With three snowmobile race dates set for the new year, the newly-formed Race Hay River Society is getting its own community, as well as a few further afield, revved up for the season.
“The attention has all been very positive,” said long-time racer and board member Andrey Dziewa. “We’re hoping that running three races as opposed to just one will help draw more people out.”
Racing events will be held at the 2 Seasons Campground in Hay River on the weekends of Jan. 25 & 26, Feb. 15 & 16, and March 1 & 2.
Dziewa said past years’ races have drawn between 50 and 60 competitors and up to 500 spectators, but that a season with several events should increase those numbers.
“We’ve had people saying they didn’t want to spend all kinds of money on a once-a-year event,” society president Tanner Froehlich told The Hub. “So we’re knocking it up a few notches.”
Froehlich explained how all three races will include a variety of categories to appeal to all ages and skill levels, from children to professionals. There will even be a minimum of 10 sleds that can be borrowed by those who don’t have their own, but want to try their hand at racing, as well as a sportsman class on a cross-country track that anyone can enter to get a feel for the sport.
“We definitely put in a lot of effort and finances into the sleds and the sport,” said Dziewa. “But for those not competing in the open category, you can buy a sled and take it right from the showroom to the race and have a great time.”
Both men agreed that Hay River has produced excellent riders in the past who have held their own against professionals coming in from Alberta and other places in the South.
“We’ve got some pro riders coming here this year, which is really great,” said Dziewa. “Some have come in the past and some of the local guys have definitely showed how good they are up against them. There are some excellent guys from here in town and also from the surrounding communities.”
The society hopes the races will attract people from as far away as Fort McMurray, as well as communities like Fort Chipewyan, Fort Smith, Fort Providence, High Level and Fort Resolution.
With the addition of smaller classes and various outdoor activities, as well as a dedicated broadcast channel for the event so spectators can stay in the warmth of their vehicles and not miss a beat, Dziewa called the event a “rodeo for motorheads.”
Beyond logistical concerns – including ice conditions and conflicts with dog races – moving the events from the Hay River, where it has been held in previous years, to the 2 Seasons Campground on the frozen shores of Great Slave Lake was a logical step.
“We complement each other’s businesses,” Dziewa said. “It’s good for (2 Seasons) for exposure, and it’s good for us because they’re going to help us build the track. There will be places for kids to stay warm and help with having some warm food prepared for everyone.”
Fraser Pike, the co-owner of 2 Seasons Campground, said he is just as excited for the sporting aspect of the races as for the visitors they bring to the community, and is eager to help host the events.
“It’s great for the town to bring people in,” he said. “Snowmobilers spend money on meals, fuel, parts, hotels, bars, and it’s just good for the economy in general.”
Pike also noted that hosting the events will help him get the word out about his own business, but that the positive experiences he hopes the events will create will also extend to the entirety of Hay River.
“This is a great place to come for excitement and play, or just for a relaxing time with family and friends,” he said of the community.
– Sarah Ladik