Watson Lake’s Grady McNaughton would rather ride his snowmobile in the backcountry than on a racecourse.
But if he’s going to race, he’s in it to win it.
The 27-year-old won a trophy at the Silver Star Hill Climb that took place near Vernon, B.C., April 14-16.
“I’ve had one ever since I was a little kid,” said McNaughton. “You end up with a sled — it’s kind of a Yukon way of life. I’ve sledded backcountry with my parents ever since I was young.
“I wasn’t into racing before. I just sort of started it. Honestly, I’d rather be out in the backcountry riding. It’s fun though.
“The (race) course is built to slow you down and stop you. It’s not smooth and graceful like it seems it should be.”
McNaughton took first place in the 800cc improved semi pro division. He finished the roughly one-kilometre course, climbing over 200 metres in elevation, with a time of 36.12 seconds. He was the only one in the division, which had over 35 riders, to break the 40-second mark.
“It’s a big accomplishment. I feel great,” said McNaughton. “The words are pretty hard to find for something like that.”
McNaughton also raced in the 800cc stock and the 800cc modified divisions. He qualified for finals in those two as well.
McNaughton qualified first in the 800 stock and went on to finish fifth in a very tight final. He was just 0.90 seconds behind the winner.
McNaughton went on to place fifth in the modified division with a time of 43.88. (Modified divisions allow replacement parts to improve the performance of a sled. Improved divisions allow minor changes but with the stock engine unaltered.)
“Makes the passion I have for this sport grow stronger (and) deeper,” said McNaughton of his results.
McNaughton, who placed second in 800cc stock at his first Silver Star Hill Climb last year, wasn’t the only Yukoner in attendance last weekend.
Whitehorse’s McKeehan Prysnuk also competed in the 800cc trio of events. He placed seventh in modified, 12th in improved and 13th in stock.
“My bro McKeehan Prysnuk came down to ride the backcountry and we knew Silver Star was going down. We could not miss it,” said McNaughton.
In a weird coincidence, McNaughton and Prysnuk were randomly selected out of a group of 50 riders to race head-to-head to start the event on Friday. McNaughton won it by a hair.
“We somehow were picked to race each other. We pretty much came all the way from Yukon to race each other at Silver Star,” said McNaughton.
“(After the competition we) got up bright and early and went back to the backcountry to the real free ride that everyone that rides lives for. For me and McKeehan, it’s life to be free riding in the mountains. Anywhere the snow is deep and the gas is cheap.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org