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Foot Lake in Willmar, Minn., to host Jan. 12 snowmobile race

The excitement of snowmobile racing will return to Willmar on Jan. 12 when Foot Lake is host to the third U.S. X-Country Circuit race of the season. This file photo shows a 2003 race in Willmar. (Tribune file photo)

WILLMAR — For those who think that Foot Lake belongs to the likes of “Grumpy Old Men’’ huddled in their ice fishing houses in the cold of January, try this.

The lake will be host to the season’s third United States X-Country Circuit snowmobile race of the season on Jan. 12. The event could attract up to 2,000 spectators, racers, fans and support teams to the lake.

It features 18 different classes of races, from junior to pro. The ice of Foot Lake will be transformed into a Le Mans-style course of 10 miles. There will be heats of 10 and 20 miles, while the semi-pro and pro races will feature 50- and 100-mile runs.

“It’s definitely good for the local businesses, especially this time of year when there isn’t much going on,’’ said Brian Nelson of Spicer, who is responsible for putting Willmar on this season’s snowmobile racing map.

Nelson is a Willmar native and former owner of Nelson’s Marine. He was also a professional snowmobile racer.

Those credentials played a role when racers and snowmobile manufacturers urged him to acquire the United States X-Country Circuit. Its owner had died in a February 2011 snowmobile accident. The USXC is a continuation of the United States Cross-Country circuit, which has a 13-year history, according to Nelson.

The USXC is hosting eight races this season in Minnesota. As the new owner, Nelson decided one of those races should be on his home ice.

If the race works out, he said it could become an annual event.

Race headquarters will be the Holiday Inn on U.S. Highway 12 East in Willmar. Some 30 professional racers are expected, and they will be available on the evening of Jan. 11 at the Holiday Inn for autographs and photos.

Race day events will be headquartered on the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds, where parking will be available. There is no admission for spectators.

To learn more and see the upcoming schedule, visit

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335