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My Son’s First Snowmobile Race

My son Calvin raced a snowmobile for the first time this past weekend, in the Junior 10-13 class at the USCC cross-country race in Warroad, Minn.

During a winter in which we’ve had some amazing snowmobile experiences, this was MAJOR highlight.

Here’s what we learned:


The glory of studding tracks and puting on new wearbars.

In the week prior to the race, we put 100 or so Stud Boy studs in the track, and new Shaper bars on the skis. We also checked the drive belt, adjusted track tension and put Stud Boy decals on the sled (Cal’s favorite part of the prep). We did this stuff together in the evenings, at a time when he might otherwise watch a little TV or play on the computer. Cal and I are lucky because we get to do a lot of things together, but I could do a lot better job of getting him involved with the work-side of activities, because I think it’s an important life lesson.

When we finished the prep, Cal gave me a hug and thanked me for showing him how to do it. At that point, our racing experience was already a huge success. But the best was yet to come, as we loaded his sled, my vintage ’79 el tigre, and headed north to Warroad for the Saturday race.


Matt Feil (left) and Calvin, hanging out at the races.

We’d no longer pulled into the parking lot and gotten out of the truck, when Team Arctic Jr. racer Matt Feil (left) came up, introduced himself and promptly offered whatever help he could to Calvin and me. I say that snowmobile racers are an amazing breed, which Matt’s behavior perfectly illustrates. For Calvin, who was nervous about the kinds of kids he’d be competing against, having this warm reception from a fellow competitor really calmed his nerves. Thanks Matt (and the entire Feil family), you rock! (By the way, Matt finished third in class… awesome job.)


Cal, before the rush to get ready.

Gotta love the duct-tape number system on the tunnel! My graphic sponsors Action Graphics and Blown Concepts would cringe, but I actually liked showing Cal that you don’t need to have perfect-everything to race. Ditto for racing out of the back of our pickup truck with “regular” trailer.


Cal and I in staging.

Just prior to the start of the race, we snapped this photo of Cal and I in staging. So many people had come up and wished Cal good luck, and told him to “just have fun,” that it really drove home the same messages I’d expressed the two preceding weeks.

In USCC cross-country, racers start one at a time in 10-20 second intervals, depending on the event. I entered the Vintage class, mainly because we started immediately following Cal’s Jr. 10-13 class, so I knew that if anything happened to him on the course, I’d be one of the first people there to help.

Joey Hallstrom, Champion

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you Joey Hallstrom! (Applause.)

Moments before I started, I went over to Vintage I-500 Champion Joey Hallstrom, and proclaimed that I would promptly dethrone him from his championship perch. Joey had other ideas. And he also appeared to be picking his nose. Both of us would be thoroughly drop-kicked by Brett Lessman and his Yamaha SS440. Lessman FLIES!


Cal on the race course

On a day in which the flat light and a rough course pretty much scared me, Cal did absolutely awesome and shrugged off the difficulty.


Me following Cal through the start/finish line.

We both did two laps of the 13-mile course. After starting behind him, I caught Cal about halfway through the first lap (that’s me behind him in the photo above). So I just stayed a few sled lengths behind and watched. And smiled. And swelled with pride. And got worried about what I was REALLY getting myself into. And thought of toys we’ll have to sell to pay for our new pastime.

But mostly, I just thought about how grateful I was that my kid loves snowmobiling, that the people who comprise USCC actually make racing possible, and that we were able to go racing.

Cal on the ArcticInsider sponsored Sno Pro...sweet!

Cal ended up finishing in just over 50 minutes, in 7th place (out of nine).


Hanging out by the CBR big rig

Immediately after the race Cal and Matt hooked up again. I brought them to the Christian Bros. Racing big rig, where they got to see D.J. Ekre getting ready for the Pro 600 race (which Cal thought was ALMOST as cool as getting to race).

Racing in USCC is as easy and enjoyable as I can imagine. From the race crew to the fellow racers, everyone is helpful and encouraging to a degree that actually surprised me.

For the people who race with any frequency, race circuits become like extended family. And it’s that dynamic that was the over-arching vibe to our day in Warroad.

