A couple of team members look over the race order which hangs on the back of the competition booth at the World Championship Derby Complex in Eagle River.
A couple of team members look over the race order which hangs on the back of the competition booth at the World Championship Derby Complex in Eagle River.
The 60th annual World Championship Snowmobile Derby has closed the books on yet another historic weekend in the event’s history with an electrifying experience in which racers, fans, staff and volunteers all played a key role.

A beautiful weekend drew larger numbers than expected to the area where the attraction of the North Woods winter wonderland was on display. Fresh powder on the trails and a packed field for the races perfectly showcased the 60th event and what the area has to offer.

Events took place from Jan. 19-22, as racers and fans from across the globe came for a unique experience they can’t get anywhere else besides at the World Championship Derby Complex (WCDC) in Eagle River. The big finish on Sunday showcased Matt Goede and his No. 28 Formula III Ski-Doo as he crossed the finish line first in the Derby’s 60th World Championship race.

This win came just a week after being knocked out of the Vintage World Championship by fellow Vintage and Formula III driver, Jay Mittelstaedt, the Derby’s 59th World Champion. Goede was the 2022 Vintage World Champion and this year, he decided to take on the challenge of Formula III racing.

Goede spoke on how his crew, consisting of his two brothers and his dad, along with his sled owner and mechanic are irreplaceable and this race is owed to them. After a restart heading into the last two laps, Goede took over the lead off the hole shot from four-time world champion Blaine Stephenson, to secure his first World Championship at the WCDC’s historic Ice-Oval.

Stephenson also commented on the race by noting that he knew there wasn’t a big chance to win heading into the restart because there wasn’t enough ice for his sled to dig into and get him going. He congratulated Goede on the win and thanked his team who said he will be back with next year.

WCDC CEO Tom Anderson said the weather was excellent over the weekend to which the fans seemed to enjoy and helped to lead to increased revenue across the board. Hot seats were sold out on Friday and the grounds were packed both Saturday and Sunday. Almost every box was filled along the straight stretches outside and the side hills were full. The weather was a major factor in the success of the weekend.

Anderson also reported there were no serious injuries over the course of the weekend with the ambulances only having to run once for a non-serious injury.

“A few bumps and bruises but that’s racing for you — the guys really did a great job of staying safe out there,” said Anderson. “The crowd enjoyed these events and we are already planning for the events of the 61st Derby.”

Prior to the opening ceremonies on Friday Jan. 20, Anne Sayers, secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, delivered a Certificate of Commendation from Gov. Tony Evers to the WCDC in recognition of the World Championship Snowmobile Derby and the ties snowmobiling has to northern Wisconsin culture and its economy.

Economic boom

Eagle River Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center Executive Director Kim Emerson detailed how the Derby is such a big proponent of the economic ‘boom’ we see during this part of the winter shoulder season.

“The Derby itself is a very important winter event for the community as a whole that brings a lot of people to the area,” said Emerson. “Usually the Derby is averaging almost 10,000 people to the program throughout the whole weekend, and with that people are staying in our lodging facilities and are supporting our local businesses during this shoulder season which is a huge economic boost.”

Anderson highlighted that the weekends’ success was also due to the dedication and effort given by the WCDC volunteers. Nearly 95 volunteers were a part of both championship weekends in which they worked in shifts to help facilitate and meet fan and racer needs all the while giving back to the community. Across the board sales were up and people were happy as the track was packed from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon.

“It was a great weekend, with a great turnout that could not have been done without the work of our WCDC volunteers,” said Anderson. “Around 90 volunteers came out in shifts between Vintage and Derby weekend and some have even been at almost every Derby event since 1964.”

Derby weekend brought with it a multitude of different faces who all love the same thing, snowmobiling. The trails were hit hard and many local businesses were busy as people came to Eagle River to participate in a tradition that started with a simple exhibition on Dollar Lake in 1964.

Emerson reminded those visiting the area this winter to be mindful and safe while riding on the area’s snowmobile trails.

“Our trails are open and in good condition, and are being groomed daily,” said Emerson. “Please stay on the trails between the orange blazers, because if we don’t, we may lose our privilege to ride in our area which includes almost 600 miles of trails, so please stay on the paths and abide by all the signs.”