Snowmobile hill climb race returns to Granby for second year
For the second year in a row, Grand County will play host to a Rocky Mountain States Hill Climb Association event when the Antler Basin Hill Climb returns to Granby March 4-5. The snowmobile hill climb racing series did not have any races in Colorado for nine years prior to the 2022 race at Antler Basin Ranch.
Sam Conger helps organize the race, and he emphasized that the racers coming to Antler Basin are some of the best in the world.
“You’re watching a pro-level hill climb race,” Conger said. “It’s actually the exact same circuit, or same racers, many of which will be at the Jackson Hill Climb World Championships a couple of weeks later. So it’s top-notch riding is what it is.”
Snowmobile hill climbing, as Conger described it, works like a reverse Alpine skiing giant slalom race. Racers go uphill, maneuvering through gates as they go, and the fastest time from bottom to top wins the race.
Races include more than just a hill climb though. Conger said courses often feature jumps with riders going as high as 60-80 feet in the air. The Antler Basin course has a flatter section at the bottom where Conger and the organizers build jumps and bumps sections to increase difficulty.
“Last year, and I think again this year, because it’s entertaining for the crowd, we built some pretty big jumps right in front of the viewing area,” Conger said.
Single-day and weekend passes for the hill climb are on sale now through a link on the Antler Basin Hill Climb Facebook page, and any remaining tickets will be available for purchase in the parking lot on the day of the event.
Conger said last year’s race received final approval of its permits only three weeks beforehand, and the event generated around 330 paying spectators — a number he hopes to at least double this year, with 600-700 spectators.
“The county commissioners have set a 2,000-person spectator limit on our event,” Conger said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable that in the future we will have more demand than we do space to allow, so it’ll become kind of a novelty day for those who planned ahead and got the tickets.”
Besides watching the best snowmobile hill climb racers in the world, Antler Basin offers entertainment Conger described as a “family day.” While some food vendors set up on the hill, he said spectators are welcome to bring their coolers and lawn chairs with them for the snowcat ride from the parking lot to the hill.
“They can spend the day on the hill, you know, very casually,” Conger said. “It’s a fun family day. The kids enjoy and adults enjoy the snowcat ride and the views and then all the fast machines.”
At the end of the day Sunday, locals will have a chance to try out the hill climb course — no pressure to race against the pros, of course, but Conger said the locals do compete against each other in modified and stock snowmobile classes.
“Actually, last year’s winner of both classes was Jesse Stanton,” Conger said. “So some of these people need to come out and challenge Jesse at the hill this year.”
Conger said organizers intend to add mini racers to the attractions this year as well. Mini racers range from about 6-12 years old and race around a small circle track with a few bumps. Conger said the kid racers at hill climb association’s events sometimes draw bigger crowds than the adults.
Antler Basin will also have fire pits and warming tents on the hill this year as well as more snow cats to move spectators between the parking area to the hill. Conger said there will be at least four of them, though they differ from one another.
“Some of them are limousine, luxury heated cats, and others are pulling sleighs,” Conger said. “We have a lot of ways to move a lot of people quickly, and it’s kind of just the luck of the draw of where you’re at in line which cat comes along.”
While the snow cats will take spectators and their chairs, coolers, umbrellas and other items, Conger asked that pets stay at home.
Conger, who owns Whatever Floats Your Boat in Grand Lake and has kids who compete in hill climb events across the western United States, said the easiest place for him to help organize a race in Colorado is in the county he calls home.
While ski resorts were not interested because of the liability of having skiers and snowmobilers on the hill, Conger said the Hackstaff family, who own Anter Basin Ranch, were open to hosting the event on their land — what Conger described as a unique venue for hill climbing.
“It has its difficulties as far as moving spectators from the parking areas all the way up to the event,” Conger said. “But once there, it offers a really unique viewing situation because you’ve already gotten the van ride, already gotten a snowcat ride up to the mountain, and then the spectator area is mid-mountain.”
Around 300 racers will tackle the hill March 4 during the qualifying rounds, then the finals rounds — plus the local races — will run March 5.
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