Short and sweet: Area pro snowmobilers dominant again in shortened season

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
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To the top Dillon’s Keith Curtis competes at a snowmobiling event of the Rocky Mountain States Hillclimb Association, whose slate he dominated again this shortened season, winning 13 of the 15 classes he competed in. Photo courtesy of Keith Curtis

The 2020 pro snowmobiling season lost most of its schedule and its biggest annual event to the coronavirus pandemic when the Rocky Mountain States Hillclimb Association (RMSHA) last month cancelled the rest of its season after just three events.

But that didn’t prevent some area competitors from piling up achievements and reasserting Dillon and Beaverhead County as producers of some of the world’s finest snowmobilers— and home to the man who rode to the peak of the sport and stayed perched there for much of the past decade.

“It was a major bummer,” said Dillon’s Keith Curtis of the rest of the pro snowmobiling season getting dumped by RMSHA.

“It would have been awesome to go to Jackson Hole, at least,” added Curtis of the deletion of the event considered the sport’s world championships—the annual Jackson Hole Hillclimb that was scheduled March 19–22 at the aptly named Snow King Mountain before being called off.

“Jackson Hole is our pinnacle race and the one we look forward to and dedicate our training to. Everyone wants to succeed there,” said Curtis, who last year succeeded at Jackson Hole beyond all other competitors, winning the Triple Crown as Stock King, Improved King and Modified King against the best the sport has to offer.

“I was ready to go back to defend my titles, ready in my body and mind and sleds to rock n roll again,” added Curtis, who found out just a week and a half out from the world championships that all the training and equipment development he and others put into preparing for the event would have been in vain.

“It was a frustrating season,” said Sam Peterson, a 21-year-old Big Hole Valley resident of the short-circuiting of his second season on the pro circuit.

“A lot of work goes into building these race sleds, and then testing and tuning them. And all of a sudden the season was cancelled out,” said Peterson of RMSHA’s decision to call off the remainder of the 2020 campaign after holding events at Afton, Bear Lake and Lost Trail.

“The conditions at Jackson Hole are awesome this year. There’s a ton of snow. It would have been really fun,” said Peterson, the world titlist last year at Jackson Hole in two classes—600 Improved Stock and 700 Improved Stock.

“A lot of people got put out of a way of living because of this,” stated Peterson, who is back at home working on the ranch in the Big Hole, where he can ride the snowmobiles he works on right from his front door.

Peterson did finish tops for the 2020 season in 600 Stock and 700 Improved Stock, while Dillon’s Tiffany McWilliams placed second in Women’s Stock for the season after a gold medal finish at Lost Trail in 600 Women’s Stock.

Curtis proved his usual dominating self at the top of the RM-SHA slate in 2020, finishing best in classes 900 Stock, 1000 Stock, 900 Improved and 900 Modified.

“The season went pretty well,” understated Curtis of his performance in the truncated RMSHA mini-tour that travelled to just three locations—Afton in Wyoming, Utah’s Bear Lake and Lost Trail in nearby Sula.

The BCHS grad won 13 of the 15 classes he entered at those three events, while earning the Triple Crown at Afton and Bear Lake, and gaining the Stock King title at Lost Trail.

“I’m happy with that,” said Curtis, who credits much of his success to wife Katie, parents Fred and Maggie Curtis, his sponsors and supporters, and to Butte’s Riley Sprunger, who helps him build his snowmobiles and train for the race season.

“It takes a lot of people and a big effort to make this all happen,” said Curtis, whose race team is known as KC 711.

A three-time RMSHA Racer of the Year winner (so far), Curtis refuses to rest easy on his racing glories, preferring to seek more achievement in new ventures.

The BCHS grad is investing his earnings and energies, developing an RV park on 70 acres he bought in Pipestone, selling snowmobiles, helping wife Katie develop a property in Dillon for a salon, and running Pioneer Car Wash, the local business he recently bought.

“I always keep my vehicles super clean all the time, so it’s been a perfect fit,” said Curtis of the car wash he performed a major renovation upon that included the installation—at his wife’s suggestion—of a port for washing dogs.

“Those dog washes are crazy popular,” laughed Curtis, whose life is about to get a whole lot busier with Katie about to give birth to his first child, a boy.

“Now that the race season is over,” said Curtis, who has to balance his family life, extensive travel, business oversight, equipment upkeep and the stress of racing during the RM-SHA season, “the little guy can’t get here soon enough.”