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Snowmobilers have a drag in Atlin

The Atlin Mountain Challenge and Snow Drags snowmobile event has been taking place since the early 1990s, but there's always room for change.

The Atlin Mountain Challenge and Snow Drags snowmobile event has been taking place since the early 1990s, but there’s always room for change.

Although not everything went as planned at the Atlin event, held at the end of last month, some snowmobilers couldn’t be happier with the conditions and new additions.

“The course was the best that, I think, anyone had ever seen,” said Whitehorse’s Jason Adams. “It was a very well prepared drag race strip. It was smooth, packed down and well prepared (giving it) more grip.”

Not only was an open turbo class added to the event this year, organizers prepared a separated drag strip specifically for the class, in which racers reached speeds as fast as 160-kilometres an hour in an eighth of a mile.

“It was incredible because usually the open class goes at the end of the day and by that time the drag strip is deteriorated and it’s not a good venue to showcase the power,” said Adams, whose best finish was a first in the 700cc stock class. “This time is was an epic situation for it.

“It’s snow drags: you line up, the guy raises the flag and you just take off and you race to the end.”

Thirty-five snowmobiles spread across 67 race entries were entered in the races, which included a 600cc stock cross class (a manufacturer’s race model), sparked by the sleds’ popularity in the region.

“Because so many guys own that kind of sled here in the Yukon, we made a drag race class out of those sleds,” said event organizer Ben Sternbergh, who finished first in the 600cc cross and the 600cc stock races.

The event’s Mountain Challenge, won by Yukon’s Ross Mercer, was unfortunately a bit of a flop with rumours of its cancellation circulating in the days leading up to the event, preventing participants from showing up and leaving just three competitors.

“It sort of happened, but it was only three guys - so it didn’t happen,” said Adams. “It wasn’t an event, it more just a goof around session.”

With safety foremost on their minds, organizers check snow conditions immediately prior to the challenge, making the cancellation rumours all the more unfounded.

“With an event like this we have to organize it from a distance and for safety purposes, it’ll be cancelled last minute, not weeks before,” said organizer Matt Ewing. “Avalanche testers go up there for us and do a snow profile and give us a report. We try to do that as close to the event as possible. This year the test was done the day before and it was deemed to be safe.

“The snow conditions on the mountain were perfect, we couldn’t have had a better year for snow. It would have been great if more people showed, but that just the way things go sometimes.”

The uphill race, which usually features about 20 riders, requires more than skill handling the incline and actually dwarfs the world championship’s course length, said Ewing.

“The Jackson Hole Hill Climb, which is the world championships, it’s actually only a minute and a half climb up that mountain,” he said. “This run here, I think the record is somewhere around three minutes and the average rider takes closer to four.

“The starting line is actually down on the lake, below the slide, and there’s probably a kilometre of trail before it breaks out into the mountain.

“It’s one of those races that takes multiple skills to do well at it.”

Contact Tom Patrick at