USXC snowmobile racers are set to hit the trails for two days of racing this weekend.
The winter storm warning issued by the National Weather Service for noon Friday through 6 p.m. Saturday predicts 4 to 7 inches of new snow to the Park Rapids area, accompanied by winds as high as 40 miles per hour.
By Sunday, conditions are expected to improve, with sunshine and a high of 2 degrees, but the National Weather Service states wind gusts could still reach over 20 miles per hour.
“I don’t see anything in the forecast that’s causing any alarm for us, and USXC is watching as well,” said Candy Christensen, communications and marketing coordinator with the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. “A lot of the racers are already here.”
Chamber President/CEO Butch De La Hunt was out checking trails Thursday afternoon, and the Nevis Trailblazers Snowmobile Club was out grooming trails in preparation for the race.
Saturday’s race is set to begin at 10 a.m. and Sunday’s race at 9 a.m. with races to be delayed an hour if temperatures are considered too cold.
“If a late start is needed due to cold temperatures, that will be determined the day of the race and broadcast on Hot Country 92.5 FM, along with being posted on the USXC section of the Chamber website (parkrapids.com),” Christensen said.
Weather impacts trail grooming and conditions, too. “If there is fresh snow the day of the race, that’s what they’re racing through,” she said.
Christensen said spectators should dress warmly and bring hand warmers.
“With the wrist bands, they have the leisure to come and go,” she said. “Basically, what the spectators will be doing is going into the pits (in the field behind the Salvage Depot) to see the snowmobilers up close. They can go back and forth to their vehicles to warm up.”
Christensen said along County 4 is the best place for people to park their vehicles and watch the race.
“That’s where a lot of the action is going to be,” she said. “There are some approaches that are a little bit steeper just off the Heartland Trail, heading south towards Hwy. 34.”
She said deeper snow may slow racers at the head of the race down a little bit. “After that, the trail gets packed down more,” she said.
Coordinating the event is a big job. Volunteers and organizers will be on the job at 6 a.m.
If needed, the area by the Salvage Depot will be plowed the morning of the race, Christensen said. Volunteers will also be working as spotters and helping with cleanup after the race.