the fans to see. (chuckling) I think you will see a few drivers that will not make it to the ‘timing shute,’ stated Schulz.

It was a group of Snowmobilers from the UM-D that took part in the Copper Peak Hillclimbs in the 1990’s. Led by Nate Warfield, that group has been trying to get the MASTERS to bring a Snowmobile Hillclimb to Mt. du Lac for years.

“Some of our top professional Snowmobile Hillclimbers have come from the Duluth area.  We know that this area has the drivers with the skill and ‘guts’ to enter the Minnesota State Championship Hillclimb. If I have a concern right now, is that some of those that helped us as ‘hill jockeys,’ may now decide to compete. We’re hoping to find some people from this area to help us as ‘hill jockeys.’ I’m sure we’ll have sleds that simply will not make it that far up the hill, and this is where the ‘hill jockeys’ come in,’ according to Schulz.

Unlike the Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Hillclimb Association (RMSHA), the MASTERS gives each driver 2 runs in a class. Depending upon the amount of entries, the drivers are limited to only entering 3 classes.

“What we have found out over the past 20 years is that in Snowmobile Hillclimb competition, it really comes down to the skill of the driver, much more then the size and whether the snowmobile is ‘stock’ or ‘modified.’ It is very common that a Pro Stock sled will not only enter and compete in a Pro Mod Class, but win that class,’ replied Schulz.

The driver that wins the Pro Stock King of the Hill, and/or the Pro Mod King of the Hill, also wins $500.00. The top 3 drivers in each class also win cash. The Pro Stock and Pro Mod King of the Hill also automatically qualify for the 2015 World Championship Snowmobile Hillclimb in Jackson, Wyoming. The MASTERS also qualifies other class winners from the Minnesota State Championship Snowmobile Hillclimb for the World Championship.

The MASTERS anticipates a good turnout of racers for the Hillcross competition on Sunday. The origin of Hillcross started in Minnesota, and when former Hillcross Circuits left the business, the MASTERS received many inquiries from former Hillcross competitors to bring this form of snowmobile competition back.

“We expect some of our Hillclimbers to cross over and run Hillcross, and vice versa,” Schulz states.

The MASTERS will have its first Snowmobile Hillclimb of the season on Saturday, Feb. 15th. That will be the Mid America Championship Hillclimb (MACH) in Caspian, Michigan. Then the MASTERS will make a return to a very steep Pine Mountain hill. That hill is located right next to the Pine Mountain Ski Jump. That event will take place on Saturday, March 1st. The 3rd MASTERS Snowmobile Hillclimb will be the Wisconsin State Championship Hillclimb at Keyes Peak, outside of Florence, WI. That event will run on March 15th.

“Every hill is completely different from another. Some are short and steep, some are longer with more gates, and then we’re going to do something we have never done at the Wisconsin State Championship Hillclimb, and that is the drivers will not only have to crest one ‘peak,’ but then come back down the hill, make a sharp turn and try to make it up another ‘peak,’ concluded Schulz.

The final Snowmobile Hillclimb for this winter will be the Minnesota State Championship Hillclimb at Mt. du Lac.

The MASTERS requires Pre-Registration for all of their events. This includes the Snowmobile Hillclimbs, Hillcross, Snow Drags, and Uphill Drags. For more information, you can go to their Website; or you can call the MASTERS at 906-884-9101.

Schulz states, “If you’ve got the guts, we’ve got the hills!”

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