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HomeFeaturesWinnipeg-to-St. Paul... Fun Ride?

Winnipeg-to-St. Paul… Fun Ride?

Cross-country along the ditch

The allure of pounding a ditchline from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to near St. Paul, Minnesota, continues to capture the imaginations of snowmobilers captivated by the original I-500 cross-country race.

Recently I’ve had conversations with people kicking around the idea of a recreational ride from Winnipeg to the Twin Cities. One person talking about it is vintage guru Don McLennan, who recreated much of the ride in 2010. Don lives in Oak Bluff, Manitoba, has raced the old Winnipeg several times.

The other people talking about such a ride are Joey Hallstrom and Jon Carlson, both Winnipeg race veterans and guys who know how to put together an event of this nature.

Hallstrom was one of the principals who launched the Jeep 500 in 1987, seven years after the original Winnipeg/St. Paul Winter Carnival I-500 threw its final checkered flag.

Carlson was a top Factory Team Deere competitor who in recent years has devoted much time and energy helping the Snowmobile Hall of Fame.

The idea of a fun ride from Winnipeg, open to anyone with a sense of adventure (and perhaps a sense of humor) is very intriguing. Hallstrom’s vision is for loosely-organized ride, whereby riders can go at their own pace on anything from vintage to modern sleds. Gas stop locations would be suggested, and the route would be indicated on maps rather than with actual race course markers. A semi-trailer sag wagon would follow the route each day, picking up any tired bodies and reluctant snowmobiles.

Overnight locations would include some classic “race” towns, like Roseau, TRF, Alexandria and a “finish” somewhere on the outskirts of the Twin Cities.

Mini banquet-like dinners each evening would provide excellent bench-racing, er, riding, opportunities among the participants.

Carlson sees it as a great tie-in with the SHOF, in a similar vein as the Vintage Challenge event in conjunction with the Ride with the Champs.

If some famous names like Doug Oster, Brian Nelson, Brad Pake, Archie Simonson, Carlson, Tom Otte, Inspector Henderson and others took part, imagine the stories we’d hear each evening!

When asked when such a ride might occur, Hallstrom suggested this coming winter.

Anyone (besides me) interested in such an adventure? My only question would be whether to ride vintage or modern?

In the meantime, enjoy some pix of the original Winnipeg I-500, and of the reprised 1996 Grand 500.

1968 Arctic Cat I-500 win ad

How cool would it be if Cormican, Tubby Lund and others were to participate in a Winnipeg ride!?!


Team Arctic Cat's Jim Safranski in the '78 I-500

Maybe Jim Safranski too? Here’s Jim ripping a ditchline in the 1978 Winnipeg.


1996 ISOC Grand 500 cross-country

Here’s a shot from the 1996 ISOC Grand 500 cross-country, which ran from Winnipeg to Roseau.


Arctic Cat legend Brad Pake

Brad Pake won the 1996 Grand 500, repeating his win from the year previous. Here’s Pake nearing Bemidji, the finish town for the second of three legs.


Winnipeg Grand 500 starting grid in 1996

Here’s the line-up of race sleds at the start of the ’96 Grand 500 outside of Winnipeg.


Tom Mattila, Team Arctic racer from the 1990s

One of my favorite racers from the 1990s-era ISOC years, Tom Mattila is shown here on his way to the finish in Roseau. If memory serves correct, Mattila scored a 7th place in the 1997 edition.


1978 I-500 winner Brian Nelson on his Arctic Cat

Here’s Brian Nelson taking the checkered flag during the 1978 I-500, which he won. Anyone know which day of the race this is from?



  1. I would for sure, and I know others from the USCC would run it, it was in the works to have the race this year, but that isnt going to happen anymore, so the next best thing would be a fun run.

  2. How far out of Winnepeg will the pick up truck be? If not far, I am game. I will need to come up from Arizona, find a sled, find a suit, get in shape, etc. I’m sure Joey will take care of everything for me except getting me in shape. Maybe I better pass!!!!

  3. This idea has been brought up by (guess who) Tom Rowland in our conversations over the last few years. It sounds awesome! A big part of the challenge we discussed was recruiting a support vehicle/sag wagon driver, and with that out of the way, I say let’s roll!!

    I feel like a kid in a candy shop just thinking of “settling into a rhythm” aboard my El Tigre while riding the old Winnipeg Route!

  4. maybe a february ride with milder temps for us old guys.i would think the sled companies would run parts support sales trailers for the newer iron and maybe some of the vintage parts guys could put together some stuff for the older sleds.
    fantastic idea to put this run together!!!can’t wait!

  5. At the end of the day can we have some place warm to work on the sled. None of this one hour to get things fixed, and all the tools you can carry. Good lord I miss it. I love the smell of two stroke in the morning.

