A huge downhill ‘black diamond’ rhythm section and high banked ‘Talladega”-style first turn highlight an especially technical/fast course in Bessemer, Mich.
By Pat Schutte
BESSEMER, Mich. – Dec. 9, 2011 – This past April ISOC officials looked over the front headwall at Blackjack Ski Resort and saw snowmobile race. At the time there nothing but grass and mud on the hill located in Big Snow Country in the far corner of Michigan’s adventurous Upper Peninsula. But, of course, there would soon be snow – and lots of it.
Using the latest snow grooming technology with assistance from Blackjack’s superior snow making technology this past week, ISOC and Blackjack have turned that headwall into the mecca of snowmobile racing this weekend – rounds three and four of the 2011-’12 AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series – aka the “Blackjack National.”
The unsung heroes of this winter wonderland motocross track for the most NASA-like engineered snow machines are the snow groomer operators, Minnesota’s Jake Haugh and local Ironwood operator Josh Pallin. ISOC/ACSS Director of Operations/Racing Director Carl Schubitzke was quick to give props to his two master track technicians, and gets snocross racing fans around the world caught up on the new Blackjack National track, what went into the design and how the ISOC and Blackjack operations teams combined to bring things together.
ISOC/ACSS: Carl, when the ISOC/ACSS team rolled up to Blackjack resort this past April, what did you envision when you first looked out over the headwall from the deck at Blackjack’s lodge?
Carl Schubitzke: You could see it right away. The runs that open up at the base of the mountain, right in front of the chalet, were going to be an ideal way to incorporate the existing natural terrain in order to include some dramatic elevation change. We’d pretty much mapped things out for Blackjack that day, though we ended up moving the start further away from the chalet. These National tracks are huge, take up a lot of area. And moving the start out opened things up even more.
ISOC/ACSS: Let’s talk about that. The first turn coming off the starting gate is absolutely huge. It, along with two of the uphill/downhill sections, makes the Blackjack track resemble the famous Glen Helen (Calif.) MX track in San Bernardino’s foothill mountain range. A man’s track, as Glen Helen’s been called, Blackjack’s layout should be an intense test for the ACSS’ Pro Open and Pro Light class racers.
Carl Schubitzke: We absolutely love when we have terrain like this that allows us to go up and down the mountain. It’s way better for the racing, the racers like it better and it’s better for the fans. And these are some steep hills. So yeah, it’s definitely similar to Glen Helen the way we laid it out and the challenges that the riders will face this weekend.
ISOC/ACSS: Get us caught up a bit on how the operations side of things for this massive project came together. We’re in the heart of “Big Snow Country,” but there really isn’t that much snow on the ground here. Weather’s been cold, thankfully, but this was still a huge undertaking to design and construct this mega track.
Carl Schubitzke: Yeah, I laid the groundwork here – but that was the easy part. We have two flat out unreal groomer operators in Jake and Josh that made my mission come to life. The credit should all go to them. I handed them the blueprint and they ran with it. Unbelievable job and awe-inspiring when I drove into the parking lot today and looked up at the Blackjack National track. It was still dark and they had the lights on … that big downhill portion, with the rhythm section that practically runs top-to-bottom, man, that’s something you like to see at every track. And both guys have been around the sport for a long time, which makes me real good about things here.
ISOC/ACSS: Looking out over the track, from the Talladega turn at the start, through the first vertical hillclimb, the whooped downhill section into a deep bowl turn, then back up Blackjack Mountain – which area of the track do you think will give the pros the most trouble?
Carl Schubitzke: Definitely the big downhill rhythm section. Ten to 12 moguls at least. And that’ll for sure separate the riders depending on how they can come down the mountain. Triple-triple, double-double – it’s an area of the track fans will have their eyes on all weekend. Jumbotron’s there, along with the bleachers and that’ll be where the best pro snowmobile racers in the world will win or lose this race.
Who: World’s top snowmobile racers
What: Rounds three and four of the 2011-’12 ISOC AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series
When: Dec. 9-11
Times: Practice starts each day at 8 a.m., amateur racing begins at 9:30 a.m., pros at noon.
Where: Blackjack Resort
Tickets: Adults are $15 for Friday and $20 for Saturday or Sunday. Three-day weekend passes are $30. Kids five and under are free. Tickets are available at the gate and soon online at snocross.com
About ISOC Racing
The International Series of Champions (ISOC) is the premier snowmobile race sanctioning organization in North America and sanctions the national AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series, in addition to affiliating with nine regional circuits. Visit snocross.com for more information, fan and racer memberships, schedule details and more.