Grand Prix Du Valcourt Is A Week Long Festival
By Scott A. Sumner
You can count on a fabulous snowmobile event happening the third weekend of February each year at Valcourt, Quebec, the home of manufacturer Ski Doo. This town of 3000 will host over 25,000 people for a week of festivities and snowmobile racing, including both ice, oval and snocross. "There are about 300 entries in oval and 300 entries in snocross. It is the only place where we have a national event in oval and snocross. Also we have bike race as well on ice," states Denis Leclerc, President of the Grand Prix Valcourt. "The track is close to here, about 7 kms away." It is a test track for Ski Doo. Interestingly the paved oval track is used all summer to test Ski Doo sleds equipped with wheels on the skis and on a wet surface. The engines are stressed. Ironically when the winter comes the testing is moved to Florida where a pavement surface can be found.
Accomadation right in Valcourt can be a problem but the nearby cities like Sherbrooke are about 1/2 hour away. "It is a problem because Valcourt is a very small town, so our tourists go about 30 to 40 minutes to Sherbrooke and other communities. Many will ride their sleds to the race track, museum and factory tours." says Julie Tremblay, Communication Manager of the Grand Prix. "We are a non profit organization with big help from over 300 volunteers that are working for the Grand Prix. It is owned by Valcourt and Ski Doo with a gentlemans agreement."
"At the end of the 70's and early 80's there were a couple of winter with little snow and Ski Doo and the local snowmobile clubs said we need a big event to show that the sport is still alive. So we decide to make this week of activities," says Leclerc. "We have two categories of event. The race itself and the festivities for the family in the town. It is like a winter carnival and this year year is our 23rd edition. I was part of the board in 1982 when we began the event. After that I was general manager and now president." notes Leclerc. He also works for the town of Valcourt as general mange which has 15 full time employees and a lot part time.
"About 6000 go to visit the museum and 3000 go to the big show in the arena. There is music and festivities around Valcourt and the race track," smiles Tremblay. "We made a survey to know the economic impact and people come from 8 states, 5 provinces and some from Europe. There is a $1. 6 million economic impact. "