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Snowmobile races return to Big Detroit

Off to the races: Snowmobilers negotiate a curve on the Big Detroit Lake race course near the Holiday Inn. Photo by - Brian Basham1 / 2
The races were popular with families last year, as a number of parent-child and husband-wife teams hit the lake. Photo by - Brian Basham2 / 2

For the second straight year, the Holiday Inn in Detroit Lakes is playing host to a major cross country snowmobile race.

The J&K Marine Beach Bar 200 returns to the ice of Big Detroit Lake this Saturday, Jan. 5, for a full day of racing, starting at 8:30 a.m.

Though it's the second annual event, there is at least one big change to this year's format, said race organizer Brian Nelson of the U.S. X-Country (USXC) Snowmobile Racing Association.

"It'll be very similar to the event they had last year, but this year it will be just one day," Nelson said. "Hopefully, we'll be done by dark -- that's our goal. We have a lot of racers and a lot of classes. To get it all done in a day, everything has to go perfect."

There will be well over 200 riders on the ice that day, Nelson said, and many of them will be entered in more than one class.

"We will have 280 to 300 entries, and to get all of that done and give them the time on the ice that they want, it has to go fast and according to schedule. We have to have everything organized and on time."

What that means is that there will be no race-day registrations accepted. Anyone who wants to race will need to register online at before 8 p.m. Thursday, or come to the Holiday Inn on Friday.

"In order to have all the entries in our database we have to have it (registration) done by Friday night," Nelson said.

"The majority (of the racers) will register a day or two before the event," he added. "On Thursday evening at 8 p.m. we will shut down the online registration and then come up to the Holiday Inn on Friday morning to do the on site registrations there."

Registration will be open at the Holiday Inn (1155 Highway 10 East) on Friday from 3 to 8 p.m.

The following morning, there will be a pre-race ride at 7:45 a.m. for any competitor who wants to get a feel for the course before the event starts.

"We take the riders on a lap around the course so they're familiar with it before the race starts," Nelson said.

There will be a short driver's meeting at 8 a.m., the staging begins at 8:15 a.m. and the first class begins racing promptly at 8:30 a.m.

"We have classes for just about any snowmobile and rider, from juniors all the way up through the pros," Nelson said.

There are races for both boys and girls, including four junior categories for riders from age 10 all the way up to 18, he added.

Then there are the amateur classes.

"We have the Trail Class, which encompasses a lot of snowmobiles that the average trail rider would use, and then we have the Sport 85 class where they can use 85 horsepower, factory-built racing machines," Nelson said.

The pro classes go all the way up to the racing machines using a 600cc-size engine, "which are the largest engine size that's legal to race," Nelson said.

The top pro classes have engines in the 135-horsepower range, he added.

"The race will be on a 10-mile, LeMans-style lake course, with short straightaways and a lot of curves," Nelson said. "The trail classes and smaller pro classes will be in the 80-85 mph range for top speed. There are a lot of curves and corners, so the average speed is less."

But in the top pro classes, particularly the Pro 600s, speeds typically top 100 miles per hour.

"On the longer straightaways they will be at 100 mph-plus," Nelson said. "The Pro 600s will run in the 105-107 mph range."

Registration fees for the racers range from $35 per person in the junior classes to $185 for the top pros -- but there is no charge for spectators, Nelson added.

"For spectators, it's free," he said. "You can even go inside the Holiday Inn and watch the races live on closed circuit television."

There will be concessions available throughout the day as well.

"We have a lot of families that race," Nelson said. "I'm surprised how many -- this is really a family sport. It's kind of neat."

Dads, sons, daughters -- occasionally, even moms -- all get into the act, sometimes racing in two or three different classes throughout the day.

"It's a bonding thing -- something for the family to do when there's not much else going on, and it's a nice, clean, healthy sport. You can even use the same snowmobiles that you use for pleasure riding."

For more information, visit the U.S. X-Country Snowmobile Racing Association website at, or call the Holiday Inn at 218-847-2121.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454