Curtis repeats World Hillclimbing Triple Crown

#1 Keith Curtis, world champion hillclimber
M.P. Regan
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
King of the Hill

Dillon’s Keith Curtis has surpassed legendary status in the world of snowmobile hillclimbing. For the sixth time, he became King of the Hill at the World Championships. Curtis and his family are shown below RLT photos

Curtis family

It’s good to be king.

But you gotta be very good to become king in any category at the annual World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

And you’ve gotta be great to get crowned King of Kings in any given year at the world championships as the winner of the event-ending race between the top finishers in the top three race categories.

And likely the greatest ever if you win the Triple Crown at that event, meaning in the same year you got crowned in all three categories as Modified Stock King, Stock King and Improved Stock King.

And greater still if you pulled off that previously unprecedented feat again the next year that you got the chance to.

Dillon’s Keith Curtis accomplished all that in recent years, with the re-crowning glory coming last March when he earned an unprecedented repeat of his unprecedented three-peat in Jackson Hole by taking the 2021 world championship titles for Stock King, Improved Stock King and Modified King—something no one had ever pulled off even once before Curtis took the Triple Crown in 2019 at the famous and infamously difficult annual World Championship Hill Climb in Jackson Hole.

“Jackson is our toughest, most challenging course on the circuit. It’s our pinnacle race,” said Curtis, who did not get the chance to pull of the Triple Crown repeat until this year, due to the 2020 event getting canceled over pandemic concerns.

“It’s longer than most of our races on the circuit, and it’s much steeper than most of the races on the circuit. So, those two factors combined make it an awesome event,” said Curtis of the race up the 7808-foot Snow King Mountain.

“Just getting to go climb that mountain is special. It is extremely difficult,” said Sam Peterson, the Big Hole Valleybased racer who said the world championship course proved even more treacherous than typical in 2021.

“The course was extremely challenging this year. There were some really technical sections that allowed the best riders to shine.”

Curtis shone the brightest and the best, again, taking the Modified King final that Sunday in Jackson Hole with a time of 1:21.17, more than two and a half seconds ahead of second place finisher Justin Thomas (1:23.69).

Curtis got coronated Stock King with a finals time of 1:23.38—more than three seconds ahead of second-place Luke Rainey.

And he won the Improved Stock King title by an even wider margin, besting silver medalist Rainey by better than four seconds, 1:25.69 to 1:29.73.

Though even the world’s top snowmobiler found the course difficult this year.

“The conditions were more technical than I’ve ever seen. From the bottom it looked like there was a lot of snow, like there typically is. It seemed like the moguls were pretty decent sized. But between the moguls there wasn’t much snow. There was maybe six inches to a foot,” recalled Curtis of a course that deteriorated as Sunday went on, with hundreds of runs up the mountain.

“Sunday, that’s when the King runs happen at end of day, the course is looking pretty dirty and it’s pretty bony,” said Curtis, who still managed to employ his unique combination of grace and power to successfully navigate the trek.

“So, the conditions on the race course included a lot of rocks, a lot of ice, a lot of dirt, and there were stumps. And it was pretty slippery,” said Curtis, who has now gained a half-dozen King of Kings titles at the world championships in Jackson Hole.

“They had the course set up really technical. There were a lot of really difficult corners, ones you had to loop around, and the whole base of the corner was worn off down to ice and dirt, so that made it pretty tricky. You had to carry momentum around an icy corner on a really steep slope,” said Curtis, who saw such treacherous conditions lead to a lot of spills by his fellow competitors take spills during the four-day Jackson Hole event.

“There was some carnage up there, for sure.”

Peterson took a particularly nasty fall, but still recovered to race on.

“Unfortunately, I had really bad crash. It knocked the wind out of me, probably cost me 15 seconds,” recalled Peterson, who prior to the crash won the Improved 700 Stock final, took second in the 600 Improved final, and placed among the top five in the Improved Stock King final.

“I just got back on the sled and headed back up the hill instinctively,” said Peterson, who still managed to finish in the top five in the 1000 Stock King final in which he took the nasty, time-consuming spill.

“It’s the world championships,” said Peterson, winner of four races at the world championships during his young racing career.

“You don’t have time to hesitate,” added Peterson, who works with his family on a ranch in the Big Hole Valley in between races during snowmobiling season.

“You just give it everything you have.”

Jackson’s Toby Shepherd earned a second place in the Modified 700 final and a top ten finish in the 600 Modified final in Jackson Hole in March of 2021.

Dillon’s Tiffany McWilliams grabbed a second place in the Women’s Improved Stock Final at Jackson Hole, as well as a sixthplace finish in the Women’s Stock Final.