Snowmobile prodigy climbing in racing sport
Last updated 5/24/2022 at Noon
Marcus Boyd is at the beginning of what he and his parents hope to be a career in professional snowmobile racing.
The 16-year-old high school junior has chosen a unique career path, managing to make a name for himself in the highly competitive yet little-known sport of snowmobile hill climb racing this winter season.
Boyd attributes this passion to his childhood experiences. He started riding snowmobiles at age eight. An old Arctic Cat snowmobile, heavy and slow, would be the first sled of many that would propel him to where he is today. The sport was a family event. He’d race his father up slopes and wonder if there was such a thing as professional racing. He combed the Internet and found videos of professional snowmobile hill climb racing — a subculture of winter sports reserved for the few with a thirst for speed and the need to push man and machine. Marcus says in that moment he knew he had to try.
Over the years the sleds got better and he became faster.
“He kept growing and getting better,” Casey Boyd, Marcus’ mother said. “He’s really good at mechanically tweaking them for performance.”
Marcus made a notebook with tuning specifications with necessary adjustments to improve an already factory-tuned racing machine for elevation and terrain. This progress caught the eye of Wil Burgess, an Oregon-based snowmobile racer. He encouraged Marcus to give racing a try. Marcus took the advice and in April 2021, on the slopes of Sula, Montana, he had the chance to do just that.
His sled was new to him and the event overwhelming.
“It was tough not knowing the people or the industry,” Boyd said. “But I was excited, and nervous.”
He watched as experienced competitors carved up the slopes above him. Being his first race, the stats weren’t stellar, but anything they lacked was made up for with a new-found drive.
“I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Boyd said.
In the 2021-2022 winter season, his pursuit into the sport was total. Casey says it became a family arrangement to do whatever it took to make the races happen.
“We fully committed to all-in racing this year,” she said. “This is an expensive thing and we needed to know if this was something he really wanted to do.”
He raced at five events, in Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. Marcus competed at each event in the amateur category, a proving ground for upcoming talent. Competitive snowmobile hill climb racing is a timed event where individual riders compete with turns, jumps, technical terrain, and ultimately the pull gravity.
“It’s like slalom in reverse; you’re going up,” Casey said.
In a race against the clock, every millisecond counts; finish times determine your qualifying status to the next round and ultimately your trajectory in the career.
“Despite podium placement, it’s about beating yourself each time. He’s able to compete with himself and that’s what we push him to do. He’s constantly doing that,” Casey said.
No event of the season stands out to Marcus like his fifth and last at Antler Basin in Grandy, Colorado, the premiere event for the season.
Against 35 fellow competitors in the amateur class, he qualified — a finish in the top 12 — in all five races and took the podium in third place in one.
On his second run of the day, he hit a jump at 65 mph, catching big air.
Although the height and distance wasn’t recorded, Marcus said, “it was high and far.
Terrifying and fun.” Casey watched from the sidelines as previous racers caught big air too.
Some sustained serious injuries from botched landings.
But if the crowd’s reaction to Marcus’ flight was any unit of measure, Casey said, “it was probably the most air anyone caught that day.”
Despite being new to race culture, Marcus managed to lead a pack of experienced competitors. The majority have raced from young ages, Casey said. For Marcus to qualify among them was a testament to his talent, and those racing statistics will benefit him next year as he attempts to make semipro status. But he’ll need podium finishes at major events.
Marcus has a mission:“My goal is to progress and get to pro,” he said.
That’s an effort he says could be accomplished in the next two years. On his journey to pro, his parents will continue to play a vital role. Casey, owner of Landmark Fine Goods, is the primary sponsor and takes the motherly role. His dad, an active duty police officer, makes every effort to make each event with snowmobile trailers in tow — a commitment that cost them 16,000 miles this season alone. Sisters Moto is also a sponsor and Marcus has applied for ambassadorship with Skidoo, with hopes to pick up an apparel sponsor such as Klim as well.
For now, in the off-season, Marcus is focused on playing baseball and completing his junior year of high school. Splitting his focus between a budding competitive career and school is a dichotomy he admits is a struggle. But for the road ahead, he hopes to race professionally someday, spending his winters competing around the country, and working as a welder in the off seasons.