Motorsports on a frozen Sylvan Lake used to be a pastime for the community. But then, an unexplained hiatus.
Until Sunday, when the Rocky Motorcycle Club hosted a leg of the 2018 Alberta Provincial Oval Ice Racing Championship Series, where more than 100 drivers raced bikes, quads and UTVs around a quarter-mile track.
Brian Roberts is the club’s president and says the group has taken over organizing the races from Calgary’s Second Gear club. This year, they’ve held races at Pigeon Lake, Cow Lake and Gull Lake.
For Sylvan Lake, Roberts hopes it’s the start of a renewed tradition.
“We’re hoping we can keep this going in Sylvan Lake. It’s one of our favourite venues,” Roberts says. “The public exposure is incredible. It’s just fantastic for the club and for the public. There’s a lot of smiles going around here. Everybody seems to be enjoying the show we’re putting on.”
The show, of vehicles speeding around the track at 100 km/h, is as exciting for the participants as it is for the spectators.
“It’s an adrenaline rush, that’s for sure. It’s the feeling of passing people, railing corners, it’s pretty awesome. I can’t stop smiling the whole time I’m out here,” says Courtney Schmale, who was riding her bike in the Women’s Motorcycle and 450 Novice classes.
The 26-year-old Sylvan Lake woman only started racing on ice this year, after being recruited by Roberts’ family. The key to a good race, she says: a strong start and a willingness to leave your comfort zone.
“If you aren’t scared going into a corner, you’re probably not going fast enough,” Schmale says.
Lacombe’s Dan Theoret chooses a heavier vehicle -- a non-studded ATV. Without metal implants in the tires for traction, he says rounding corners puts his driving ability to the test.
“You have to slide and you have to drift. So it’s a lot more finicky going into the corner and maintaining that corner all the way through.”
Roberts says the Rocky Motorcycle Club has about 400 members, who race in motocross and hare scrambles in the summers.
Both his 19-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son race. Roberts says it doesn’t take much to get people to realize that they have a need for speed.
“I’ve got two other people here today, riding my bikes, that I suckered into this sport just by letting them have a test drive. One ride on the practice track and they had to ride the season.”