DEADWOOD | This year’s relatively warm and dry January may leave some with the impression that snow will be at premium for this weekend’s U.S. Air Force Deadwood Snocross pro snowmobile races, set for Friday and Saturday at the Days of ’76 Sports Complex.
In fact, Deadwood city crews have been stockpiling snow at the rodeo grounds in preparation for the event, according to Lee Harstad, executive director of the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce.
“There were a couple of great snow events that hit us, providing a great base for the racing and the snow we had (Monday) was just icing on the cake, or icing on the track,” Harstad said.
The Deadwood snocross is in its seventh year at the Days of ’76 grounds. Friday’s and Saturday’s races will make up Rounds 7 and 8 of the Amsoil Championship Snocross, Powered by Ram series, which encompasses 16 rounds in eight events in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Wyoming, New York and Iowa as well as South Dakota.
The Deadwood stop provides the second highest altitude the tour will race in, with only the tour’s third- and fourth-round races in Jackson Hole, Wyo., being run at a higher elevation.
The race course in Deadwood also provides one of the most compact tracks on the circuit, being configured at the rodeo grounds.
Nearby Terry Peak and Deer Mountain ski areas formerly hosted snocross events years ago, but when the series first returned to Deadwood in 2013 after a long hiatus, the tightness of the course elicited a love-hate relationship with riders, who were more accustomed to the wide-open spaces of a ski-resort venue.
“I remember those days,” Harstad said.
Harstad recalled remarks made by 11-time national Snocross champion Tucker Hibbert of Pelican Rapids, Minn., during that 2013 event.
Hibbert struggled the first night and was vocal in his criticism of the venue.
“Hate it. Worst track I’ve ever been on, “ Hibbert said.
However, the next night, Hibbert won.
“Best racing I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“It definitely is a love-hate relationship right there,” Harstad said.
Hibbert, a multiple-time winner at Deadwood, retired from competition at the end of the 2018 season after compiling 138 pro series wins, 19 semi-pro class wins and 14 X-Games medals, including 10 golds.
Hibbert’s absence, along with the equalizing nature of the Deadwood course, has opened up the possibilities for spots on the winner’s podium.
“It really is anybody’s race out there. It’s very technical. You have to know when to hit the throttle and when to let off,” Harstad said.
“It’s a crapshoot, a gamble. That’s why we bring it to Deadwood,” he said.
Harstad said snocross teams have become accustomed to the Deadwood event. Some riders will come to Deadwood early to practice on a similar course and to tune their sleds to the altitude.
Friday’s Round 7 starts with practice for all classes starting at 12:15 p.m. Opening ceremonies are at 6 p.m.
Saturday’s racing starts with morning practice, qualifying and finals in youth and junior divisions, and afternoon practice and qualifying in the pro divisions.
Saturday’s Round 8 will start with opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. followed again by qualifying rounds and finals in the pro divisions.
The Deadwood Snocross will be televised on a delayed basis on the CBS Sports network with Round 7 shown on Feb. 10 and Round 8 on Feb. 17.
Harstad said this week’s snowfall has also helped groom Black Hills snowmobile riding trails.
Many snocross fans will bring their own snowmobiles for recreational riding on race weekend.
“The weather is going to be good for riding during the day and for watching races in the evening,” Harstad said.
“It should be a fantastic weekend,” he said.