The entire experience was such a positive success; we will definitely be back for several races next year.

A big THANKS to everyone who helped us during the weekend. That was as enjoyable as the actual racing.



  1. Wow, that sounds like an awesome day! Thanks for sharing the story and the pictures. It has to be pretty sweet to see your kid out on the race course like that.

    I also need to say that Brett Lessman and his SS440 still amaze me. He is obviously one heck of a rider, but I would never have imagined that a 440 Yamaha fanner of that would run that fast. Plus, he’s done it in multiple races now. Very impressive!

  2. Hey John it was cool seeing Cal race, and it was fun finding out who the man behind Arctic Insider was, too bad we didn’t find a bulb for your sled but you got to race anyways.

  3. John, that is absolutely awesome! Something you and your son with treasure for many many years. It sounds like it was a great experience for everyone and that is what makes the difference.

    I say way to go to you and to those that put on the event along with the other participants to make it fun. This will keep others involved and interested for many years allowing the sport to grow.

  4. Great story, JS! Way to go, Cal! I had heard earlier about the 1 1/2 lap ride you guys had together, and wished I could have seen it – thanks for the story!

  5. 3 things.

    First, congrats to your son on his first race, sounds like a great way to spend time together.

    Second, I have a SS440 and for a 440 fan motor, it can fly for sure.

    Third, I don’t know the rules or maybe it was the camera angle but I didn’t notice any headlights on the sleds, I would have thought that for safety they would be required to be on.

  6. Way to go Cal! Welcome to the USCC! He showed a lot of skill, and guts to get out there and race on exactly the same course Ekre, Bunke, and the other pros race on. The family aspect of the sport is really neat. The time you spend with your kids, nephews, or any family is time you will never regret spending years down the road. Not only that but cross country racing is FUN!

  7. Congratulations on your first race Cal! Watching Cal and Dan Skalletts son on the woble ride took me back a few years when my sons started riding, brought back a lot of good memories. Time and Money spent over the years on snowmobiling with my family was worth every penny. Good luck John you will have a blast!

  8. Congratulations on what was a wonderful day with your son. Riding behind him had to make the old heart swell. Do it whenever you can. The rewards are awesome!!

  9. Thanks for the kind words, all.

    I should have noted in the story that Casey Clement and his family kindly chauffeured me all over Warroad in a fruitless search of a bulb for my headlight…thanks you guys!

    That headlight wasn’t working, but Cal’s were.

    Mike Feil who posted, is Matt’s dad. Awesome guy, totally encouraging. Thanks Mike!

    I wouldn’t trade that lap-and-a-half with Cal for anything in the world, even beating Joey!

    Something else I didn’t articulate in the story, and maybe I should in a separate post some other time: Some of my closest friends in life have happened as a result of racing together. There are so many reasons to race, but the relationships you forge is easily the most important.

  10. GREAT STORY! Its awesome to see familys at events nothing could bring a family closer then snowmobiling its an action packed sport that not only takes skill from the rider but a family to keep the sled moving forward. Just getting your foot in the door can be overwhelming not only to rider and crew but to the pocket book as well. Dont look at the top dollar rigs and be disapointed they started out just like everyone else and they will tell you the same thing, Sticking through the first bit and really having fun doing it will pay off! Its a great sport with great people at every and all types sledding events. KEEP IT UP! Good luck to all that follows! Nothing beats riding and racing!

  11. John, Cal did a great job and it was fun watching you cross the finnish line together, looks like we have a new USCC junior class racer!!!

  12. John,it was good to see you at Elko and hear this story in person.I look foward to reading many more racing stories about you and Cal.Take care,Bob.

  13. John,

    I was great to see you enjoy the day with your son, with all we have been through this season that was one of the highlights. Seeing your face after the race… a VERY proud dad who will remember that day.


  14. John Sandberg says:
    3/16/2011 1:10:00 PM

    “Something else I didn’t articulate in the story, and maybe I should in a separate post some other time: Some of my closest friends in life have happened as a result of racing together. There are so many reasons to race, but the relationships you forge is easily the most important. ”

    My sentiments exactly!



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