Anyone near Yellowknife Bay on Saturday could hear music, engines revving and roaring, and cheers echoing off the hill from Yellowknife’s inaugural Race on the Great Lake.
Riders of all ages competed in the afternoon event, put together in a little over a week. “We realized no one was holding an event like this in Yellowknife,” said Hayley Frost, one of the organizers.
“I know there used to be drag racing many years ago, but this is the first time with this team putting it together. My kid is really into snowmobiles, so that was a big incentive.”
Twelve-year-old Hayden Frost, Hayley’s son, said that while he only had a short time to prepare, he already has years of experience.
“I’ve been on a snowmobile since I was two,” he said.
“By myself,” he said. (Obviously.)
Frost, set to race against youths several years older, said he was more than up to the challenge.
“I’m feeling confident,” he said with a smile. “I hope I win a couple races. I’m racing in a couple different classes.”
At the event, donations to the NWT SPCA were accepted in exchange for coffee, hot chocolate, burgers and hot dogs. Winners were set to receive cash prizes from a pool of more than $6,000.
Andre Dziewa and Andy Butte put on a similar event in March in Hay River. They came out to support the Yellowknife event and, of course, to compete.
“I think we’re all here for that first place,” said Dziewa. “Unfortunately, that can only be one, but every racer here is hoping to win.”
Butte says the Hay River event helped inspire Saturday’s race on the Dettah ice road, which had formally closed for the season a day earlier.
“When we put the race on in Hay River, before the Yellowknife crew left, they said, ‘We might put together a race.’ And we kind-of brushed it off, you know? Sure enough, here we are,” he said.
“It’s amazing, the level of support from sponsors and volunteers… I’m blown away.”
“They did a great job putting this event together,” Dziewa said. “This is fantastic, a fantastic turnout. I’m very surprised. But I guess I shouldn’t be. It is Yellowknife at the end of the day, right?”
For many northerners, snowmobiling is more than a simple means of getting around.
“It’s in your blood,” said Dziewa. “It never leaves. It’s always there. I’m in my sixties and I’m still enjoying it.”
Frost says organizers are already thinking about next year.
“We want to hold a two-day event next year,” she said.
“Everyone has been messaging us, coming up to us, to say how much they enjoyed it. I think the level of support we received showed how much people wanted something like this.
“Thanks to our sponsors and volunteers, it turned out bigger and better than we could have hoped for.”