Snowmobiling is an action-filled, thrilling experience and a beloved sport for adrenaline-seekers. It demonstrates advanced techniques and powerful machinery. If you haven't watched a snowmobile race, I definitely suggest giving it a try.
For most of my life, I have been an enthusiastic snowmobiler. During the winter, I spend a lot of time on my sled, exploring trails and taking delight in the snow. I have also participated in a few races, so I am knowledgeable about what is necessary for these competitions.
In this post, I'll offer guidance for beginners on snowmobile racing. With so much to take in and explore when just learning about the sport, it can feel intimidating. As such, I'm breaking down the racing element of snowmobiling here to make it easier to understand.
Let's get going and begin the race.
Table of Contents
- What is Snowmobile Racing?
- There are six varieties of snowmobile racing.
- Snowmobile Racing Rules
- Necessary Snowmobile Racing Equipment and Clothing
- Discovering Snowmobile Racing Events Closeby
- Popular Snowmobile Races
- What is the length of snowmobile races?
- What is the top speed of a race snowmobile?
- Notable snowmobile figures who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame
- What is the sport of Vintage Snowmobile Racing?
- What is Cross-Country Snowmobiling?
- What is the earning potential of snowmobile racers?
- Is Snowmobile Racing considered a sport?
- Is Snowmobile Racing an Olympic event?
What is Snowmobile Racing?
Snowmobile racing is an easy concept to understand, but I will elaborate in this article.
Snowmobile racing is a competition among riders on a designated track.
This race can either be an oval-shaped track with a fixed number of laps or a pre-determined distance that riders must traverse.
Typically, the quickest snowmobile racer is victorious.
Snowmobile racing is similar to car and other motor racing disciplines, in which contestants compete against each other in a one-on-one situation. Other forms of race, and their categories, will be discussed in later parts of this article.
The Main Types of Snowmobile Racing
Snowmobile racing can vary based on the type of racecourse or the power and age of the snowmobiles. The most popular types are listed below.
In oval racing, snowmobile racers go head to head on an oval-shaped track made of ice or snow. A set number of laps must be completed and the first one to finish is declared the winner. This type of motorsport is just like any other race.
In Drag Racing, riders race head-to-head to reach the finish line as quickly as possible. When the starting gun is fired, they accelerate to their top speed to see who finishes first. The fastest rider wins the race.
Snowcross is a racing competition that's similar to motocross, in which riders compete against each other on a track with various terrain features. The fastest participant wins the race.
Cross country snowmobile racing is a long-distance challenge. Racers must cover many miles over the course of a few hours, and the winner is whoever makes it across the finish line in the quickest time.
Watercross, a popular snowmobile competition that takes place on water, can either be a race to test who can travel the longest distance or an oval course to find out who finishes the fastest.
Participating in vintage races is a great way to experience classic machinery in action. Riders can enter any of the various racing styles and old machines will be used.
Snowmobile Racing Rules
It's not feasible to discuss all the different regulations for each snowmobile race, so I'll just outline some of the usual rules observed in most competitions.
As part of safety regulations, snowmobile riders must wear helmets and body armor when participating in races. Additionally, the snowmobiles must be equipped with certain pieces of equipment to ensure optimum safety.
Race regulations in regard to snowmobiles may limit the engine size, allow for modification of parts, or require vintage models for certain events.
Each race has its own set of rules. A drag race and a cross-country race have different criteria for declaring a winner, while an oval race and a snowcross race include their own unique regulations.
Different snowmobile organizations and race groups have various laws and regulations that riders need to adhere to when participating in their sanctioned events.
Pit Rules - An auto racing-like group, referred to as a pit, is responsible for maintaining the snowmobile during a race. Some races have specific rules and regulations regarding which tools, equipment, and behaviors are permitted in the pit.
To learn about specific rules and regulations, refer to the links and resources provided below.
Necessary Snowmobile Racing Gear and Apparel
To begin snowmobile racing, you may want to acquire clothing and equipment similar to that needed for normal snowmobiling. Extra race-specific items may be desired if you're serious about the sport.
Let's look at some important racing equipment and clothing.
Every biker should have a helmet of good quality - full face or open face - that offers superb visibility and is lightweight enough for racing. Most importantly, it has to provide dependable impact protection.
A jacket or full snowmobile suit is essential for racing. Trail riding may only require cold-weather gear, but a genuine racing jacket or suit should be worn in competition.
