Calabogie 500 snowmobile drag races return to the Ottawa Valley
CALABOGIE, ONT. -- The ski season may be over, but there was snow on the slopes at Calabogie Peaks in Calabogie, Ont., and hundreds of snowmobilers ready to take on the mountain.
The Calabogie 500 snowmobile drag races returned Saturday after a two year COVID hiatus. Racers from Ontario, Quebec, and the northeastern United States gathered at the valley ski hill for one of the bigger snowmobile racing events on the calendar.
"It's really nice to see everybody again," said Justin Hulsizer, event organizer and president of Northeast Snowmobile Racing. "A lot of people have gotten used to this event and it was hard to not see everybody for the last season."
"We're back into the swing of things again," added Calabogie Peaks COO Jim Hemlin. "The Calabogie 500 is really our first spring event which is exciting."
Unlike many other races that take place on the mountain, these snowmobile racers go head to head straight up the slopes, climbing 500 feet in a matter of seconds.
"We have a bunch of different sleds ranging from kids with 120's all the way up to adults with their outlaw models," said Hulsizer, adding that the higher end machines can top 200 kilometres per hour in a drag race. "They're putting down 400, 500, 600 horsepower."
Eric Gautier from Bryson, Que. was one of the more popular racers on Saturday, sporting his Ottawa Senators jersey and claiming a few race wins.
"The adrenaline, the rush," Gautier described to CTV News. "You get out of the hole, it pulls, it's a rush!"
"You come for fun but at the end of the day everybody wants to win. I'm here to win, I'm not here to finish second. I'm here to finish first."
With multiple divisions to enter into, there were plenty of first place prizes to brag about. But for the Patterson family from Havelock, it was a day to reconnect over a family tradition.
"For the last three years with COVID we haven't done virtually anything, this is refreshing," says Rob Patterson, awaiting his turn to race up the mountain. "This is the first time out for me in three years."
Patterson was being supported by his brothers who came together from Ottawa and Barry's Bay.
"I can't even put it into words," he said, revelling in the return of the event and normalcy. "It's everything I could hope."