BY Anna Erickson
Fresh snow was added to the trails Monday morning as organizers prepare for the Heartland 106 Snowmobile Race this Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 22-23 in Park Rapids.
It is part of the United States X-Country Snowmobile Racing circuit and this year’s race will again run through the forests and lakes of the area.
This is the second annual event. Last year’s race was a success, with two days of racing that brought hundreds of people to the area.
Brian Nelson, of Spicer, organizes the United States X-Country Snowmobile Racing circuit.
Nelson is a former cross-country snowmobile racer who won the Winnipeg-to-St. Paul I-500 in 1976 aboard Enduro Team Deere, and again in 1978 for Team Arctic. He owned a snowmobile dealership and operated a snowmobile and motorcycle tour business since 1980 and was inducted into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in 2000.
Jon Koch, of Park Rapids, is the local organizer.
The goal of USXC is to continue the tradition racer-friendly events at many of the classic cross-country venues.
Setting up and hosting the snowmobile race is always a lot of work. Organizers will again need volunteers to help set up the track, be stationed along the track during the race and help with other various aspects of the race. Craig Rossman is organizing the volunteers.
About 30 volunteer spotters will be needed for Saturday and at least 50 spotters for Sunday, Rossman said.
What is a spotter? Spotters will be located at road intersections or anywhere the ditches cross over roads. They will watch traffic and snowmobile riders, directing traffic to stop and waiting for snowmobiles to pass in order to prevent incidents.
Spotters will receive a USXC hat, bag lunch, a 2014 Forest Riders Snowmobile Club raffle ticket and free entry into the dance at the Eagles Club on Saturday night.
Call Rossman at 252-3276 to sign up or to get more information.
“Everyone did a great job last year,” he said. “It’s a good way to watch the races and a lot of fun.”
Spotters will need to attend a mandatory meeting at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21 at the Park Rapids Municipal Airport to get instructions.
Friday night, snowmobilers will register at the Park Rapids American Legion.
Saturday’s race will start at Bogey’s on Highway 34 east of Park Rapids and once again go along Long Lake and into the Hubbard Prairie with a few minor changes made to address safety concerns. It is about a 25-30 mile loop and will be run up to four times depending on the snowmobile class.
Saturday night is the Forest Rider Snowmobile Club dance from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Eagles Club.
Sunday’s race will be one gigantic loop throughout the county of about 100 miles. Racers will head north on Highway 4 and go through the Paul Bunyan State Forest, looping back along Highway 34 and Lake Belle Taine. Sunday’s race starts at 10 a.m.
Some trails will be closed to the public Sunday due to the race.
Sunday, the Paul Bunyan State Forest will be closed, along with several other trails. The only way to travel by snowmobile between Park Rapids and Walker will be the Heartland Trail.
Saturday, Koch expects the races to be finished late in the afternoon. Sunday, the races could be finished earlier because the route it is one large loop.
The awards ceremony will be at about 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon after the races at Bogey’s.
This year, the Forest Riders Snowmobile Club is having a raffle with the first prize being a 2014 Arctic Cat 120 snowmobile, second prize a $300 Delaney’s gift certificate, third prize a $200 Coborn’s gift certificate and fourth prize a one hour scenic flight from Park Rapids Aviation.
The proceeds from the raffle will be split with half going to the snowmobile club and half going to the race.
The drawing is Saturday evening, Feb. 22 at the Park Rapids Eagles Club.
For more information about the race, call Jon Koch at 616-0448. To register, go to www.usxcracing.com.