World Championship Snowmobile Derby Hall of Fame
Snowmobile racing and Eagle River have become so deeply intertwined for the past 50+ years that the names are practically synonymous. Say "snowmobile race" and most drivers will picture the wide-banked oval turns and the ice track at Eagle River. Mention the name of this northern Wisconsin resort community and snowmobile race fans think of a long history of colorful, exciting races that have brought the best snowmobile racers in the country together year after year.
On the ice oval at Eagle River they have raced for more than large cash prizes and glittering, gigantic trophies. They have raced for the prestige that goes with winning the BIG ONE at Eagle River.
The history of snowmobiles started in Vilas County, Wisconsin long before the first Eagle River race in 1964. The sport actually had its beginning some 40 years before that when Carl Eliason of Sayner, Wisconsin invented the first snowmobile that could be related to the present machines. Although it was more of a snow toboggan, it had the same principles: skis and a track to drive the machine over the snow.
But it was not until 1964 that the new snow machines caught the fancy of the sporting world. And it all began in Eagle River, when John Alward of Chanticleer Inn, his wife, Betty and Walter Goldsworthy of nearby Three Lakes decided the winter economy needed a boost with more winter recreation.
Alward already was doing winter business with visiting skiers but the existing terrain limited the growth of downhill skiing. The snowmobiles, which John had purchased early in the winter of 1964, from Sparkey Meyer, an Arctic Cat salesman, were just the thing to inspire plans for a winter celebration in February of 1964.
A race was planned and the Northwoods has never been quite the same since. It has catapulted Eagle River into the winter sports spotlight in the snowmobile racing circuit each January since its birth. The races have brought invaluable publicity to Eagle River and the north where the snowmobile has turned winter around. They have played an important part in helping a new recreational sport grow.
Through the years many thrilling races have been run on the Derby Track, thanks to the tireless work of the sponsoring Eagle River Lions Club and many volunteers from Eagle River, WI and nearby communities as well. All have pitched in and the Derby has soared to tremendous heights, reaching weekend crowds of 50,000+ during its peak years.