In the early 1960s, the premier snowmobile race in North America was the Rhinelander (Wis.) Hodag Marathon.
A cross-country race, the Hodag ran through the Wisconsin Northwoods, including going down main streets in towns like Eagle River, Three Lakes and others.
It helped set the stage for the first derby on Dollar Lake near Eagle River in 1964, which would become the Eagle River World’s Championship.
These are some great pix from the 1966 edition of the Hodag. Check out the sweet Model 100 and 140 Arctic Cats!
I seem to remember some TV coverage of the event during one of the Bob Eastman wins. Also, the popular and very nice “Cross Country” bar and grill just north of Rhinelander on Hwy 17 also takes its name from the event. I have heard it was a fuel stop but this doesn’t quite make sense as it is so close to the finish line.
What is the #33 rider wearing on his head? It looks like a hard hat.
Neat to see a Cross country race…How long was it in Miles or was it just ride as long as you could…till it broke down.
Hodag 50. I may be wrong but I think the last year of the race was about 1971. The race was then moved to a kidney shaped long track in Hodag Park close to Rhinelander. My dad and I attend this race in 1972 with the ovals on Saturday and the Hodag 50 on the long track on Sunday. It was the coldest event I have ever attended with Saturday morning 50 below zero and Sunday a little warmer but high winds. Our truck would not start and we attempted to walk to the race but both of us turned back to the motel due to frost bite noses and ears. We dressed up again and a cop stopped a picked us up for a ride to the race on Saturday. Ask anyone who raced and they will remember the cold.
Great images and memories! To this day when I snowmobile in or near that part of Wisconsin I always reflect on all the history that resides there. Rhinelander, Eagle River, etc, etc…legendary stuff!
Every time I see the old Cats it reminds me of a story Roger Skime told about falling of the sled a whole bunch of times as a very young man in a race and thinking there has to be a better way. Thus the slide rail suspension and the 1967 Panther were born. It is especially cool if you get to hear Roger tell it!
looks like CAT ruled back then also SWEEET.
Nice read John
Great memories for me racing there in 1966,67,68 with a Motoski (bearing in jack shaft broke), Arctic Cat (coil failed )and Polaris Tx500 ( broken throttle cable). When the Polaris broke, an official Showed me a short cut to get back to the pits – I operated the sled by using my hand to move the throttle lever on the carb. I crossed the finish line and they all thought I had won but I told them the story. I later saw all of that on TV, probably in that Cross Country bar. Bob Eastman was the finest ambassador of the sport.
The first slide rail suspension was developed in 1956 by Howard Schroeder who invented the Snow Bug in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. It was later manufactured by Noront Steel in Sudbury. The driver sat up front in an “open cab” with the engine and 22″ track behind. It had one ski. It was powered by a 6hp air cooled West Bend engine and would go 12 mph. It had a transmission with 2 forward gears and reverse. It had no suspension but was mounted solid. I quests had the first slide rail “with suspension”