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Slow to Go With No Snow: Series Stalled For Snowmobiles

Snowmobile enthusiasts in the Twin States now have the opportunity to reach new heights. All they need are conditions to cooperate.

Founded by Bradford, Vt., resident Josh Allen three years ago, the Rock the Hills Snowmobile Hill Climb Series offers a low-cost avenue for motorheads to show off their sleds in a season-long time trials series. Unfortunately for participants, the last two Saturday race days — including a scheduled Jan. 11 date at Lebanon’s Storrs Hill Ski Area — were postponed due to a lack of sufficient snow cover.

The Jan. 11 event took place the following day. So far, the only other completed race days were a preseason event at Amesbury (Mass.) Sports Park and the season opener Dec. 28 at Granite Gorge in Roxbury, N.H.

Last Saturday’s scheduled event at the Lyndon (Vt.) Outing Club has been postponed until further notice.

Allen, 35, hopes the region’s recent snowfall will help bolster upcoming races scheduled for Danville, Vt.’s Webster’s Hill on Saturday and Whaleback Mountain on Feb. 1. Additional Upper Valley dates include March 16 at Northeast Slopes, a special Motor Mayhem weekend event at Whaleback on March 22-23 and the scheduled series finale March 30 at Dartmouth Skiway.

“Like any snow sport, we’re at the mercy of the conditions,” said Allen, whose events have typically drawn at least 80 racers and as many as 240. “Sometimes we end up holding events much later in the season. We’ve rescheduled into April because sometimes that’s when you end up with the best snow.”

Welcoming all ages, Rock the Hills has a class for just about every type of snowmobile, from 600cc youth models to 801-plus open modifieds. There are open and stock divisions for women, vintage divisions and a vintage-enhanced class for tricked-out antiques.

Aside from the Motor Mayhem events featuring drag racing-style tournaments, competitors are timed one-by-one and perform two runs apiece, with their average time recorded for their score. The divisions rotate, so each racer performs once before anyone else gets their second run in.

“It’s the fairest system we’ve been able to come up with, because the conditions vary so much throughout the day,” said Allen. “In the mornings the snow is typically very firm, and then when it starts getting churned up from the racing and the temperature warms up, it slows people down. Then, at the end of the day, it starts to freeze up and gets really fast again. So the way we do it tries to make it so everyone gets at least one run in when it’s firm.”

A 1998 Oxbow High graduate and board member for Northeast Slopes, Allen organized his first snowmobile hill climb event six years ago as a fundraiser for the small, nonprofit ski area in East Corinth. He received such positive feedback, he decided to expand it.

“After two years holding it at Northeast, I was trying to think of a way to make it better, and the only real way to do that was to start a series,” Allen said. “A lot of ski areas are looking for ways to generate more funds, and this was a good way to do that while at the same time giving snowmobilers a way to race. It’s been working out really well so far, when the weather allows. People have a blast.”

Insurance is the most expensive part of the endeavor, which is why it hurts doubly when an event is cancelled. Most of each competitor’s $25 race fee goes to insurance and trophy purchases. “We really want to keep it economic for people to bring their families, so we use the $25 to keep the whole thing going,” Allen said. “That’s why we hate to cancel, because we’re paying for the insurance whether or not (the event takes place).”

The racing format is accessible for all skill levels, with no significant obstacles on the courses.

“There aren’t any big jumps or anything like that, which is why we think it’s so popular and good for families,” Allen noted. “I’ve seen real little kids out there and I’ve seen grandparents out there. It’s just a really fun way to see how fast your sled can get uphill.”

The stage gets a bit juicier for Motor Mayhem, run in conjunction with Bradford-based Vermonster 4x4. Last year, the two-day event showcased a “sled-style” freestyle snowmobile performance, four-wheel drive truck racing, snowmobile drag racing and the Atlantic Man Challenge, with snowmobile riders towing skiers and snowboarders up the mountain for time. Pending sponsorship, Allen hopes for a similar docket in two months at Whaleback.

“That’s a really fun day,” said Allen. “We’re definitely glad to be back at Whaleback.”

Now all they need is a little more snow.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.

CORRECTION

A Rock the Hills Snowmobile Hill Climb Racing Series event in conjunction with Ridge Runner Promotions took place Jan. 12 at Storrs Hill ski area in Lebanon. An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the status of the event.