Grand Laker gears up for XGames |

Grand Laker gears up for XGames

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi News
Grand County, CO Colorado
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News | Sky-Hi News

Wes Selby isn’t afraid of speed, or big heights – as long as he’s in control.

Rounding corners and flying 50 feet in the air on a snowmobile is second nature to the 25-year-old Grand County athlete. But standing on 20-foot-high scaffolding, or riding in the passenger side of a moving car, the fear sets in.

“It’s weird. I don’t understand it either,” he said.

But Selby is right at home hitting full throttle as a contender on the national circuit of snocross racing, and as a competitor at this year’s Winter X Games 15 in Aspen, Jan. 27-30.

Par for the snocross courses are jumps built high enough for riders to be airborn for up to 120 feet, sharp corners, and other racers brokering for the lead.

It’s the motocross or boardercross of the snowmobile world.

And Selby, a 2003 graduate of Middle Park High School, is determined to take it by storm.

Selby is the only snowmobile racer from Grand County and the state of Colorado in this year’s Winter X.

Having joined the pro class just last season, Selby is already rated in the top 10 for points on the national circuit.

His invitation to the X Games is an opportunity to win a championship in what he considers the “Olympics of snowmobiling.”

“If I don’t make the main event, I’ll be pretty disappointed,” said the racer, the son of Terry Selby and Sherri Goff, both of Granby.

“I’ve set my sights on the top 5, for sure,” he said.

Training in Grand Lake

Originally of Granby and now calling Grand Lake home, Selby has been practicing laps in the Winding River Ranch area near Grand Lake since his return from Minnesota in late December.

He was scheduled to travel to Aspen on Tuesday, with X Games snowmobile races set for Jan. 30.

His training grounds on the Jolstad property – Jolstad Motor Sports being his title sponsor – and the Busse Family Ranch are where he and five-time X Games gold medalist Tucker Hibbert of Thief River Falls, Minn., have been spending long hours practicing and testing their machines for altitude.

Each owns a giant groomer to build tracks and jumps on what otherwise is summer pastureland. They rise to groom trails early every day, then ride until dark, Selby said, followed by hours in the shop tinkering with snowmobiles and groomers.

Since 2006, Selby has been spending winters in Minnesota, staying with the Hibbert family when not traveling to competitions, and he spends summers between Grand Lake and Denver, where he strength trains, he said.

A former motocross competitor, Selby says racing has afforded him the opportunity to see nearly every state and parts of Canada, and he often stays in his moving rig that features both living quarters and room for his snowmobiles or motorcycles.

Snocross racing is a mix of strategy – with good starts making all the difference – and stamina, with a race lasting 15 to 20 minutes and consisting of about 10 single, double and triple jumps in 30- to 45-second laps. Semi-final and final races are made up of about 15 competitors.

“You can win a race by a fraction of a second, or you can win it by a mile,” Selby said.

He maintains a healthy respect for his fellow racers. Of any of the finalists, “If they have a good day and everything is going right, any of them could win it,” he said. To win, “Everything has to go right with a little bit of luck on your side.”

His buddy Tucker, who is seeking to win his fifth consecutive gold at this year’s X Games, “is the man to beat right now,” Selby said.

Piloting his future

With sponsor Arctic Cat, Selby will be racing a 430-pound, 165-horsepower modified Arctic Cat machine at this year’s X Games, likening it to riding a crotch-rocket motorcycle.

That his family and friends can be at the X Games to cheer him on is a bonus to the Grand Lake racer. And heavy snows this season should make for a great event, he said.

“Obviously, I like it because I’m good at it,” Selby said of racing.

Aside from the competition, he’s in it for the camaraderie. To him, the snowmobile community is “one big family,” he said.

And what does he dream of doing once he’s through mastering the sport, despite his fear of heights?

“I want to be a commercial airline pilot,” he said, “that’s my goal.”

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