Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Alcan 200 braces for dry surface

 


Snowmachine racers were tuning up sleds and hoping for a bit more snow in Canada before Saturday’s 48th Alcan 200 road race.

Long stretches of bare asphalt mean the road could take a steep toll on machines this weekend, said racer George Campbell. “There were 40 miles of bare asphalt earlier in the week before this last storm. We’re hoping there’s more snow.”

Most snowmachines depend on snow as a cooling agent. Without it, the tracks, studs, carbides and wheels of snowmachines tend to burn up and break down. “You can’t steer or get traction on asphalt. You have to slow down,” added Chris Brooks, the race’s defending champion and a two-time winner. “It’s hard on the machines and it slows everybody down.”

Brooks this week was at his shop at 26 Mile, double-checking his drive system and making sure his sled had enough cooling capacity. Many Alcan 200 riders add radiators to their machines, he said. “You’ll see some pretty creative ideas for mounting radiators on sleds. It gets interesting looking. It’s what you can fit on a sled.”

Brooks said he’s encouraged by continuing local support for the race, mentioning that he expects three or four rookie riders will be in the mix this year.

Racers will speed up the Haines Highway from 42 Mile just past the Canadian Border to Dezadeash Lodge site and back, covering about 150 miles at an average speed of up to 121 miles per hour. Last year’s fastest time clocked in at about 40 minutes one-way.

“It’s really nice that we have something this outstanding because there’s no other road race like this in North America,” said Chilkat Snowburners President Kathi Lapp. “So it’s really precious that we keep it going every year. If we get 50 years, that’s going to be sensational.”

Lynn Campbell of Haines, the women’s champion from last year, is hoping to compete, said her husband George. On Tuesday, Campbell was stuck in a weather hold at the Portland airport. “Her sled’s on the road and it’s running good. It will be ready for her. We’re hoping she gets here,” George said.

Campbell himself will again race on a 1973 Skidoo, competing for an award that goes to the oldest sled to finish the race. He said he put a new engine in it this year. “We’ve gone through a couple sets of pistons.” A big dump of snow would create the best racing conditions for his small sled, Campbell said. “We go on top. The big sleds get bogged down.”

Zack Ferrin has been involved in the race for seven years both planning and competing, and said there is no other competition like it. Snowmachiners work together with the common goal of finishing the track. “The comradery blows me away,” Ferrin said.

“They work together to build these sleds and then they race each other,” said Sherri Maust, partner of seven-year competitor and Snowburner Jack Smith Jr. “It’s about the whole community feel of it.”

There were 24 competitors in last year’s race, 12 of whom were Haines residents, the highest turnout of locals in the race in a decade. Lapp said there should be at least 12 Haines racers competing again this year.

Most racers register at the Calcutta Auction at the Fogcutter Bar at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20. The entry fee is $325, but the Uglys of Haines will donate $100 to the fees of Haines competitors.

New this year is a Whitehorse-based food cart that will set up shop at Dezadeash to provide pulled pork sandwiches and drinks.

Line-up starts Saturday, Jan. 21 at at 9 a.m. and the race begins at 10 a.m. An awards banquet will follow at 7 p.m. at the American Legion Hall.

The Mosquito Lake race will be open to the public on Sunday, Jan. 22. Registration starts at 11 a.m. and races begin at noon. Prize money will be awarded to class winners. “We’re trying to give people from out-of-town something more than the Alcan (to ride in),” Brooks said.

Lapp said she’s looking forward to another great race Saturday. “It’s kind of nice to have a little excitement around town in the middle of winter.”

 
 

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