  6. How about Chester Boman and Lyle Swanson from St. Hilaire? Or the Crookston bunch of Dale Cormican, Roger Janssen, and Vern Riccard? Run down Highway 75 like they used to do. Rock hard drifts in the ditches from winds blowing across the prairie farm land. And, run it in January with temps 30 below or colder. Yep! Just like old times……………………

  7. I like the suggestions of pain and misery, but those conditions are better for reminiscing than they are for actual participation.

    If this happens I will be the first to order a JHWK (Joey Hallstrom Wheel Kit) for the skis, and I’ll run straight down the middle of every road along the route.

    I think the best bet for a sag wagon (a semi truck/trailer) is that it go to the start, or at least to the border. One thought I had is that it could haul sleds/gear up to Winnipeg, perhaps from the St. Cloud, Minn., area. This would eliminate the vehicle hassle factor for most participants.

    Bob: It’s time for you to find a Scorpion Sidewinder and get your butt into race/ride shape.

  8. I don’t want this to come off that I am against this idea. Think it would be great, but I feel it would have to be set-up as a Winnipeg to St. Paul trail ride. It would have to be run on groomed trails where ever possible and across lakes where needed.

    Things have changed allot since the old I-500 was run.

    Just my 2 cents worth.


  9. I think I can speak for me and my squad from the HOF Challenge ride… we would be in- as well as our support driver.

    The vintage aspect of this sounds like a riot.

  10. John, this ride sounds like a blast! It would be hard to choose between this and the Vintage I-500. The Vintage Challenge is a can’t miss for me, and this would make 3 awsome events in one winter. Maybe I better just leave my truck and 31 foot trailer at Thomas’ SnoSports for the winter and fly up from Texas each time. Hey Tom, you guys any good with them old L/C Kawi’s?


    -Joe Rainville

  11. I am totally in… John I would be happy to help with this effort. Do agree we should consider using the trail system whenever possible. FUN ride, we can all tell the stories at night about back in the day, rather than work on sleds, ha ha.

    Exciting…. I got time to get some JHWK’s, wait maybe some T-shirts made too.

    We need to work on a date though 🙂

  12. I’m in and my wife says “her too !!” Any other women interested in it ? We might have to get Tom Rowland’s semi to haul all the sleds up.

  13. I was one of the riders that rode with Don McLennan, on the 2010 ride Winnipeg to Waconia or Bust. I would like to try it again on Vintage but would still take a late model sled for those days that the trail is not in best of shape. As with the old 500 the first day out in the open prairie can be hit and miss with good trails. If I would suggest one thing and it worked well except the last day to have someone from the area that knows the trails to lead the way signage and trail maps are sometimes a little sketchy especially when you near the larger centers we kind of got lost when we neared Waconia. All in all it was very good ride. We still enjoy talking about it and we were lucky to have great chase truck drivers.

  14. Here is a shot at the starting line of the 1970 I-500 just outside of Winnipeg. -30C the morning we left. [IMG][/IMG]

  15. i’m a Winnipeg local. I’ve always heard bout the history of this famous race and it still comes up over and over. it would be a blast to go out and just run. i’m in if this happens. i’m also avalible for some organizing or info on the canada side of the border if need be.

  16. Hey if most of the riders are from the US, how about riding from Minnesota up to Winnipeg and then we can make the turn around and ride back to the trucks. Hell I’ll start the ride in Wisconsin with Pierre Lacat and meet you guys somewhere in Minnesota.

  17. I am super interested in any ride from Winnipeg to the Twin Cities MN area as I have always wanted to ride sled over some of that hallowed early I-500 route, for sure. I think I would ride a vintage sled (Arctic Cat) but think it would be cool to welcome any snowmobile of any age. Another ride that a few of us have bantered around a bit over the past few years would be to ride from Thunder Bay Ontario down to Duluth MN, then burn over to St Germain WI in time to take part in the Snowmobile Hall of Fame Ride with the Champs event that they hold each year. This latter ride/route would carry us over 2 of the 3 days of the Jeep I-500 route that was ran in the late 80s and early 1990s. Lots of ride possibilities, I like the Winnipeg idea the best. Lets ride, I have a half of a case of Purple Powerlube just waiting to be burned up this winter.

  18. You guys don’t stop to impress me..what an animsaig journeyEvery now and then I have a sneeze on your site.I’m in Acapulco…far away from the winter. In fact, soon I’m going to start to complain about the heat.I stopped at Santa Cruz for a night and met Ali and all your friends. They treated me really wellmay the tail winds be with you..

  19. Sylvie – Dear Mindy,Wow! you are a great photographer. The pictrues of Marc-Andre (my son) and Mathilde are sensational and so unique Thank you for helping them make their dream comes through. Congratulations for your great work.Sylvie xx


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