Big Hole teen racks up wins in semipro snowmobiling

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Big Hole teen racks up wins in semipro snowmobile hillclimbing. RLT Photography

Rough sledding conditions wiped out most of this winter’s early-season Rocky Mountain States HillClimb Association (RMSHA) itinerary. Though that didn’t prevent some elite area snowmobilers from excelling at recent events.

The Big Hole Valley’s Sam Peterson continued his climb up the semipro ranks in races over the past month while Dillon’s Keith Curtis prolonged his run of excellence as one of the world’s leading pro competitors.

Both thrived at the RMSHA event closest to home and by ideal conditions for racing this season—the March 10–11 Lost Trail Powder Mountain Hillclimb, which takes place west of Wisdom, a couple hundred yards from the junction of US Hwy 93 and Montana State Highway 43 near the Idaho-Montana border.

“The conditions at Lost Trail were awesome, the best we’d had of the races for our circuit this year,” said Peterson, who won the semipro stock event and placed second in semipro improved stock in a packed field at Lost Trail, where Curtis ruled the pro ranks in 600 stock, 900 stock, 900 modified and 1000 stock.

Dillon was also well-represented by Ty McKay, who notched top ten finishes in semipro stock, modified and improved, and by Tiffany Mc-Williams, a top 20 competitor in juniors and amateur stock.

“There was a ton of snow and the course was pretty technical,” added Peterson of the Lost Trail event, while talking by phone Sunday on his way back from last weekend’s RMSHA event in Pinedale, WY, where he earned the semipro king title, as he did at the Feb. 16–18 RMSHA event in Afton, WY.

The 19-year-old’s growing list of accomplishments also includes winning in semi-pro improved and earning the semipro king crown at the March 22–25 World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb in Jackson Hole, WY.

Peterson said the conditions for the Jackson Hole race were great, but the course daunting.

“That hill is definitely tougher,” commented Peterson of Snow King Mountain, where he endured a nasty spill in icy conditions last year that ended with his sled landing on top of him.

“But the conditions at Jackson Hole for the finals this year were pretty perfect. I couldn’t have asked for better for my first time going over the top of that mountain.”

The defending King of Kings of the World Championships, Curtis gained top finishes this year in the pro 600 stock finals and 900 pro stock finals in Jackson Hole, where Justin Thomas, of Idaho Falls, took the 2018 king of kings crown.

Just 19 years old, Peterson said he hopes to compete in the professional ranks next year after closing out the 2018 RMSHA season in a few weeks.

“I definitely look up to those guys and it will be tough making the move up to pros in just my third year of racing, but you gotta try sometime,” said Peterson, a member of the Shepherd Racing team started by his fellow Jackson native Toby Shepherd, who was kept off the circuit this year by a knee injury.

“I have learned from the best, racing around Toby. He knows his stuff,” said Peterson, who was urged into the competitive ranks by the multi-time RMSHA event winner and son of David Shepherd, a late, great, four-time world champion from Jackson.

‘A couple years ago Toby talked me into going to a race, I was probably 15 or 16. He let me ride one of his sleds, and it turned out I did alright and then I hit the circuit. And here I am now in my second year of racing,” said Peterson, who competes in his spare time while studying to become a diesel mechanic.

“It’s a lot of extra work on top of getting my schoolwork done, but my family is really helpful. They sacrifice a lot to be there at the races, taking time away from the ranch and all,” said the son of Heidi and M.D. Peterson.

“But I definitely hope to keep doing this.”