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Stateside Podcast: The "most grueling" snowmobile race

I-500 Snowmobile Race
Courtesy of Ric Federau
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When it comes to enduring a Michigan winter, some people make a sport of it. Take for instance the I-500, a 500-mile snowmobile race in Sault Ste. Marie, happening this weekend.

"It's the biggest, fastest, longest professional snowmobile endurance race in the world," said Ric Federau, chairman of the I-500.

Indeed it's a test of endurance for everybody involved — from racers to pit crews to even spectators trying to keep their beer from freezing. The I-500 was cancelled last year because of the pandemic. But the sleds are back in town and Federau is expecting the biggest race yet.

The race itself is a sight to behold. Snowmobiles speed at an average of 100-113 MPH around a one mile ice track made from nearly two gallons of water. They do this 500 times.

Federau insists that these racers are true athletes. In the I-500's 53 year history there's only been one person who finished and won the race by himself. Most teams have at two or three drivers that switch out throughout the race.

"These guys have to be strong," said Federau speaking about the racers. "They have to manage these big, heavy machines and still stay in the hunt, stay in the pack and stay out of trouble. So it is grueling for 500 miles."

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Rachel Ishikawa joined Michigan Radio in 2020 as a podcast producer. She produced Kids These Days, a limited-run series that launched in the Summer of 2020.