Pinedale native Blaine Mathews makes sprint to season's finish

Kayla Reine, Jackson Hole News&Guide photo

PINEDALE – The mile markers zipped past Blaine Mathews as he said he likes the frantic pace of the current Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Hillclimb Association circuit.

Mathews, with cell reception on the way to Logan, Utah, explained how his season’s schedule was concluding with events in Jackson, Pocatello, Idaho, Logan, Utah, and then Sula, Montana. And he was in the midst of it.

The Pinedale native competed at the annual World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb in late March alongside some of the best in the west. Mathews earned fourth in the open modified finals on the competition’s final day by finishing in 1 minute, 25.61 seconds. He’s carried confidence since.

That outcome was separate from the season and cumulative points championship. It could trip competitors up, having the circuit’s biggest weekend a month from its end. But not Mathews. That’s why he’s enjoyed this blitz to the finish.

“You stay in that groove and when things are going good, they’re going good,” he said. “You have a bad weekend, you don’t have to wait to get back out there. I like it.”

Mathews said it’s about split in half, who prefers the adjusted schedule and the pros who don’t. Of course, it’s been a casualty of COVID-19. Last year’s season abruptly ended with the pandemic’s onset. Mathews said it covered everything “like a blanket.” As a result, he hasn’t taken this season for granted. That’s part of his mantra of taking a negative and turning it into a positive.

Pinedale’s own returned for the full season this winter with the same enthusiasm he had around snowmobiles with his grandfather and mother. That same small adrenaline junkie that grew up to do junior classes races and one semi-pro season before going pro returned with the rest of the racers.

Mathews kept himself in shape in the offseason so he could get back on the machine without losing a beat when winter came. He’s studied his equipment and the courses to get on the best line on each hill. Plus, he’s been doing this for close to a decade now and there’s no substitute for that experience when swarms of ambitious youth enter the circuit.

He had high hopes for this year’s Hill Climb when he got to Snow King. His equipment felt good and he reminded himself to not succumb to the pressure. Then he took off.

“The hill this year was gnarly, one of the gnarliest I’ve seen,” he said. “Tough guys had tough weekends but that’s the way it is. I didn’t get a win and that was a bummer. Was hoping for at least one or two wins.”

Mathews did, however, finish in the top four in all of his classes for the first time in his career. So he took the negative of no championship win and focused on his career accomplishment to make a positive.

He carried that momentum to the Beaver Bash, where he earned four third-place finishes and won the open modified division. That’s only built his confidence further going into the season-finale weekend in Montana.

Sula, Montana, hosts the RMSHA National Championship at Lost Trail Ski Resort this weekend. This race contains high hopes and broken dreams. It’s the culmination of a season that included an extended wait.

For Mathews, those conditions are negatives. He’s always aimed to turn them into positives.