Snowmobile boots are essential for keeping your feet warm and helping you maintain control of your sled while riding. They can help you turn and maneuver during a race and are therefore an absolute must-have.
A good pair of gloves is essential to keep your hands warm and provide a firm grip on the handlebars and throttle. Racing gloves may not need to be as thick for smaller races such as drag racing.
When taking part in snowmobile racing where you need to jump, it may be beneficial to wear body armor. These pieces of protection include shoulder and chest pads, as well as shin guards, which can help prevent injuries if an accident occurs.
How to Find Snowmobile Racing Near Me?
If you are in a snowmobiling hotspot, you can find out about upcoming races by talking to the local snowmobiling club or looking at their websites.
Check out Snowgoer, a snowmobile blog and website that includes many races. Look through the forums to find any upcoming races near you.
If you are not located in an area conducive to snowmobiling, you may need to travel in order to participate in a snowmobile race. You will likely find more races and snowy conditions elsewhere.
There are many snowmobile races every year, and these range from major to minor events. It's impossible to name every single race, but I'll list some of the most popular ones here so that you can check them out.
Snowmobile races come in different lengths and the length of each event varies.
Oval races range in length, with the I-500 being five hundred miles and cross country or enduro races often stretching into the thousands, such as the Iron Dog in Alaska which spans two thousand six hundred miles.
Drag races are usually much shorter than normal auto races and are measured in feet. Snowmobile drag races generally last 660 to 1000 feet, similar to quarter-mile auto drag races.
Snowcross consists of several laps, generally running a few miles. This is shorter than the oval or enduro races, but much more than a drag race.
How Fast do Snowmobiles Go?
Snowmobile racing can be quite fast, with the speed mainly determined by the race class and engine power.
Drag sleds are the quickest race sleds and can achieve speeds of 200 miles per hour or higher. Drag racing doesn't include any turning and is run over a short course, allowing for these amazing speeds.
An oval race may feature speeds ranging from 60-100 mph, depending on the type of track and the number of racers. Speeds that surpass this range could also be seen.
Snowcross races are generally slower than other racing events, with speeds of up to 80 mph due to the added turns and obstacles.
Only sledding enthusiasts will be familiar with the names of those who get inducted into the Hall of Fame. These individuals are not necessarily well-known globally, however they are some of the most talented racers in the world.
Notable snowmobile Hall of Famers include:
- Todd Wolf
- Jeff and Greg Goodwin
- Dick Bahr
- Jim Kedinger
- John Faeo
- Craig Marchbank
- Dale Loritz
For information on members of the Snowmobile Hall of Fame, visit their official website. Alternatively, you can go to St. Germain, Wisconsin to see the hall in person!
Vintage snowmobile racing is all about competing with machines that are 25 years old or more. Every race has its own regulations on the type of vehicle that can participate.
Vintage races come in different forms, mostly oval tracks. Cross country events with vintage equipment can also be seen. Unfortunately, there are no vintage snowcross competitions or jumps for old machines.
Those who know a lot about classic races, or even those who are just starting out, can always benefit from watching or researching vintage snowmobile races. It's a great opportunity to gain knowledge about old machines and observe how far the sport has come over time.
Cross country snowmobile racing is a longer distance race compared to oval or snowcross races.
Enduro racing, as it is often called, has an agreed upon starting and ending point.
The quickest racer to complete a cross country course is the winner. These races are not always easy to watch, as they may take multiple days to finish.
Snowmobile racing is a popular sport, but even renowned racers don’t make a lot of money.
Generally, racers make on average about $36,000 per year.
While the highest earners in the sport may bring in around $50,000, it is still not enough to make it a full-time job for most people. Consequently, many race participants have side jobs or do other activities during the summer season to bring in more income (source).
Snowmobile racers make an income from race earnings and sponsorships, but this isn't a great way to get wealthy. It can be challenging for these athletes to become financially successful.
Is Snowmobile Racing a Sport?
Snowmobile racing certainly requires skill and time to become proficient, and the top racers can even make a living from it. Unfortunately, there is no definitive statement as to whether it should be classified as an official sport or not.
Snowmobiling's status as a sport is constantly being debated. Snowmobilers consider it to be one, while those who have never tried it argue that the same reasoning can be applied to car racing, which isn't considered a sport.
Snowmobile racing doesn't have an Olympic category because motorsports are not part of the Olympics. I still think it's an incredible and amazing sport, even without official recognition.
In addition to the Winter X Games, snowmobile racing is also represented in famous snowmobile races and other important competitions.