The 50th anniversary of the world’s largest snowmobile event went down in a big way on September 9 and 10, 2016, in North Branch, Minnesota. This year, a total of 40,000 people filled the sprawling Hay Days showgrounds to see the new sleds, gear and everything else that dubs this event the “official kickoff to winter.”
Backcountry access ambassador Stephanie Santeford was there all weekend, snapping photos and catching up with fellow athletes. Maybe you were following her live Facebook feeds, but if not, here are five things from Hay Days you missed:
1. Backcountry Ascender press launch
A large crowd gathered on Saturday around the Ski-Doo booth to see the official launch of Backcountry Ascender. Designed to raise avalanche awareness, Backcountry Ascender is an online game-like application that uses friendly competition to help riders improve their skills in the backcountry. You can play for free, earn points and unlock badges, which also unlock coupon codes for top industry brands.
According to Santeford, the Ascender application also rewards those who share their knowledge with others and who support their local snowmobile club.
2. Swap Meet
The swap meet is always a huge hit at Hay Days, but this year, Santeford said, it was bigger and better than ever. Walking up and down the aisles, she spotted everything from sled hoods, motors and tracks to fishing boats, old mailboxes and Halloween masks.
“There was literally everything and anything you could possibly imagine,” she said.
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3. Memory Lanes
To celebrate 50 years, the Sno Barons Snowmobile Club (organizers of Hay Days) lined up a rare collection of vintage sleds. Hay Days memorabilia and the storied history of this event were also on display. At one point, noted Santeford, grass dragging was quite popular in North America, but after the Great Depression hit, the only venue that continued to hold grass drags at the time was Hay Days.
4. Freestyle and Levi LaVallee’s distance jump
Canadians Brett Turcotte, Josh Penner and Mike Poirier were airing it out for freestyle fans on Saturday. Unfortunately, Turcotte took a tumble, but other than suffering from a sore lower back, he’s up and at ‘em.
Levi LaVallee also broke out the big guns for Hay Days’ 50th by jumping his sled to a distance of 207 feet.
Rounds 1 and 2 of the 2016 Terracross Championship also took place at Hay Days. According to Santeford, the track this year gnarlier than usual. With names like Chris Burandt, Colten Moore and Ronnie Renner in the mix, it’s no wonder this Polaris RZR racing league is gaining more ground every year.
And there you have it—with Hay Days 2016 officially in the books, winter can start.