Illustrated Guide to Snowmobile Racing was written by Linda and David Aksomitis. Loren R. Anderson – Founder & President, Snowmobile Hall of Fame and Museum, says, “Linda and David Aksomitis have written what many will call the continuation of the Bill Vint story “Warriors of Winter” first published in 1977. In many ways it is just that. Linda and David bring us right up to the present day racing scene played out every weekend in the snow belt of the United States and Canada during what I call the “white-gold” season.” Visit the Snowmobile Hall of Fame and Museum online.
Snowmobiles are the most versatile machine man ever invented-or perhaps the racers who drive them are the most innovative. Whichever the case, the combination of competitive spirit, and a machine with the potential for virtually unlimited speed and flexibility, has created a sport that spans every terrain and season: snowmobile racing.
To the tops of mountains, over water, sand and grass, and of course on snow and ice, snowmobile racers have traversed the toughest terrain to push their sleds to maximum speeds. Competing since the second sled was built, vintage cross country, drag, and ice oval racing have paved the way for today’s extreme competition racing at events such as the X-Games Snocross.
This book traces the development of how snowmobile racing got to where it is today with influence from sanctioning bodies and organizations like the USSA, ISR, and WPSA and milestone moments in sled-racing history.
Excerpt from Illustrated Guide to Snowmobile Racing
In March, 1979, the USSA sanctioned its first snocross race, modelled on motorcycle motocross racing. It was the Sunday feature at the newly coined Ya-Hoo days in West Yellowstone. Constructed in the city park, the track was a twisting, winding, banked course that started with a short straightaway to a jump. It only took an hour to run the whole race, which mostly consisted of local drivers, but the crowd wasn’t ready to go home-so, like all good performers should, the drivers came out and did some individual time trials for an encore.
It was the beginning of something big, and snocross races began to spring up everywhere as the new decade of the 1980s began, with the Dayco Holiday Spectacular in Alexandria, Minnesota making a feature presentation. The pre-Christmas event invited all of the manufacturer’s top drivers to race a course laid out over the snow. European racers had been competing on the tight corners, banked turns, and short bumps since the early 1970s, so the promoters had their tracks to use as a model.
Promoters convinced manufacturers to participate by billing the event as the final proving ground for best handling and most durable sleds consumers could buy. All eight manufacturers were invited to send three drivers each: Moto-Ski, Arctic Cat, Scorpion, Yamaha, Arctic Cat, Ski-Doo, John Deere, and Kawasaki. Larry Coltom, on an Arctic Cat, emerged victorious from the round robin event. While already retired, he’d built a practice track and done his homework before jumping on board the new Arctic Cat El Tigre 6000.
It didn’t take promoters long to figure out that snocross was a lot more appealing to crowds than cross country racing, even if the obstacles were similar. With a track right in front of them, and often, great sports facilities behind them, they had the best this competitive sport could offer. Plus, by keeping the rules to stock machines it opened up a whole new low-cost format for local racers-just like racing had been in the beginning. Early snocross events sometimes used an ice lemans course, which is also a modern form of ice racing.
However, even with all the pluses, it took awhile for snocross or ice lemans to catch on across the country due to the usual racing glitches of rules and what kinds of machines would run. By the 1983-1984 season there were snocross circuits across the snow belt and lots of races through the United States and Canada. Driver, Guy Useldinger, had the unofficial title of “Mr. Snocross” after making the move from cross country racing. He’d won in Sweden in 1979 at an International Class competition, and helped introduce the snocross concept to the United States. In 1988, the Quadna snocross (a ski resort in Hill City, Minnesota) had a record 270 entries and a variety of classes. The next breakthrough at Quadna was the 1990 addition of a Women’s class.
The evolution of the sport, also billed as supercross, continued with various influences from within the industry. Duluth, Minnesota, involved in racing since the beginning, made some adjustments to their program in 1992-this one took place on Spirit Mountain. Its success made the industry sit back and re-evaluate what the crowd was looking for. While many snocross events so far had been on lakes, using a lemans course, Spirit Mountain’s natural terrain drew much bigger crowds: 15,000 people over three days in its second year, a number double that of the first! The race also drew 508 driver entries, so it didn’t take much imagination to figure out that everybody enjoyed the big jumps and berms.
Aksomitis, L., & Aksomitis, D. (2006). Illustrated guide to snowmobile racing. Hudson, Wis: Iconografix.