Nfld. & Labrador

Injuries at Marble Mountain snocross races part of the sport, says organizer

Competitors were injured during a snowmobile racing event at Marble Mountain last weekend, but it's all part of the sport made famous by the X-Games, says an organizer.

Grant Wheeler says racers and fans alike accept danger in event made famous by X-Games

Snocross, as seen in these file photos, involved snowmobiles racing on a course with jumps sharp turns and obstacles. (Fred Thornhill/Reuters)

Some competitors were injured during a snowmobile race at Marble Mountain last weekend, but an organizer says danger is part of the excitement of the sport and something that racers and fans accept.

The top racers in the world go down on a regular basis. It's a very tough sport, it's man and machine.- Grant Wheeler

The Steady Brook hill hosted snocross races on Sunday as part of Race on the Rock, which was organized by Western Sno-riders.

Snocross is a race style that involves snowmobiles competing on natural or artificially-made tracks consisting of tight turns, banked corners, steep jumps and obstacles. It is often referred to as a winter version of motocross, which involves dirt bikes.

Broken leg, red flags

During the event, several racers crashed or hit the ground a little too hard, resulting in injures — including one fairly serious one.

"We had one rider who mistimed a jump section. He ended up going down pretty hard, ended up with two breaks in one of his femurs which is the largest bone in your body," said organizer Grant Wheeler.

"We had to halt the race. Anytime a rider goes down you throw a red flag which stops all riders."

Snocross was popularized by X-Games in the late 1990s. (CSRA Snowcross/Supplied)

The race was stopped for about 15 minutes until medical personnel stabilized the rider and got him off the course. 

After that incident, organizers held an emergency meeting with competitors to discuss parts of the course which had changed over time and how they could adjust their approach.

Part of the sport

Wheeler estimated around five other racers also took bad falls throughout the day and had to be treated, but none as serious as the person with the broken leg.

Despite the crashes, Sunday's event was deemed a big success, with large crowds gathering on a beautiful day to watch the high-intensity sport made famous by the X-Games.

Marble Mountain hosted the Race on the Rock event last weekend. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Wheeler said anyone who competes or watches snocross knows the risks that come with it and accepts that it's just part of the sport.

"The top racers in the world go down on a regular basis. It's a very tough sport, it's man and machine and you're doing things that are inheritently dangerous," he said.

"As much as I hate to see the riders go down, it does give the spectators an idea that this is a very dangerous thing we're doing here."

A delicate balance

Wheeler said designing a snocross track can be a tricky thing, with a balance between rider safety and making sure the course is challenging and entertaining enough. 

"Too easy is not fun for the racers or spectators," he said.

"When these guys go out on the track, basically their fate is in their own hands. It's up to the racer if they want to push certain sections and go faster and slower."

With files from Corner Brook Morning Show