Heck of a hill climb
Alex Packard waves to judges and fans as he competes in the 2012 Octane Addictions Freestyle Show at the rodeo grounds. Packard and five other snowmobile daredevils spent the evening impressing hill climb fans with backflips and other tricks. PRICE CHAMBERS / NEWS&GUIDE FILEView our entire photo gallery >>
By Kelsey Dayton, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
March 20, 2013
Hear that roar? It’s the sound of 300 snowmobile racers and 10,000 spectators arriving in Jackson for the annual World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb.
The 38th annual hill climb starts Thursday on Snow King Mountain.
New this year is a second jumbotron to help spectators see the action from the bottom of the hill, said Heidi Tobin, president of the Jackson Hole Snow Devils, which puts on the event.
This year, people not at the hill also will be able to see the action. For the first time the Snow Devils will live stream the event online at SnowDevils.org. Last year Tobin sent out results and updates to people in Canada and around the United States who had family and friends competing but weren’t able to attend. It made sense to offer a way for people to watch it, no matter where they are, she said.
The hill climb brings some of the top racers from around the country and Canada. Racers qualify based on a point system. It’s a chance for spectators, even those who don’t snowmobile themselves, to see some of the top competitors in the sport.
“Everybody should come and take a ride up on the chair,” Tobin said.
People should also wander the base of the hill, check out the vendors and just soak in the snowmobile culture, she said. The little kids’ races are worth checking out.
“That is comical to watch,” Tobin said.
There also will be demonstrations Friday of snow bikes, something like motorcycles with snowmobile tracks.
Racing begins at 9:30 a.m. Thursday and then at 8 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Events run all day.
The hill climb is the second-largest event in Wyoming. Only Cheyenne’s Frontier Days is bigger, Tobin said.
“There’s really no comparison to any other event,” she said.
The Jackson Hole Snow Devils are a nonprofit that raises money for charities like the Shriners Hospital for Children and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The group is 100 percent volunteer. Its donations since 2001 recently crossed the half-million-dollar mark, Tobin said. Many Jackson organizations, like the Jackson Hole Food Cupboard, receive money from the club. In 2012 the organization gave more than $91,000. It also pays to restore the mountain after some of the snowmobiles dig through the thin March snowpack.