While some area residents might have been bemoaning the piles of snow that were dumped on the region over the course of this past week - and all the shoveling, plowing and blowing out of the white stuff from driveways, sidewalks, roads and parking lots that came with it - local snowmobiling enthusiasts were busy getting their sleds ready to hit the trails.
There are over 250 miles of groomed snowmobile trails to enjoy in Becker County - and a plethora of local events for fans of the sport are place just about every weekend between now and the end of February.
ULTRA Classic Cruises
In fact, the first of two planned "Classic Cruise" snowmobile rides hosted by Detroit Lakes' own ULTRA Snowmobile Club took place this past Saturday, Jan. 5, with the second set for Jan. 19.
"Both rides are open to all sleds, but they're geared toward those that are 1980s (vintage) and older," says organizer Wayne Schlauderaff, explaining the origin of the "classic" part of the name.
Both rides get underway at approximately 10 a.m., though people usually start showing up around 9:30, he added - the only difference is that one ride heads north of Detroit Lakes, and the other takes a southern route.
This Saturday, Jan. 5, riders are asked to bring their sleds to the M State parking lot (900 Highway 34, Detroit Lakes), and stops on the ride will include Curley's on Cotton Lake, the Richwood Store and Sunlite Bar & Grill, before heading back to M State.
"It's about 50 miles," says Schlauderaff, noting that the ride usually concludes around 4 p.m.
The Jan. 19 event, meanwhile, starts off at the Becker County Fairgrounds; riders will head south to Vergas for a stop at Skal Bar & Grill, then back around to Shorewood for a stop at the Shorewood Pub before returning to the fairgrounds.
"It's around 40 miles, but it usually ends up taking about the same amount of time," Schlauderaff said, adding that both rides will take place on some of the 130 miles of trails that are maintained by ULTRA. "We've been out and groomed them already, so they should be in good shape."
There is no cost to attend either event, he added. "We just get together for a ride and have a good time."
Detroit Lakes One Lunger 100
Sandwiched in between the two ULTRA rides on Saturday, Jan. 12 is the One Lunger 100, a 100-mile endurance race for riders of single cylinder, vintage sleds known as "one lungers."
Taking place on the ice of Big Detroit Lake in front of the Holiday Inn, this race involves several laps around a Le Mans-style course that has been set up specially for the event.
The format will be the same as last year, with four different categories of sleds racing in the competition: Stock Relic, Stock HR, Stock HD and the Stock Enticer class, which is for slightly newer sleds. The other three classes are for sleds that are of 1973 vintage and older, and are based on carburetor size, with the Relic class being reserved for the older, slower sleds.
For more information about the different race categories and restrictions, please visit https://www.vintagesnowmobileracing.com/rules.
The Top 10 finishers in each class get trophies, while the top 5 get a cash payout as well.
"We're giving out about 60 trophies in all," said organizer Grady Shearer, noting that the awards ceremony will take place at about 5:30 p.m. in the Holiday Inn banquet room.
Special guest competitor Larry Enticer, the Canadian stunt rider and YouTube sensation, will be on hand for photos and autographs in the bar area after the race has concluded.
As last year's race drew 109 riders despite a race time temperature of minus 24 degrees, Shearer said he's expecting upwards of 150-160 or more to take part in this year's event.
Cost is $100 per sled, and competitors can choose to ride "iron man" (single-person) or as a two-person team.
Before the big race gets underway at noon, there will also be a shorter race that's open to single-cylinder snowmobiles of any vintage.
"It's open to any sled that's a single cylinder and doesn't have traction products," said Shearer, noting that it's a "dash for cash" type race involving sleds that aren't "race ready." That event gets underway at 11 a.m.
As for those hoping to come watch the races, there is no charge for spectators, though they can choose to purchase a raffle ticket.
"They're giving away a vintage single cylinder race sled," Shearer said, noting that tickets will be available at the front desk of the Holiday Inn.
For more information, or to register for the race, please contact Grady Shearer at 320-406-4140 (text or phone).
