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As I slowly take care of business on the “backside” of ArcticInsider, I hope to generate greater frequency with the updates and posts, so I appreciate your patience as I slowly see the light at the end of the tunnel. Part of that effort of more posts will be digging deep into the extensive archives I have at my disposal after more than 30-years of involvement in the powersports industry. To kick things off I immediately went to a weekend in snowmobile racing I remember vividly, the first snocross race at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, Minnesota in late November,1992. At the time, I was no different than any other sledder, in that I was a young snowmobile loving freak who often rode the North Shore Trail, drank too much beer, and was enamored with anything and everything that involved a snowmobile. 

One of my best friends at the time was living in Duluth and we rode together every possible chance we could. When we learned a snowmobile race was happening on the “hill” we did what most would do. We filled our pockets with some cold ones and got ourselves as close to the fence and the start line as possible. In fact, I found myself in some of these photos which were taken by my eventual mentor CJ Ramstad.

After I pulled these photos from the archives I did a double take…there just above Kirk Hibbert’s helmet (sled 41)…there I was…most likely 3 of 4 beers in and loving every minute of it.

Up to that point, I knew next to nothing about snowmobile racing, let alone the drivers. What’s more, I was riding one of those “other brands” at the time, but I remember staring in awe at the shiny black and green ZR when it was unveiled at Hay Days just a few months earlier and thinking how damn sexy it was. Still, it wasn’t “my brand” so when we stood trackside I cheered vehemently against anyone on a Cat.

For those of you who know your racing history, you know that up until the winter of 1992-93, the Polaris Indy virtually dominated snowmobile competition…but that all changed at Spirit Mountain. While the Indy’s were heavily favored, the ZR came and left the snowmobile world with a clear message…the ZR was the real deal and it belonged atop the podium.

Jerry Dillon (with the megaphone) was the owner and race director of MRP which was sanctioned those early Duluth races. The even grew rapidly and racing would go well past midnight with entries pushing beyond 800.

While Arctic Cat didn’t completely dominate that first year at Duluth, the following year they did, winning all four pro classes. Oh, and for that beer drinking kid who was cheering against the black and green…I left Duluth that Sunday afternoon figuring out how to get my hands on a ZR. 

Here’s a look back at that first Spirit Mountain race. The track was smoother, the crowds a lot smaller, but the momentum it generated for snocross going forward was immense. 

1992 MRP Duluth Snocross Results:

Pro Open: 1. Steve Hansen (Cat); 2. Kirk Hibbert (Cat); 3. Greg Hyde (Pol)

Pro Stock: 1. Lauren Wolf (Pol); 2. Craig Janzig (Pol); 3. Brian Sturgeon (Cat)

Pro Lite: 1. Kirk Hibbert (Cat); 2. Dan Sturgeon (Cat); 3. Steve Hansen (Cat)

Steve Hansen (21) and Kirk Hibbert (41) would claim two of the four podiums that year and put Polaris on notice that the reign of the Indy was coming to an end.
Racer’s were much more diverse than they are today. While Brian Sturgeon was inducted into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame due to his oval racing prowess, he also competed in snocross. He grabbed a podium in Pro Stock in 1992, and the following year he would find the winner’s circle with a win in Pro Lite.
Oh how I love the look of those early 90s Jags.
Quadna is considered by most to be the first true snocross race, but Duluth was the first to do it under the lights. Racing after dark with the lights of Duluth Superior in the distance created a magical atmosphere and is one of the reasons the national tour holds their finals under the lights.
The “Ice Man” Aaron Scheele.
For a year-one event, the crowds exceeded everyone’s expectations.
The image of these ZR sleds ripping Duluth is as fresh today in my mind as it was that day in 1992. The bright colored motocross gear, those chrome Action Graphics numbers, and that distinct Arctic Cat exhaust note grabbed me and has never let go.


  1. Yes, we went from under dog to top dog in that era.
    I recall watching Sturgeon, Herzig and the Devault bros clean up just about every single class in ovals one sunday in march of 94. That following week i went to the local dealer by Saturday i was running a new ZR580
    Damn those were great times for us cat folk.

  2. Spirit Mountain in those years was magical! Its one era of racing that truly inspired sales. Like what you described, I was a Polaris guy then, but after witnessing those black cats, I knew I wanted one. Took me a couple years though and I bought a 95 ZR580. What a glorious snowmobile. These are awesome photos. Thanks for sharing. Lets see more.

  3. Great article! Brings back allot of good memories. Those ZR’s changed to game. Still my favorite sled ever. Loved those Jag Z’s too. Wish I still had one.

  4. Oh man!,, remember the Cat’s secret weapon when it was unveiled. When the ’93 ZR580 became production the first thing I thought (as did many, I’m sure) was “when is the bad boy 700 mill going in that sled?”.
    I preordered my ’94 ZR700 from Chesney’s Sports in Riverdale, MI. Honestly, probably the Best cornering sled I’ve ever driven. That sled, properly clutched and jetted, gave Storms and the MachZ grief.

    • As much as I love the ride and riding position of the new machines, they simply don’t HANDLE as well as the original ZR’s did. On a smooth trail, my ’97 440 was so much fun to ride in the corners! Man! However, one can’t argue with the comfort and ride of the new stuff.

  5. Duluth Nationals was one of my favorite race venues to watch snocross. Though I didn’t make it to the race in 92′, I did get my hands on a 93′ ZR440 in January of 93′. Time I sold it, it had nearly 4000 trouble free miles! Still one of my all time favorite Cats!


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