After hosting snocross races at Snow King the past two winters, authorities will take the competition elsewhere this year.
John Daniels, owner of International Series of Champions — the sanctioning body for the AMSOIL Championship Snocross series — said the decision was based on the high cost of traveling to Teton County and the resulting low participation. Snocross, the snowmobiler’s version of motocross, is far more popular in the East and Midwest.
Most of the sport’s fans, and therefore most of its events, are in those regions. But with the decades-old tradition of the Hill Climb in Jackson, Daniels expected more enthusiasm for a variant sled sport.
“We thought it would be a home run,” he said, adding that he liked the location and enjoyed working with Snow King. “But we did not draw great attendance the first two years.”
The race garnered about 2,500 spectators in both 2017 and 2018, according to Snow King General Manager Ryan Stanley. That’s compared to upward of 20,000 at some venues in the sport’s homeland.
“We were hoping to see it grow a lot more and a lot quicker,” Stanley said.
From the perspective of the snocross racers, Jackson is an outlier in the generally East-Midwest circuit. And with the steep price for lodging, athletes are more likely to sit it out, Daniels said. This year saw 171, lower than the usual turnout.
Fewer racers means fewer fans, Daniels said. And much of the money for snocross comes from spectator-hungry sponsors.
Some have criticized Snow King and ISOC officials for not doing more to advertise the event locally.
Stanley said they “assume that most people in town know about it,” so they target audiences throughout larger regions of Wyoming, Idaho and Utah. He said 36% of the attendees were local, 25% were nonlocal Wyomingites and 39% were from out of state.
Snocross received $80,000 in taxpayer money from the Travel and Tourism Board in 2017, and $60,000 in 2018, to be used for marketing. Kate Sollitt, executive director of the board, said the race was a boost to the economy during a period of low visitation.
“I do think that as an event in early December it helped fulfill part of the mission of the Travel and Tourism Board, which is to promote visitors during the shoulder season,” she said.
In both years, Stanley estimated attendees filled about 700 hotel rooms and spent about $400,000, which amounts to $24,000 in sales tax.
The event irked some neighbors who complained about the noise. But most elected officials agreed it was a benefit to the community overall, and last year approved the second iteration by a 4-1 vote, with Councilor Jim Stanford opposed.
Stanley said Snow King “left the door open” for snocross to return in the future.
“We would love for them to come back,” he said. “If someday we can figure out how to bring them back, then we would. ... I think it was a great experience bringing it to Jackson, and it’s too bad we couldn’t continue it and see where it went to.”