Midnite Riders Old Timers Run
There are no local snowmobiling events planned for the weekend of Jan. 27-28, but on Saturday, Feb. 3, the Midnite Riders Classic Old Timers Run and Snowmobile Show in Lake Park.
Hosted by the Midnite Riders Snowmobile Club, the event has been a tradition among lakes area snowmobiling enthusiasts since the early 1990s.
According to organizer Bill Livdahl, sleds begin congregating outside the Lake Park Liquor Store at about 8 a.m. on the morning of the event, though the ride itself doesn't start until 10:30 a.m. That's because the judging for the vintage sleds - 25 years or older - gets underway bright and early, with trophies being awarded at 10 a.m.
"The judging is only for the vintage sleds," said Livdahl, though the run itself is open to snowmobiles both old and new.
"It's got to be a snowmobile, but they can be old ones, new ones, modified, homemade, restored, original - anything they can get running, basically," he joked.
Keeping the sleds running over the course of the 39-mile run is the challenge, Livdahl added.
"It's one of the longer runs of its kind," he said. "It takes quite a bit of work to keep your sled going - it's not just pulling your sled out of the shop and hoping it's going to run that day. A lot of us bring extra parts, extra gas, and lots of tools. Sometimes you have to put a lot of elbow grease into 'em - your hands can get pretty black by the end of the day."
There are nine stops on the run, including the Lake Park and Audubon liquor stores, Pit 611, the Cormorant Sportsmans Club, Hooligan's on Leaf Lake, The Roadhouse, Cormorant Pub, Cormorant Inn, and TJ's on Lake Eunice. Though the ride gets underway promptly at 10:30, not everyone chooses to follow the same route, Livdahl noted.
Each of the nine participating businesses is offering a raffle prize, all of which are included in the cost of the raffle tickets, which are $10 each. A total of over $5,000 in prizes will be awarded, with the top prize once again being a 2019 WE Fest VIP ticket package, plus $500 in cash. Tickets are available in advance, or on the day of the ride, at any of the participating businesses. The prize drawing will be held the following Monday, Livdahl added.
All proceeds going toward maintenance and development of the Midnite Riders' trail system, which now encompasses over 70 miles in the Lake Park, Audubon and Cormorant Lakes area.
Established in 1967, the Midnite Riders Snowmobile Club currently includes approximately 100 members, of all ages and skill levels. Putting together the Old Timers Run each year is a big project for the club's membership, Livdahl said, but they do get help from the Lake Park firefighters and city maintenance crews, who help get the liquor store lot cleared and parking organized.
There are also dozens of businesses that sponsor the run, including BTD Manufacturing, TEAM Industries, Seaberg Power Sports, Leighton Broadcasting, TS Recreational Salvage, Extreme Motorsports and the Cormorant Store.
"We get help from a wide variety of people," Livdahl said. "This wouldn't be possible without them."
For more information, please visit the Midnite Riders' Facebook page, or call Livdahl at 701-866-1580.
ULTRA Vintage Rally, Swap Meet and Radar Run
The ULTRA Snowmobile Club will be hosting its biggest event of the season on Saturday, Feb. 16, as part of the final day of Detroit Lakes' annual Polar Fest celebration.
A vintage snowmobile show, swap and shop meet, radar run and a 30-mile ride through the countryside... it's all part of the fun at the ULTRA Vintage Snowmobile Rally, which is entering its 16th year.
Starting at 8 a.m., visitors can come down to the Detroit Lakes City Beach on Little Detroit Lake and view the variety of antique, vintage and classic sleds on display; registration for the show runs until 11 a.m., after which trophies will be awarded in 25 different classes, ranging from antique all the way up to 1996 models, and including a kids' class for younger riders. And there's even a trophy for the "best dressed" rider.
"At 11 a.m. we will have a contest for who is the best dressed in vintage snowmobile apparel," said Schlauderaff. "It's a crowd participation event - the crowd chooses the winner."
