UP AND OVER
niversal laws of gravity will not be broken at Ski Anthony Lakes Saturday.
Still, a few laws may be bent in Anthony Lakes' thin air.
Gravity will be tested by the more than 100 snowmobilers participating in the annual hill climb at Anthony Lakes.
Snowmobilers, driving alone, will speed through an obstacle course and then climb up the Rock Garden run to the top of the ski area.
A highlight for spectators comes at the end of each run. Many snowmobilers become airborne at the top of Rock Garden because of their momentum. Some annually delight spectators by reaching heights of 15 to 20 feet. The jumps don't win racers points but they do win cheers from spectators.
"You want to give the crowd something,'' said Union's Mike Pedro, who is one of the top riders at the hill climb each year.
Riders must take their foot off the accelerator the moment before their jump, Pedro said. This allows one to level out in the air and land smoothly. Riders who keep the accelerator on in the air will land on the tail end of their snowmobile and possibly damage it, Pedro said. Landing on the tail end also makes one more susceptible to injury.
The Anthony Lakes event draws racers from throughout the Northwest. The hill climb might draw more racers this year because hill climbs in other parts of the West have been canceled due to lack of snow. Anthony Lakes has more than adequate snow. It has plenty of fresh snow topping a solid base.
"Snow conditions are excellent,'' Pedro said.
Conditions for racers are fastest at the start of the competition..
"Riding is best in the first hour. After that humps form and the course gets rough,'' Pedro said.
Riders sometimes top 100 miles per hour, Pedro said.
Racers should have a snowmobile with at least a 100 horsepower engine. Anything less and it becomes hard to make it up the mountain, according to Dustin James, owner of Outlaw Motor Sports in Enterprise. James is among those who will be competing in this year's Ski Anthony Lakes Hill Climb.
The hill run is steep but not so difficult that one needs a cutting edge snowmobile to succeed.
"You don't have to have the fastest or best snowmobile to do well,'' Pedro said.
Anthony Lakes' hill course is not for novices.
"It is a mean track.' I would not recommend this for beginners. This is not for rookies,'' said La Grande snowmobiler Jason Harmon.
Harmon is the owner of Harmon Racing Productions, which has put on the hill climb the past three years. He said that the worst thing about the course is that it is almost "straight up and down'' at the top.
The course, between a quarter and a half-mile long, begins near the Ski Anthony Lakes Lodge. Riders will go through an obstacle course that includes a small jump. Next, riders will head up Rock Garden Trail to the top of the ski area, an elevation of 8,000 feet.
Each participant will get two runs up the hill. The participant's best time will count toward his or her score.
The hill climb is the final event of this year's snowmobile racing series at Anthony Lakes. The points riders earn Saturday will go toward their season score. The registration fee is $40.
The event, free for spectators, begins following a mandatory 11 a.m. meeting at the Ski Anthony Lakes lodge.
A King of the Hill race will be conducted following Saturday's hill climb. Participants will have one chance to make the climb up Rock Garden Trail. The King of the Hill contest will not involve the obstacle course but will be a pure hill climb.
The King of the Hill entry fee is $20 and there will be a purse of at least $100 to the first-place rider.
Many riders making hill climbs Saturday come each year. These riders include James, who never tires of the adrenaline that pulses through him while making a run up the hill.
"The whole point is the rush, the speed and the power and putting it all together.''
Hill climb caps series
Saturday's hill climb is the final event of this year's Ski Anthony Lakes Snowmobile Series.
The series' sponsors include Ski Anthony Lakes, Blue Mountain Polaris, NAPA, Bud Jackson's, Don's Jewelry, Hodgen Distributing, Don and Larry's, Hudson's Transmissions, the Trophy Case, A/C Power Sports, Copies Plus, Denny's and Outlaw Motor Sports.