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Curtis takes King of Kings in 39th annual Hill Climb

Keith Curtis was named King of Kings Sunday after winning his eighth race of the weekend during the 39th annual World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb at Snow King Mountain.

Curtis, 26, won the Stock King race and the Modified King race to make it into Sunday’s King of Kings finale.

He faced off versus David Sharp Jr. to determine the weekend’s overall champion. Sharp qualified for the finals by winning the Improved King division.

Curtis entered the King of Kings race with two shots at the hill for his two King victories. The Dillon, Mont., racer needed only one attempt. He plowed through 1,500 vertical feet of trenched out snow to make it to the top of the hill in one minute and 24.6 seconds, almost eight seconds ahead of Sharp.

“That guy is incredible,” said Jeff Toolson, Jackson Hole Snow Devils President. “He made a lot of money this weekend. It was definitely a good weekend for that young man.”

Curtis took eight out of the 30 races that were held over four days of action that began Thursday. Toolson estimated that Curtis took home “around $35,000” for his performances.

“He definitely showed up this weekend with his game face on,” Toolson said.

Curtis took home three titles in 2013, winning the 600 Stock, the 800 Mod and the 1000 Stock. He more than doubled his crowns in 2014 but it wasn’t because of machinery.

“I used to say the sled was 60 percent of the equation,” Toolson said. “But [Sunday] it was 30 percent and the rider was 70 percent. Just having a fast snowmobile wouldn’t have cut the mustard against Keith.”

Curtis won all eight of his events by at least six seconds.

The Montana man was the champ but Wyoming was well represented.

Eleven of the 30 races were won by snowmobilers from the Equality State.

Afton made the best showing. Kaycee Balls, 20, was named Queen of Queens after she set the high mark in the three-woman field. Racers who can’t push their sled to the top of the 45-degree slope receive a mark at the sled’s highest point on the slope.

Balls’ mark was higher than her two competitors, Shelley Heap and Christy Frisby. Balls also won the Women’s Mod.

Afton’s Andy Thomas made it five wins for the western Wyoming town. Thomas, 18, was the champion of the Semi-Pro Stock, Semi-Pro Improved and Semi-Pro King.

Thayne was represented with wins by Luke Rainey and Tom Roby.

Roby, 47, took the Pro Master Improved Stock and Pro Master Mod. Rainey, 26, beat out Fish Haven, Idaho’s Dolan Phelps, 35, to win the 700 Stock Finals.

“Snowmobiling is definitely a big sport in this state,” Toolson said. “But I don’t know why Wyoming racers were so successful. Maybe we just got lucky.”

Heavy February and early March snowfall made course conditions ideal. Sledders had to navigate through 6-foot trenches and ruts on their way to the top of one of the steepest mountains on the hill climb circuit.

In previous years low snow accumulation and warm March weather have hurt the ski slope. Sledders in the past have hit shallow spots where they have dug into the dirt beneath the snowpack. In 2010 the ski slope suffered $10,000 worth of damage from the snowmobiles digging through the thin snow and into the dirt.

“The conditions were awesome,” Toolson said of this year’s event. “There’s not a brown spot on that mountain right now.”

Spectators came from all over to see the world championship event. The snowmobile community was out in full force and Toolson said there were “between nine and 10 thousand spectators” on Saturday.

About 150 volunteers helped put on the event, not including the 70 to 80 men who showed up to catch the sleds before they tumble down the hill.

The event raised money for the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.

“We raised $21,820 just at the raffle at the bottom of the hill,” Toolson said. “It was great. I hope the town thought it was great too. The Snow Devils put together another successful weekend.”

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