52nd running of Nome-Golovin snowgo race to start on Saturday
The 2018 Nome-Golovin snow machine race starts Saturday at noon.
This year racers will compete for $40,000 in cash prizes. The overall winner gets $2,000 and an ounce of gold from Pomrenke mining.
Sign-up is at the Armory on March 8 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Entry fee is $350.
Race organizer Kevin Bahnke says the race will run the same way it has for the past 15 years.
“Nothing has changed,” said Bahnke.
The number of racers will be determined at the sign-up. Banke says there are usually 50 to 70 riders. They are divided up into four classes: A Class is fan cooled. B Class is up to 600 cc. C Class is open and women are Class D. The fan cooled class races to White Mountain and back, the women race to Topkok and back.
Bahnke supplied the Nugget reporter with a collection of clippings of previous Nome-Golovin races published by The Nome Nugget.
They make for interesting reading, particularly because the race began as the snow machine was just beginning to develop as a viable means of transportation for rural Alaska.
The initial race in 1966 was called The Bering Sea Lions Club Nome-Teller and Return race. According to the Nugget, Angelo Buffas Jr. won the sno-go race “in the unbelievable time of five hours and six minutes.” It is 68 miles to Teller for a total distance of 136 miles. That gives us an average of 26.4 mph. That’s faster than dogs could do back then but with less reliability. The Lions Club president Roscoe Wilke reported that 15 men and machines started the race and seven finished. Jim Kibbee was second and Barrow Morgan was third. “Tiger Tail” Corderman finished last with a time of 9 hours and 33 minutes, a 14-mph average. Winner Buffas Jr. took home cash and merchandise worth $300.
While the machines are called “sno-gos” in the first article a later one refers to them as “sno-travelers.” On the Snake River races included a blindfolded race. The driver wore a blindfold and a woman sat behind him giving him instructions on where to go.
In 1967, 45 racers fired up their “snow-travelers” and 13 finished. Both “snogo” and “snowmobile” are used in the article.
1968 found the race with four categories divided by horsepower. Category X was for machines 24 hp and over and all modified machines. Of the 44 starters 29 finished, a sign the machines were getting to be more reliable. Whitney Yurman of Anchorage won on a 33 hp Polaris with a time of 5:37:23. George Kost of Nome was second. A Nugget photo shows a fetching Miss Nome starting the race but doesn’t give her name. The youngest racer was 16-year-old Jim Wilke and he drove the smallest machine, a 7.5 hp Ski-Doo.
In 1969 Steve Luke set a new record in a “sizzling 4 hours and 19 minutes.” The racers are referred to as mushers. Jim Rearick of Anchorage became lost as he was leading the race and spent the night in the cold. Temperatures were around minus 30. Four airplanes and two tracked vehicles searched for him and he was finally found by Ramon Gandia, who landed his ski plane and picked up the chilly “musher.”
In 1971 Allen Ahnangnatoguk of Nome won the B class despite having severed the index finger of his right hand the night before. He was thrown from his Arctic Cat three times in the course of the race.
In 1972 the racers are referred to as motor mushers. This is the first year of the Nome-Golovin race and it was held in minus 20°F temperatures. The winning time was four hours and 38 minutes by Dick Millett of Anchorage. Elmer Armstrong of Kotzebue won Class C.
For the 1973 race the Nugget has a photo of Jim Ridgely with his mostly home-built snow machine. It was made of parts of various makes of snow machines, cars and motorcycles. The 92 hp gizmo looks home made in the photo. Ridgely said he doesn’t know how fast it would go but he hit 95 mph across the tundra. The machine weighed in a 600 pounds and Ridgely believed it could hit 125 mph. In ’73 the prize list was up to $7,500.
After 1973 the sleds start to look more modern and the times start to look more modern as well.
This year’s race will be the 52nd.