Snowmobiling – Extreme endurance racing

Snowmobiling always seemed to me like something you would try to do on the next ski trip; because on this one you simply run out of days. You couldn’t quite justify taking an afternoon out, from your long awaited winter holiday, spending the time on a couple of hours snowmobiling, however much fun it might be.

So next time why not go snowmobiling instead of skiing, fix a different mindset right from the off, but you will have do it in a little more adventurous way than the resort excursions you may have considered before.

Well you might as well make it epic.

IRON DOG

There are two classes for competitors, and if you haven’t heard of the Iron Dog race you are definitely in the Trail Class.

Actually you are to late for entry to the Iron Dog this year deadline for applications is 31st October and Cain’s Quest is not operating again until 2014. But perhaps that’s not such a bad thing as you might just need a little preparation!

Its an epic trail through the interior of Alaska. The Pro course is over 2,000 miles, from Big Lake to Fairbanks via Nome, making it the world’s longest snowmobile race. It doesn’t even matter if you have some experience riding snowmobiles, you can forget the pro class, you need a good measure of survival skills. Perhaps ex SAS, or US Rangers might apply: it’s arguably the world’s toughest snowmobile race.

Still with us? 

Ok so what could you expect. Outside of the start area nothing is groomed; any trails are used by local people and are not maintained, in fact there are places on the course with no a trail at all. The course gets rerouted to avoid open water, if the weather has been warm. Considering the extreme conditions, hostile terrain, and often flat out race speeds, amazingly no-one has yet died, during the race but injuries are common place; sprains, broken ribs, frostbite and dehydration are the norm.

According to National Geographic The temperature allowing for wind chill can be sub -100 degrees.

The FAQ on Iron Dog’s website says: “Racers have reported that storms hit you like a wall without warning, giving you no chance to find shelter and completely removing any visibility. It has been reported that 8 men have failed to be able to set up one two man tent in such storms, this why bivy sacks are so often used. Sleds can be so packed with snow and ice by strong winds during the night that it will fill every cavity under the hood. When the hood is opened in the morning the snow will have taken on the shape of the underside of the hood. The ice has to be chipped out of the engine compartment to be able to steer or even to get air to the engine. Even after that one racer reported it taking 27 pulls to start a fuel injected Arctic Cat. No disrespect to AC. This is just par for the course under these conditions.”

Well you still reading so you must be crazy enough to possibly be inspired by the idea of taking part or at least have some admiration, or respect for men and woman that can take on something like this.

Lets see some more action!


Ok – so Iron Dog is a team event, for the pro’s, of two persons and two snowmobiles , Trail Class teams can optionally have additional men and machine members.

As you have probably guessed the Trail Class is for the novice, it’s a non-competitive opportunity to follow the first half of the course, 1100 miles to Nome. This is the path of the Northern Route of the Historic Iditarod Trail and the same ground that the pro’s will race over. To take part you need to have passed a regular physical examination by a medical practitioner. You will need to find $2,230 for each racer plus fund the costs of a performance-level snowmobile which can be over $12,000 retail.

Iron Dog® provides fuel, oil, and Isopropyl and the next event is on February 15th, 2013 at 10:00 am!
Although as I mentioned you have luckily missed the deadline!

For more information about the Iron Dog, the mechanical difficulties faced by the machines, the experiences of the competitors, advice for novices, race-rules, winners stats, or its history see the Iron Dog website.

So the Iron Dog might be a bit tough for you – so what about Cain”s Quest?

Cain’s Quest

Ok so what about Cain’s Quest . Another snowmobile endurance race that’s been described as the ultimate in extreme racing. This one in Labrador, Canada.


The course takes 6 days to complete and is over 2500 km, and is the longest race in Canada. The teams pull a sleigh grand online casino with additional fuel needed for long stages where there are no fuel stops. With hills, rivers to cross, deep powder to negotiate and actual temperatures often of as low as -45 degrees, this is certainly a tough race.

Cains Quest Race on the lake

In the middle of nowhere, out on a lake, with temperature”s as low -50 degrees

But maybe now!

But maybe now! – guess I spoke to soon.

The next race for Cain’s Quest will be scheduled for 2014, it”s missing 2013 because it has become the victim of its own success, and it has now reached a point where committee members feel it necessary to bring Cain’s Quest to a standard of excellence and a level of professionalism that is required in order to make the most of this fantastic event. With limited resources this takes time and hence the break.

So what do you need to bring to the party if you want to take part. Unfortunately, being a good snowmobiler is not enough. Your sleigh will be heavily laden; even with chainsaws, and the environment demands that you have the skills of a woodsman. It’s a load when climbing a hill, so you need to be both fit and resilient. It’s tough on the snowmobile too, pushing the design to its limits, so you also need significant mechanical skills.

Luck would be rather useful – with open water, night driving and attempting to run untested corridors with only a map and GPS you’ll need it. The experience to date shows that Cain’s Quest will takes it first victims in the early stages. Last time out, five teams were kaput before check point three. Twenty three teams continue. Further on another team would call in an emergency helicopter after a sled was rolled into the river, the driver soaking wet, freezing cold the team is unable to continue in the freezing temperatures. Placing hidden rocks and other obstacles under the snow,  or sabotaging competitors machines with physical breakdowns, Cain’s Quest doesn’t think it s a race, it thinks it’s a Hunter Spirit of the Micmac Indians. Finishing is a result!

If you think you have what it takes, visit www.cainsquest.com for more information.

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