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Ice Capades

Ice Capades

Racing cars on a frozen lake in Colorado isn’t the safest—or smartest—off-slope activity. But it sure is fun.
By Philip Higgs
posted: 01/07/2010

Ice racing on Georgetown Lake is a suitable diversion for Front Range weekend warriors.

Photo by: Matthew Jonas/Evergreen Newspapers

Maybe you’ve seen them, on your way to Loveland or Vail—Hummers and Jeeps and Saabs sliding around a frozen lake outside Georgetown, Colo., while placid ice fishers await their trout nearby. And maybe you’ve wondered just what kind of nut drives a car out onto the ice. Well, me. And the competitors who sign up every weekend with Our Gang Ice Racing, which has been running competitions in Colorado every winter since the 1980s. Rookies are welcome; all you need is an all- or four-wheel-drive vehicle, a driver’s license and 20 bucks. Races are held in three classes: Drive up in a Subaru with all-season tires, and you’ll be in the Street Stock camp. Running snow tires will bump you into the Pro class alongside hot-rodded 4x4s and drivers who take this slightly more seriously. To crack the top-level Competition class you’ll have to haul up your non-street-legal vehicle, with monster-truck tires sporting more metal spikes than Iron Maiden.

At the drivers’ morning safety meeting before one race, I line up with a group of about 30 racers—including a Volvo full of housewives and at least one teen with a fresh learner’s permit—to hear the rules. No booze on the ice, make sure your vehicle isn’t leaking anything nasty, and no gunning it off the track. The courses, in various loops, range from a quarter- to a half-mile long. While my sensible Michelin Blizzaks put me in with the pros, my skills should have had me down with the greenhorns; by the second heat I’m racing for 5th place out of 7, having beaten the only other Subaru. Sitting in 2nd place is a sweet little lady wrapped in several puffy layers of winter clothes; she guns the straightaways like the devil on a bender.

The trick, I see, is to stay off the brakes, finessing the turns in low gear while revving it everywhere else; but in my eagerness to beat the Jeep ahead of me, I plow through a course marker and get disqualified. “Don’t worry,” says Kevin Denny, a big dude in a blue Jeep that reads “Papa Racing.” “That’s why we do it all winter.”

Essentials:

Info Georgetown is exit 228 off I-70
Cost $20 gets you a full slate of races, plus practice time; there’s also a small one-time vehicle inspection fee of $5.
Be Sure to Bring A helmet if you plan to race in the Pro class or above. It’s required.

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