Chad Blessum has always loved snowmobiling. He spent much of his free time as a young man tearing around on a sled, often during races held throughout North Dakota. To this day he believes the only downside to snowmobiling is that he cannot do it year-round. “I always used to say that if I had the means, I’d make my own snow for sledding,” said Chad.
Snowmobiling became a less prominent part of Chad’s life once he married his wife Sandi and had two daughters. As his girls grew older, Chad looked at them and wondered: Did the two have the makings of racers? Surely they must, he reasoned, with all that Blessum blood coursing through their veins.
Chad’s older daughter took to the sport quite naturally. His younger wasn’t too sure about it – until she watched her sister’s first race in 2016 and demanded to do the same that very weekend. The Blessums thus became a whole family of snowmobile racers.
The following summer Chad was chatting with a friend of his – the owner of DMC Motorsports, an off-road race track in Minnesota – and mentioned how he wished more youth snowmobile races were available for his daughters to compete in. Chad’s pal suggested that he take matters into his own hands and provide the events himself. A short talk with Sandi and everything was settled. They would do exactly that.
“The beginning of Two Eighty Six Sno Series was really a team effort,” said Chad. “I got together with Joey Holstrom of Arctic Cat, his friend Johnny Green, and Stuart Christian and his brother Carl who has his own track in Finley. It’s only thanks to their help and our generous sponsors that we were able to grow this thing so quickly.
“Our opening year was a big hit, with five youth snowmobile events and 85 racers on our busiest day. We kept those numbers throughout our second year, but our third was challenging – and not just because of the pandemic. It was going to be unseasonably warm during our opening weekend, so I decided to make my childhood dream a reality. I made snow.
“We bought two snow guns from a ski hill in Alexandria with plans to hold the Thanksgiving race right in our backyard. I had no idea what the heck I was getting into, because I didn’t know we would need a high-pressure pump and a big generator. Fortunately my friends and neighbor stepped in to help me make snow all throughout the night, and we couldn’t have done it if the community hadn’t sent a firetruck. It was a lot of work, but it showed just how committed Sandi and I are to making the Two Eighty Six Sno Series happen. I believe that really put us on the map. We had 55 racers come out on that day, and the 155 following weekend in Fertile!
“I’ve always been hardcore into snowmobiling, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better than to watch my daughters embrace it too. They’re learning that being a racer is about much more than just racing. It shapes your personality, strengthens your resolve, and teaches you that the more you put into something, the more you get out of it. Racing also teaches humility, and to keep a positive attitude even after losing a big event you were looking forward to. Those are all important life lessons that aren’t really taught anywhere else these days.
“It’s also been great meeting so many like-minded people who speak the same language. My girls and all the other kids who compete with us are making friends from Montana to Wisconsin. We’re like a big extended family of sledders.
“Even if you don’t have a kid in the race, watching a Two Eighty Six Sno Series event is exhilarating. We have small, compact tracks, so you can watch the whole race right from the back of your truck. Our tracks have jumps that even the little guys can get air off of, and with eight to ten laps in the first race alone it takes a lot more work to hold a lead – and provides a lot more opportunity for slow starters to catch up. It keeps you on the edge of your chair the whole time you’re watching these kids competing against each other. Two Eighty Six Sno Series is the best show in town!
“At the end of the day we’re not about money or politics or anything else like that. Our goal is to help kids do something they love and keep snowmobiling alive.”
Two Eighty Six Sno Series has upcoming races in Fargo on November 20th and 21st, November 26th through 28th, and December 29th. To learn how to enter your kid in the events or get out there and cheer for the racers, please visit 286snoseries.com.
By David Scheller