Do the words frozen, icy, dark, and high-speed spark excitement in your innermost being? Have you ever dreamed of driving a Ford Raptor at high speeds through pitch-black trails of snow and ice? Do you own stock in the companies that manufacture the stick-in heating pads for your boots? If so, you may want to sign yourself up for next year’s Great Lakes Raptor Excursions SnowBall 500 run. We had the pleasure of being a part of this year’s Excursion that took place on January 15-18, 2016 on the Michigan Upper Penninsula
The event is coordinated by Jason and Heather Kanakry, and Mark Rowe of GLRE. After the positive response they received to their very first Raptor Run, they have holding the event ever since 2013. A whopping, eighty-three Ford F-150 Raptors covered 750 miles of beautiful, snow-covered terrain over a period of four days. This year’s event attracted 175 people from as far away as Florida, California, Washington, Texas and Quebec, Canada. To avoid traffic jams and trail delays, GLRE organized the drivers into groups of 9-14 trucks, and each day, the teams would attempt 1 of 3 predetermined trails. Consisting of track roads, logging trails, forest service roads and unplowed trails, the terrain was challenging, especially when you couldn’t see the ditches due to the snow. As such, each team was tasked with staying together and leaving no Raptor behind.
On Friday night, all participants met at the Island Resort and Casino in Harris, Michigan to register, meet-and-greet, chat with vendors, and listen to details about the event. After a good night’s rest, all attendees gathered at 8:30am Saturday morning to listen to the driver’s meeting, get their groups organized, and head out on the first run of the event. The team’s had fun learning each other’s driving style, plotting out the courses, testing the GPS, radios, and other equipment to make sure they were all in good working order. In order to participate in the event, the folks at GLRE require that all trucks are well-equipped for anything that a Michigan winter can throw at you. The list of required equipment includes things like first aid kits, extraction equipment, rear facing amber lights, shovels, 2 bags of sand or cat litter, tow straps, and more.
Saturday night, all met back at the Island Resort and Casino and relived favorite memories, close calls and rookie mistakes from the day while enjoying pints of our favorite beers. Sunday and Monday looked the same, but with crazier stories. It seems that each day driver confidence grows, so do the mistakes that come along with higher speeds and colder temperatures. A favorite memory is from a night run when the Delta Team’s leader, Mr. Joe Kubany, drove up a downed tree that was lying parallel to the trail. We were receiving heavy snowfall, and the stump of the tree was hidden from view in front of his truck. One of our well-prepared team members had a chain saw on hand, so we dug holes in the snow while he cut the tree up into sections, completely removing the tree from under the truck and allowing Joe to drive forward. All participants walked away unscathed, and Joe’s truck completed the run. This California boy’s limbs were not used to the frigid temperatures and chose not to complain about his blue fingers and toes to the native Michiganers.
Monday evening concluded the weekend with an awards banquet at the Island Resort and Casino. Awards were handed out to the winners of multiple categories including the Best Truck of Snoball, Organizers Choice, Most Helpful Participants, to name just a few.
Overall, the 2016 GLRE SnoBall 500 was a huge success. As a native Californian, the terrain of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is vastly different than the deserts of Southern California, and watching the Ford Raptor confidently attack the frozen trails just solidified my confidence in what the truck can do. All participants sat in leather-adorned, heated seats in the cabs of the Raptors while watching snow fly by the windows in sub zero temperatures. The team camaraderie was a key piece to this event, making sure everyone was safe because much can go wrong in the blink of an eye on these icy roads. We thank the leaders of the GLRE event for a memorable, exciting event and I can’t wait for sign-ups to open for next year’s event.
The festivities got under what at the Island Resort and Casino in Harris, Michigan, where participants gathered to register as well as do the meet-and-greet.
“Teams” of Raptors took to the course in small, 9-14 truck groups, that way all 83 of them weren’t vying for the same trail at the same time.
It was idyllic, snow-covered lanes such as this that greeted the assorted Raptors.
Ok, the ears are funny, but we just hope that the color is just a wrap that can be removed.
There was a lot of fun to be had on the course.
A helpful Yeti kept all of the Raptors heading in the right direction.
There were plenty of chances for stylin”
Of course, getting too wide in a corner while sliding could have its consequences.
A few stops throughout the day gave all a chance to take in the beauty of the drive.
The sun was dropping fast as this day’s course came to a close.
With the day’s driving done, it was back to the Island Resort and Casino for food, drinks and bench racing.