CULTURE KLASH: ‘The Daddy of All Races’

By on March 21, 2017

When witnessing carnage and day drinking is all in the name of charity.

Bud Lite drinkers unite—the World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb is upon us. (Photo: Sargent Schutt)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Jackson local Cody Daigle has only missed three Hill Climbs in his 24 years of life here. It’s one of his favorite weekends of the year.

An estimated 10,000 people will descend on the valley this weekend from all over the Rocky Mountain West  to partake in the 41st annual World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb. Approximately 300 of the region’s best snowmobilers are registered to compete. The rest are here to watch, cheer, and spend a weekend in town.

Jackson Hole Snow Devils president Jeff Toolson calls it the “daddy of all races.”

“Basically, you have 10,000 people standing on the ground watching some of the best athletes get to the top of a mountain,” Toolson said. And any time 10,000 people gather in one place for a weekend, “things are bound to get a little rowdy.”

Locals are fairly divided on how they feel about the event. To some, the influx of snowmobilers, regarded even among themselves as rednecks, is reason to avoid town for the weekend and for townies to lock themselves inside. But for die-hards like Daigle, “it’s just a really great, huge party” with “a bunch of really cool people. We rednecks are pretty laid-back,” he said. 

Words of wisdom

And really, many will not complain about an opportunity to drink the day away. ‘Bilers and skiers have coexisted in Jackson for decades, and if there’s one thing they have in common it’s an ability to hold down their beer. Remember, though, it’s only a race for the people on sleds.

“Don’t get too drunk too quick,” Daigle advised. Daigle said he’s certainly seen his share of debauchery at the Hill Climb, but so has law enforcement (we’re talking fist fights and topless chicks, though it’s been some time since the Hill Climb has hosted that kind of excitement) and they will be on full alert.

Locals might actually be able to hide in the shade of Hill Climb debauchery. With so much attention on Snow King, Daigle joked, “if you wanna do anything else illegal in town, that would be the weekend to do it.” (He clarified that he does not actually condone illegal activity, and law enforcement will likely be alert throughout the valley, so exercise caution.)

For celebrity encounters, Daigle recommends paying a visit to either the Cowboy Bar or the Virginian any night of the weekend. Those are the racers’ go-to bars, he said, and spectators will likely have a chance to meet face-to-face with the competitors.

Alternatively, people less into the ‘biler scene should probably avoid those bars, or any bars, altogether this weekend. Daigle says that when the sleds stop racing, pretty much every bar in town fills up.

Alcohol consumption during the day is at least mitigated by cash flow. Anyone planning to drink should budget accordingly, as all alcohol must be purchased at one of the many vendor booths in the area. Don’t even bother trying to bring your own, Toolson said. Security guards will be checking bags at the entrance. “If you bring booze, it’s not your booze anymore,” he warned.

Toolson expects people to reserve the rowdiness for after-hours. The scene at the base of Snow King Mountain, he said, is actually “perfectly family-friendly.”

“People are just having a good time.”

Three cheers for carnage

Snowmobiling is a spectator sport. Toolson said there are two different outcomes to any weekend: either the mountain wins, or the racers win. The racers win when more competitors actually make it to the top of the mountain than don’t. When the mountain wins, more people get stuck or wreck their sled than complete the course. The former is better for the racers, but the latter is more fun to watch. “It makes it a long day,” he said, “but it’s better for the spectators if the mountain wins.” Even viewers with no experience on a snowmobile can appreciate a good crash.

If an entire weekend is too much to handle for a curious newcomer, Toolson says Saturday is the most exciting day to watch. That’s when the big sleds come out to play. “Snowmobiles with ridiculous horsepower just blaze this course,” he said.

Daigle prefers Sunday, when the finalists compete for the cash prize and the trophy. The winner, he said, is either the racer who made it the farthest on the course, or, if multiple people finished, the racer who finished fastest.

Daigle and Toolson both recommend arriving early to stake out a spot on the baseball field. Snow King will also run the chairlift all weekend, and the deck at the top is one of the better vantage points.

“At least ride up and take a look at the trenches these guys are running through,” Toolson said. “You cannot get the whole perspective on how steep that is [from the bottom].”

Races begin mid-morning Thursday and continue through Sunday. The Cost to watch from the spectator field is $15 per day, or $30 for the whole weekend. All profits from the weekend go toward funding scholarships and charitable donations, Toolson said. Last year, Snow Devils raised $80,000, all of which went back into the community.

“It’s one of the reasons it makes it fun to do this,” Toolson said. “The Snow Devils are completely volunteer—a bunch of people that all want to do the same thing, and that’s give back to the community.”

Plus, Daigle said, “It’s a kick-ass good time.” PJH

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