The temperature never broke zero Saturday but it didn’t faze snowmobilers gathered for United States X-Country Snowmobile Racing’s Grafton 100 race.
The event drew more than 150 racers across a host of classes, including professional and semi-professional riders.
Some spectators beat the cold by watching the race in running vehicles, but USXC owner Brian Nelson said being cold wasn’t a huge concern for riders.
“The racers themselves just have to wear a little bit more on their face,” he said. “Face protection is the main thing. They’ll put higher windshields on to keep the wind off of them, but as far as their bodies go, they don’t wear much because they’re burning up so much energy when they’re riding.”
Racer Zach Herfindahl can attest to that fact. The 19-year-old professional rider from Eagle River, Wis., said handling a 400-pound snowmobile–referred to as a sled by those familiar with the sport–over miles of rough terrain can be a workout.
“There’s a lot more to it than sitting on a sled,” he said. “If you go out there and you’ve never done a course like this before, you’re probably not going to be able to walk when you’re done.”
As a pro, Herfindahl needed to complete four laps around the Grafton race’s 23.5-mile course, which snaked through ditches, fields and on frozen water. Other race classes completed fewer laps around the course.
Before his race, Herfindahl and other members of the Christian Brothers Racing team, based in Fertile, Minn., holed up in a heated trailer with a mechanic shop built into it. There, a group of young fans gathered to meet Herfindahl, who has been racing for eight years and professionally since 2013.
The friendship and time Herfindahl spends with his fellow team members is one of his favorite parts of the sport, along with the thrill of the ride itself.
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” he said.
Herfindahl’s race would be the fifth and last of the day in Grafton. The Grafton 100 is the third in the series of eight events USXC has organized this racing season in North Dakota and Minnesota.
A majority of racers in the events are between the ages of 16 and 30, though there are classes for riders over 40 and 50 years of age, Nelson said.
“We pretty much have a class for everybody,” he added.
The next USXC race is the Seven Clans Thief River Falls 300 scheduled for Jan. 23 and 24.