Ski season may be winding down, but some 10,000 people are expected to come together at the base of Snow King Mountain this weekend.

Some of the world’s best on sleds will descend on Jackson Hole for the 43rd World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb, which revs up on Thursday.

The event will begin with amateur events and work its way up to professional classes on Sunday, when the King of Kings will be crowned, closing out the four-day event.

“It’s not the same crowd every year; there’s always new people coming in,” said Jeff Toolson, president of the Jackson Hole Snow Devils, which puts on the event.

“We have some folks that have been watching for 10 to 15 years with us, and I don’t really know if we can grow much more.

Ten thousand people at the base of Snow King gets crowded.”

Add in the 300 or so competitors and their trailers hauling snowmobiles and gear and it might be difficult to find a spot to park throughout the weekend.

“Everyone in town should come out and watch,” Toolson said. “We’ll pray for good weather. It should be a fun weekend.”

Though the semipros and amateurs will dominate the hill Thursday, professional qualifying rounds begin Friday.

Saturday will be the best day to be a spectator, Toolson said, as every sled on the mountain will be a sled improved specifically for races like the Hill Climb. In snowmobile lingo, those vehicles are called “modifieds,” and make up their own event class. Riders of other types of vehicles — stock and improved — will have their own classes as well.

Sunday will brings the event to a close, with finals for elite riders in all three classifications. The King of Kings race, which is open to athletes in all classes, will crown the top snowmobiler of the weekend. Awards will be presented in each sub-classification as well.

A year ago, Luke Rainey, sitting atop an improved stock sled, and Justin Thomas, riding a mod stock snowmobile, duked it out for the crown. Thomas edged out the victory on his final run.

Toolson said this year’s race for the King of Kings title could be different. If the courses get torn up course by the time the event starts, the amount of snow at the top of Snow King could make for a less speed-oriented race, meaning a stock sled could take the title.

“As the snow sits on Snow King, and as snowmobiles run through it, it’s going to make 4- to 5-foot-deep trenches,” Toolson said. “They have to run through a gated course and stay between the gates. Sometimes when you get trenches you’ve just got to run.”

Winners in the pro division can see hefty payouts. Rainey cleared $10,000 last year for his wins in stock and improved.

“It’s 100 percent payback,” Toolson said. “If you win 900 mod this year, you could see a check just from that win for $7,000 to $8,000,” Toolson said.

Outside the funds won by snowmobilers, proceeds from the event largely go to charity. Since 2001, Toolson said, $1 million has been donated to charities and scholarships.

Last year’s proceeds went to the Jackson Hole Shrine Club to benefit the Shriners Hospitals for Children–Salt Lake City.

“I think it’s important for people to know that and know what their money is going towards,” Toolson said. 

Contact Chance Q. Cook at 732-7065,

Sports Editor Chance Cook has lived in rural Pennsylvania, upstate New York and Butte, Montana. He is no stranger to spending time in the woods chasing animals. If you see him out, challenge him to a game of pool. Send tips and questions.

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