When the Wyoming Game and Fish Department decided to kill all the fish in Lake Saratoga last summer, it didn’t just destroy suckers and illegally stocked yellow perch. It also dealt a significant blow to winter tourism in Saratoga.
The small mountainside community of just 1,700 had been planning to celebrate what would have been its 40th annual ice fishing derby on Saratoga Lake.
The event usually brings in about 800 people to catch trout and is one of a series of events that helps the community keep its hotels and restaurants busy in the winter.
With all the fish dead, this year’s derby had to be canceled, which has left a big hole in Saratoga’s winter tourism.
If You Build It They Will Come
But that hasn’t killed winter fun on Saratoga Lake.
The lake, as it turns out, makes a pretty awesome base for an ice racing track for motorized vehicles.
And 307 GoFast has already put its Saratoga Lake ice-racing track to the test once this winter. It was a success with 50 racers showing up from across the Cowboy State to slide around on the ice under what turned out to be a sweet bluebird sky.
For those who missed it the first time around, the group is getting ready to do it again on Feb. 11.
Same lake, same (hopefully) bluebird sky, same ice track – but slicker.
Fun To Watch
It’s OK to show up just to watch. In fact, videos on the group’s Facebook page show the sport’s almost as much fun to watch as to ride in.
You’ll see side-by-sides, ATVs and bikes all slipping and sliding at top speeds. Sliding off the track is common, with plumes of snow taller than the vehicles kicking up behind them as they roll.
For racers, there’s a variety of classes available: turbo, non-turbo, traction and non-traction.
Bumpers are not optional for any of the races. And, except for the non-traction event, ice screws — but not spikes — are required on all the racing vehicles.
Complete rules and details about the race are available online or by calling co-owners Tyler Roy at 307-321-7141 and Susan Smith at 307-321-1404.
Build An Ice-Racing Track In Two Easy Steps
It’s probably a lot more difficult than it sounds, but the basic steps come down to:
• Scrape the snow away from the area where the track is going.
• Glaze the track with water so it’s as smooth and slick as possible.
“The ice is looking good,” Roy told Cowboy State Daily on Saturday. “We’re doing track prep now.”
The lake ice itself, meanwhile, is good and thick at 16.5 inches, based on a few test holes drilled with an ice augur.
That should be more than enough to hold up to the racing, Roy said.
“The whole goal is to bring more people, outside people, to the valley,” he said. “Let’s put Saratoga on the map. As in instead of the whole cowboy idea, let’s bring in some real horsepower that is steel ponies, not hay burners.”
GoFast Is Not New
While this is the first 307 GoFast On Ice event on Saratoga Lake, the group is not a new organization. They’ve been organizing summer mud bogs and mud riots in Saratoga the last few years.
“We play in the mud and we’re doing pretty good with it,” Roy said. “So, we’re trying to adventure out and get more stuff going here, bring more people in.”
Racing, Roy added, is a lifestyle.
“It’s something that if you have the passion for it. It doesn’t matter what the cost is, it doesn’t matter where it’s at,” he said. “You just want to go have fun. The freedom is there. It’s awesome.”
The more people, the merrier, too.
“It’s so much more fun (with more people),” Roy said. “It’s good camaraderie. Good, family sport.”
Fishing Derby Will Be Back
Game and Fish has said it plans to restock Saratoga Lake with 6,500 catchable 9-inch rainbow trout in the spring. It also will add 1,500 7-inch brown trout and 2,500 finglering tiger trout.
The brown trout should be catchable by fall, but larger broodstock trout will be added in the fall in advance of next year’s ice fishing derby as well.
Roy suggested that both the new ice-racing event and fish derby are likely to continue next winter, on alternating weekends, assuming the races are well-received.
So far, so good.
“As of right now, I’m pretty sure it’s going to stick,” Roy said.
The race organizers are already thinking about ways they can make next year’s track better.
“We’d like to play with it a little bit, maybe make a road course,” Roy said. “For me, I kind of want to build jumps. I kind of want to make it where it’s a real deal. Not just that, let’s make it unique. Let’s pull some big strings and let’s play ball with the whole idea of going further.”
Race Day starts with registration at 8 a.m. Feb. 11, followed by a driver’s meeting at 10 a.m.