The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Blackjack hosts snowmobile races


Ian Minielly/Daily Globe

A rubber chicken holding on for dear life is attached to the front of a racers Skidoo sled Saturday at Blackjack for the Midwest Extreme Snowmobile Challenge. The chicken had the best view of the race.


Wakefield TOWNSHIP - The Midwest Extreme Snowmobile Challenge, presented by Moto Trax, was held at the Blackjack Ski Resort Saturday and Sunday. Tim Moon, assistant general manager of Blackjack said, "The event is open to the public with free admission. This is our second year hosting and we are already discussing doing it for a third year."

The weather was warm and the sky was overcast Saturday, keeping the sun from blinding the racers and spectators. Todd Meyers, event organizer, said the conditions on the ski hills were excellent for late winter or early spring snowmobile racing. Meyers usually runs about 12 events per year between Minn., Wis., and the U.P. and it is a whole family affair. His wife Andrea is the score keeper while their two kids compete in eight races between them.

Moon said Blackjack made eight features for the riders to navigate, but with the amount of manmade snow on the mountain this year, the resort did not really have to do too much prep for the race. The manmade snow is so much more dense than natural snow that it really facilitates late season riding.

The event brought 120 riders to Blackjack, which is a similar number as last year according to Moon. They were hoping for more, but with the uncertain conditions, some riders stayed away. Blackjack saw about 150 people staying for the weekend on site, which was a nice boost to late season sales.

Barry Bolich said the change this year of the trails to include Blackjack and Indianhead, really made a big difference and opened up new avenues for the resorts to service the public. Bolich said John Cox, from the Township, has been instrumental in working with the resorts to make the area even more trail and rider friendly, which brings in a considerable amount of revenue in local sales and services.

The Daily Globe talked about racing with Andy Wenzlaff, 25 and unmarried, who is a pro from Stevens Point, Wis. Wenzlaff's usual riding partner got married last year and this event at Blackjack was the first and only race his partner made. Wenzlaff on the other hand, is still making 10 or more events every year.

Wenzlaff described the racing circuit in such a way that it sounds much like rodeo life out west. The riders work hard Monday through Thursday, Wenzlaff is a computer programmer, then drive all Thursday night to get to the event for Friday registration and practice. The competitors race Saturday and Sunday and then back to work, tired as a dog on Monday morning.

Wenzlaff described the majority of the professional riders as being younger, making it clear he feels snowmobile racing is a young mans game. The warm temperatures did not affect the sleds according to Wenzlaff because they are fuel injected. In fact, Wenzlaff said he loved the warm weather because he would not get cold racing.

The cross country track was approximately two miles long, looping up and around the different slopes and ski trails on Blackjack mountain. Wentzlaff placed second in the Pro Factory 600, which was a ten lap, wrist killing, twenty mile race.


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