Judging for the other categories will follow, with trophies awarded at noon. Cost to enter the competition is $5 per sled, with a $20 maximum for four sleds entered.
"We normally have around 150 or so sleds displayed," Schlauderaff said. "It really depends on the weather."
A free raffle ticket is included with each entry; raffle tickets will also be on sale to the public for $5 each, with the grand prize being a 1976 Ski-Doo RV 340 vintage sled that has been restored by ULTRA members.
Each ticket also has stubs on it for each of the nine sponsoring businesses - Sunlite Bar & Grill, the Sandbar, Holiday Inn, Lakeside Tavern, Zorbaz, American Legion, Bleachers, Shorewood Pub, and Long Bridge Bar, Grill & Marina - for the snowmobile run that will follow the show.
"After the trophies are awarded, everyone takes off," said Schlauderaff, noting that at each stop along the run, riders can drop off the appropriate stub in the bucket for the prize drawing that will take place following the run.
In all, a total of $5,000 in prizes will be given away that day, Schlauderaff said.
Meanwhile, on another part of the City Beach, a swap and shop meet will be held throughout the morning of the ULTRA event. Snowmobiling enthusiasts can choose from an array of new and used parts to get their sleds running smoothly; there will be some snowmobiles for sale as well, Schlauderaff added.
In addition to all these festivities, ULTRA will also be hosting a Radar Run out on the lake.
"You can pay a fee and run your snowmobile on a straightaway track," Schlauderaff said, noting that there will be both a snow track and an ice track, constructed side by side.
Each run will be timed by radar. "You can win a trophy, but it's really all for fun," Schlauderaff said. "The Radar Run gets underway at 9 a.m., and runs until 2:30 in the afternoon.
"New this year, we will also have a second event, the 'Brr-kini Radar Run,' at 12:30 p.m.," he added. "Participants will donate all the money to the Pink Ribbon Riders, who ride in support of breast cancer patients."
The 'Brr-kini' run will take place in between heats of the regular Radar Run, Schlauderaff explained.
Aside from that event, which will raise money for breast cancer research and treatment, all proceeds from the ULTRA rally will go to support the club and its ongoing trail maintenance and development costs.
"Our proceeds will help pay for the whole event; anything left over will go toward trail maintenance," Schlauderaff said, adding that ULTRA maintains approximately 130 miles of snowmobile trails in Becker County, from Vergas in the south up to the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in the north.
For more information, visit www.ultradl.org or call Schlauderaff at 218-849-3069.
Ice Harvest 440 Pond Racing
Last but not least, the Ice Harvest 440 snowmobile races will return to Little Detroit Lake for a second straight year on Saturday, Feb. 23.
According to organizer Jeff Jasperson, the inaugural 2018 event was so successful that the second one is going to be even bigger.
"Due to the success of the first event, the race is now growing," he said. "It's growing a lot from a local racer standpoint."
Jasperson said that the event's sanctioning body, the Central Minnesota Pond Racing (CMPR) Association, has once again decided to make the Detroit Lakes race the culminating event of its 2019 racing season, which runs through January and February.
"They have five races during the season, located throughout central Minnesota," Jasperson said. "The Detroit Lakes race is the series points championship... they're paying out $15,000 in prize money to the successful racers placing first, second and third (in cumulative points)."
Besides CMPR, other sponsors for the event include AmericInn, BTD, Maptracks, and the Chamber & Tourism Bureau.
"The course is an ice oval course, located on Little Detroit Lake in front of Hub 41, which is another local sponsor for the event," Jasperson said.
Racing starts at noon, and will continue through approximately 4:30 p.m.; practice laps will be held starting at 11 a.m. There is no charge to come and view the proceedings, which last year drew upwards of 600 people, including spectators, racers, racing staff and support crews.
For general information about the event, please contact Jeff Jasperson at 218-766-2940; for information about registration and team participation, please contact Mike Meagher, CMPR Sanctioning President, at 320-815-1888.