A new rush

Regional snowmobile racing growing in popularity

Phil Vallem's winter weekends are busy.

The director of Mountain States Snowmobile Racing organizes competitions for snowmobile racers in the Rocky Mountain region.

Races for MSSR are on the weekends throughout the winter.

"I'm usually gone from Thursday to Monday," said Vallem, a Craig native. "It's busy, but fun."

Vallem and about 12 other MSSR officials have nine races on the schedule for the winter.

Vallem said there have been nearly 100 racers at each of the first three events of the season.

"We have more of the younger riders this year," he said. "That is a good sign for the growth of the sport."

The MSSR is a feeder association to the national circuit. There have been racers from MSSR and past similar leagues who have gone on to compete in the national circuit and in events such as the Winter X Games.

This year, MSSR grew by adding drag racing. For anyone new to the sport, the racers speed down a 550-foot straightaway. The first racer to the finish is the winner. Any legal sled for snocross can compete in the drag races. Six of the events this winter include drag racing.

If Craig residents want to watch an MSSR event, they'll have to drive.

Because of snow conditions, MSSR races won't be in Craig.

"The snow has been too inconsistent in the past to schedule for Craig," Vallem said.

Although there are no races in Craig, locals compete in the league.

Michael, A.J. and Michelle Stoffle make the races a family affair. Teressa, their mother, al----so travels to the races to offer her support.

After three races, A.J. leads the Junior 7-10 division and is fifth in the Junior 10-13 class. His sister, Michelle, is third in the point standings for the Junior 10-13 class.

Their dad, Michael, is third in the Masters 40-plus class.

Austin Corson, a Moffat County High School freshman, is second in the sport stock and sport performance classes.

Bobby Hankins, a former Winter X Games racer from Craig, finished fifth in the only pro stock race of the season.

Today, Vallem travels to Glenwood Springs to set up for the series' fourth event of the winter. He said the event in Glenwood or the races in Walden on Feb. 18 and 19 would be the nearest to Craig this winter.

"Almost anybody who does some riding could hop into a race," Vallem said. "We have a lot more of the 120s (the smallest machines) this year, and we hope that the MSSR continues to grow."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.