Planet X in Aurora helps snocross teams gear up for greatness

Every year fans pack the chalet at Spirit Mountain to warm up at the AMSOIL Duluth National Snocross, but like clockwork, they come out en masse when the professional riders are about to start.

Every year fans pack the chalet at Spirit Mountain to warm up at the AMSOIL Duluth National Snocross, but like clockwork, they come out en masse when the professional riders are about to start.

The pros rarely disappoint, landing gravity-defying jumps with precision and technique.

They make it look easy, but it's not. Riders hone their skills through countless hours of practice and testing at facilities such as Planet X in Aurora.

As the kickoff to the snowmobile racing season, the Duluth National doesn't have a preseason to work out kinks. Riders have to come ready. Even with the event being postponed two weeks this year because of warm weather, teams still have to scramble.

Defending Pro champion Tucker Hibbert has been to Alaska and British Columbia in previous years to prepare for the Duluth National. This year he spent time in the mountains of Colorado but also trained at Planet X.


"One of the things that is frustrating with this sport is the lack of time to prepare," Hibbert said. "We usually start racing in November, and this year it was pretty much impossible to get any practice in beforehand, so you can't have enough places like Planet X."

"It gives us an opportunity to get some riding in when, really, there isn't anywhere else to go."

Planet X is located near where some of the lowest temperatures in the continental U.S. have been recorded, and workers at the facility made snow as early as Oct. 12.

The million-dollar facility sits on about 20 acres and features four snow guns, a Bombardier groomer, a million-gallon pond that provides cold water for making snow, and a track similar in length to the one used at Spirit Mountain.

For the past seven years, the track has been the training ground for Scheuring Speed Sports, but owner Steve Scheuring allows other professional riders to use the facility for $100 a day and as little as $25 for younger riders, just to "cover our insurance," he says.

"I want to make sure this sport is around five to 10 years from now," Scheuring said. "I used to have the mentality that 'It's my sandbox, and I'm not going to let anyone else play in it.' But I learned there are other sandboxes they'll find, so you might as well make it so that it works for everybody."

Hibbert estimated that 60 to 80 riders trained daily at Planet X before Thanksgiving, but that number dipped to about 20 last week as the weather got colder and other facilities, such as Park X in Hill City, opened up. With that many riders, the track gets deep ruts that help simulate the race conditions riders are going to see at Spirit Mountain this weekend.

The pit area at Planet X looks like the early days of the Duluth National as teams leave their huge transporters at home and arrive in pickup trucks with 20-foot enclosed trailers. It's all business and no frills.


Canadian rider Robbie Malinoski is in his first year with Scheuring's team. After years of traveling to Planet X to train, he is glad to work and train at his home facility.

"Coming here was fine for a day or two, but by the fifth or sixth day those trailer walls start closing in on you," Malinoski said. "Now being part of the team and having the shop and all the resources right there, it's just phenomenal.

"Steve makes this all work. He's the guy helping out in the shop. He's the guy working on the groomer. He's the guy driving the truck. He's got his hands in there, doing everything, and that's nice because you don't have to look far to get an answer."

The 5,500-square foot shop has room to work on more than a dozen sleds and has its own "dyno" room for fine-tuning the engines. In all, Scheuring's team has three riders, six full-time mechanics and engineers from Polaris and Walker Evans Racing.

It is quite the operation for Scheuring, a former oval ice racer who finished as high as fifth at the world championships at Eagle River, Wis., before retiring in 1994. He is in his 12th year heading Scheuring Speed Sports.

"I've always loved snowmobiles," Scheuring said. "I love the rush of the speed and acceleration, but snocross was never for me. I'm a coward on a jump, but that's what makes Duluth such a fun show. Snocross is a sport like watching fireworks going off."

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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