Ice Harvest 440 snowmobile races bring high-speed thrills to Detroit Lakes
The Randy Olson Ice Harvest 440 snowmobile races, a part of Polar Fest 2023, drew more than 100 riders from around the region to Detroit Lakes on Feb. 25.
DETROIT LAKES — With speeds approaching 90 mph, snowmobile racers glided across the icy surface of Detroit Lake on Saturday during the Randy Olson Ice Harvest 440.
The Feb. 25 event was a part of the last weekend of Polar Fest 2023 and drew 112 racers from across the region to compete in more than 30 different racing classes.
"That's very good and we have about 400 entries," said Mike Meagher, race director for the event. He added many of the drivers will race multiple sleds across a handful of qualifying classes and spend the entire day out on the ice.
"Once it's in your blood, you can't get rid of it," said Meagher. "And, if you're out here, it's exhilarating just to watch, but, if you are on those sleds going into those corners at 85 mph, there's no roll cages, or nothing like a car. You are just hanging out on the left and going around the corner."
Meagher is a founding member of Central Minnesota Pond Racing , a snowmobile racing organization that began in 2013 and hosts events throughout the winter across the state.
The Randy Olson Ice Harvest 440 was named in commemoration of a snowmobile racer who passed away in 2022 on his way to one of the group's racing events, he said. Before the race officially began, all of the riders paraded around the track to honor their racing colleague, Randy Olson, No. 33.
Meagher seemed a little concerned about the snow dusting that accumulated on the ice's surface Saturday morning, as racing sleds are lowered and set up for traction to run on smooth, sheer ice, not snow.
"As the sun gets up, it's gonna get better," he said. The track, a 4/10-mile oval with a 110-foot wide racing surface, was located just off the main access at the Holiday Inn Lakefront.
Meagher estimated some of the racers could be going close to 90 mph on the track's longer backstretches.
One racer, Justin Marthaler, of Alexandria, Minn., said he was impressed with the track and thought you could really build up a lot of speed heading into the corners.
"Mike (Meagher) is usually pretty good about building us the same track every time," said Marthaler. "Every once in a while the corners may be a little tighter."
Marthaler said, during his first heat race, he was running in third or fourth position and a crash took out the top two drivers, so he was able to finish in second for the heat.
When asked what drew him to racing snowmobiles on ice, he said, "It's just a rush, more than anything, and it's just something to do in the winter."
He started riding snowmobiles with his friends and the pivot into racing seemed natural, Marthaler said. He's now been racing snowmobiles in various events for nearly 20 years.
"The adrenaline takes over," he said. "It doesn't feel as fast as it looks."
Be sure to check out the Central Minnesota Pond Racing's Facebook page for a complete list of results from the Randy Olson Ice Harvest 440.