Whealkate history ups and downs

January 26, 2019

The property that the MASTERS Racing Circuit Snowmobile Hillclimb takes place on has a history all its own. It’s not just the snowmobiles that go up and some come down, but the history of Whealkate Bluff also has its ups and downs.

The popular landmark outside of South Range started with motorcycle hillclimbs in the 1970’s. The motorcycle hillclimb ran into the 1980’s and then stopped. The hill during those motorcycle hillclimbs was owned by business people in South Range.

It was in 1991 that the eventual owners of the MASTERS Racing Circuit would work with the Range Snowmobile Club to put on a snowmobile hillclimb.  After 2 years, and a hillclimb that took place in -15 degree temps, the club decided not to co-host the hillclimb.

Then in the late 1990’s after the MASTERS was formed, the hillclimb made a brief return. Just like in the past, the event would only last a couple years when the landowner decided to not allow the hillclimb to take place.

“This became a broken record. We come up with the event, build it, and people out of our control pull the plug. This happened at Copper Peak and other snowmobile events,” commented Jason Kleinschmidt, MASTERS Vice President.

In 2017, the MASTERS began working with the new landowner, Triest Forest Products. Triest decided to give the MASTERS Racing Circuit the opportunity to run a hillclimb. However, no work would be done to the hill or the property, just in case the fan and racer support was simply not there.

It was in March of 2018 that fans and racers proved that Whealkate Bluff has potential, not just for snowmobiles, but to see the return of a motorcycle hillclimb. 

That’s when Triest Forest Products invested thousands of dollars in grading the hill, developing fan and pit parking areas, and to complete an “exit” road from the grounds. Ironically, it was the MASTERS that started to build an “exit” road before the previous landowner discontinued permission to hold a hillclimb.

“While the ‘exit’ road was not ready for use for the motorcycle hillclimb, that road will be used for the Feb 2nd Mid America Championship Hillclimb (MACH),” Kleinschmidt states. “With vastly expanded fan and pit parking, and the use of the ‘exit’ road, the MACH will see major improvements from last year’s snowmobile hillclimb.”

It was Kleinschmidt’s G & J Construction that originally built the exit road. It was Triest Forest Products that has made that road traversable.

It was the March “thaw” that prevented the use of the “exit” road at last winter’s snowmobile hillclimb. By plowing the snow two weeks before the MACH, in addition to the cooler temps, will make it easier for fans to come in on Whealkate Ave and leave on the “exit” road.

Triest Forest Products also plowed the grounds for the fan reserved and general parking, along with the pits, and the area right below the hill for the MASTERS PA/officials’ trailer. Due to all the snow, there will be a limited amount of reserved parking where the fans will be able to watch the hillclimb from the warmth of their vehicle. The general parking will require that the fans bring a lawn chair to watch the snowmobilers try to make it to the top of the hill.

It will be the Christian Motorcyclist Association volunteers who will be directing people to which parking lot they purchased parking for.

It’s at the top of the hill that a snowbank was made that will be the timing chute. That is for the few who have the skill, and the luck, to go around a series of gates and make it to the top.

Those who don’t make it to the top will be assisted by fraternity brothers of MTU’s Sigma Tau Gamma. The Sigma Tau Gamma “Hill Jockeys” will do their best to safely try to prevent the snowmobile from rolling to the bottom of the hill.

“We have a list of brothers who are signing up to be hill jockeys. They love this!” commented Jake Kessler of Sigma Tau Gamma.

It is also snowmobile racers and their teams that volunteered to set up fencing earlier this winter to try to keep snowmobiles off the hill. Josh Bramble, Ray Van Alstine, Jordan Wolfe and Wolfe racing will also help set up the gates for the course. They will do this the day before the hillclimb.

The decision as to where the gates will be put in the 2.5 feet of snow is up to MASTERS Officials. “This year for the first time we are going to have a jump right at the bottom of the hill,” remarked Kleinschmidt. “This will make it difficult for the snowmobiler to get any momentum on the bottom of the hill.” Plus it is jumps at the bottom of the hill that the Jackson Hole (WY) Snow Devils have for the World Championship Hillclimb.

It is the MASTERS Racing Circuit, which is an acronym for Mid America Snow and Terrain Expert Racers, which sends the top professional hillclimbers from the MACH to Snow King Mountain in Jackson, WY. The World Championship Hillclimb is March 21 to 24t.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: