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Return of the Winnipeg I-500 Cross-Country?

Winnipeg I-500 Recon with Brian Nelson

Taken this past March during a reconnaissance of the area between Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Bemidji, Minn., this photo of Arctic Cat’s Joey Hallstrom and USXC’s Brian Nelson highlights just how serious Nelson is of his goal to resurrect a multi-day, point-to-point cross-country racing originating in Winnipeg.

“I grew up with the Winnipeg-to-St. Paul I-500 as the premier cross-country race in the world,” says Nelson, who won the famed event in 1976 aboard a John Deere and again in 1978 aboard an Arctic Cat. “There’s a magic about point-to-point cross-country racing that’s great for the racers, the spectators and the media. When we started USXC last season, we wanted to explore the possibility of resurrecting this great event.”

Everything is preliminary at this point, with the hoped-for towns to include Winnipeg (as the start), Thief River Falls (finish/start), Bemidji (finish/start), Alexandria (finish/start) and Willmar (finish).

Like it was back in the day, Nelson intends to include a mix of ditch, river and trail.

Nelson’s goal is to make it happen for the winter of 2015.

There’s a HUGE amount of work that needs to be done if this event is able to happen, not to mention the need for sponsorship.


Brian Nelson at the 2013 USXC I-500. Photo by

Brian Nelson at the starting line of the 2013 USXC Seven Clan’s Casino I-500 in TRF.

“There are a lot of logistics to iron out in order to make this event happen,” he says. “And it’s more expensive for us to pull off, so getting the right kind of support from towns and sponsors is critical to make it happen.”

Nelson brings a lot of ambition to USXC, which is a good thing because running circuits and attempting to resurrect the Winnipeg 500 requires someone with that kind of gumption.

What do you think of a return of a point-to-point I-500? 


Wayne Rowland races across the border on an Arctic Cat Panther in 1967.

Wayne Rowland races across the border south of Winnipeg during the 1967 I-500 cross-country. Photo from the Rowland Family Archives.


Race sleds lined up in Winnipeg at the 1996 I-500, by

Race sleds lined up in Winnipeg for the start of the 1996 ISOC I-500. ISOC resurrected the event in 1995. 


Brad Pake at the 1996 ISOC I-500 cross-country. Photo by

Brad Pake shredding a ditchline near Bemidji, Minn., during the 1996 I-500, an event he would win for the second consecutive year. 



  1. As a race fan, that would be awesome to follow that race down from Winnipeg…I hope it can be a go! I wonder if the Hamm’s bear will still be welcome to stand outside the US Customs port-of-entry as shown in the image from 1967? 🙂

  2. What a great idea! These are the races that got our fathers so excited and made snowmobiling so popular back then. How exciting that their their sons and grandsons will get to run the race now too!

  3. Don & Steve: It’s Brian Nelson… I can’t imagine him running any race without a Vintage class! However, I’d suspect that for a Winnipeg route he’d choose to run one of the four days, much like has been done in recent years.

  4. Hi John,

    I would LOVE to attempt the full “Winnipeg” I-500! I would sign up today if possible. While I would like to try it full vintage, I understand we have a huge level of attition for a multi day race…unless we are allowed to repair our sleds and line up the next day in case of break downs.

    I would consider either running my 2009 CC Sno Pro, or maybe consider appplying for a new sled through Team Arctic…hmmmm.

    Later Liquidator!
    “John Deere Joe” Rainville

  5. id love to run one day on a vintage deere !! running multiple days would be brutal but I guess that’s the majesty of the event . I completed the vintage race at seven clans last year and id love to do it again wadegc

  6. Thunderbay to St Paul. Three days away from the wife, and snowmobiles. Yee Haw! Boys. Cold fingers, cold beer, and cold food! Do you think we could get yelled at too! Just like old times. I think I could still put a team together. I loved the big numbers!

  7. This would be an absolute AWESOME achievement and if I couldn’t actually race it I would certainly be there to witness and support it!! I too have dreamed for years of the day to make that run even if just by myself to try to imagine what it would have been like back in the day. I know that would not be the same but it gets my heart pumping every time I close my eyes and really think of the possibilities. Again, if anyone can make this happen, it is Brian.
    BTW: We had a Hamm’s distributor in our town and my dads friend wore the Hamm’s bear suit at many events in our area. I wonder if he is up to the task at the border…

  8. Great idea! Just like old times. And, with a layover in Thief River Falls besides. Throw in some -40 degree weather along with rock-hard drifts in the ditches and it will separate the men from the boys.

    The local snowmobile clubs could assist with volunteer workers.

  9. Ryan W: We were pre-cleared for customs. I don’t even remember going through customs?! Maybe it was the adrenaline? I did the last I-500′ 1994 Thunder Bay to Twin Cities, 1995 Grand 500, 1996 Ultimate 500, the last 2 were Winnipeg to ….somewhere in Minnesota lol!

  10. Wow is this exciting!!! As a 28 year avid rider and true lover of the sport I say hell ya!!! I’ll be there hunting for first!!!!)) But I think we may struggle with rider numbers with crossing the border, it seems like all the wild children of my genetation have a record…and those are the guys that are gonna make the race a race.

  11. As a past racer in the ICCSF And a Winnipeg to St Paul race this would be great! Nothing Like the racers not seeing the same thing for 3 days. It will make the best terrain racer shine!

  12. Sounds exciting, would there be a class for snow-bikes(Timbersled,UFO, Frozenmoto,2Moto etc.) & are they allowed to race?

  13. this sure would bring back some great memories!
    i can remember back in the day, racing home after a 3.00 to 11.00 PM shift too catch the sports to see the race results for that day. with the durability & speed of today’s sleds, you might have to double the distance, starting & ending in the same city?

  14. Very huge congratulations on snitteg this facility up ladies and gentlemen. I plan on coming down to your meeting this Tuesday to meet you all and get involved in volunteering and membership.GT

  15. I think it would be fantastic to see this race revived. This race has to be logistically by far the most difficult race to set up, and then there is Mother Nature. Even though I don’t know you Brian I would be happy to volunteer my time to this event. You have my email address, thanks!

  16. Would be great to see remember when just finishing was an accomplishment ran it 1970 1971 and 1972 for Arctic Canada and finished it in 1971 on a Panther was a great time with the fans and other competitors good luck with it and good luck to all the racers


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