Levi LaVallee Trys The Double Back Flip
by Scott A. Sumner
One of the most popular riders in the snocross paddock has got to be Levi LaVallee, age 26, of Longville MN (2 hours straight west of Duluth). Levi started snowmobiling when he was 6 years old and got his first full sized sled, a 1990 Indy 400 at age 8. Longville is a resort area of about 180 people and during the summer many stay at their cabins there.
"We started off trail riding and ditch pounding with my friends and family and when I was 12 did cross country racing. At 14 I went to Duluth for my first snocross in 1996, the Jr 14 15 class.We did a couple of snocross races and I won a few races and a few years later I was strictly snocross. We started with an 18 foot enclosed trailer and happy as heck to have it. When I turned semi pro we got a 30 foot trailer and thought we were really getting places. It was pretty cool back then," smiled Levi LaVallee." It was neat to go through the ranks and be where we are today. It was a family team and my parents ( My mom works at the post office and my dad is a garbage man) were my main sponsor until 2002 when I got signed on with Polaris.Then my Dad said goodbye to the expenses. My parents told me the last year we can. At rally afford to do the racing and I would have to go out on my own, get a full ride or it is all on you. I started working a little harder and won a bunch of races in semi pro. I rode privateer and then with Team Industries and now Hentges which have 3 semi trailers and 5 riders including Brett Bender and Bobby Lepage."
Last year Levi won the gold in the Freestyle X Games in 2008 learning how to do his first back flip on a ramp a month before the event. The end of October of that year he started doing freestyle and then the XGames in & February. It was at the 2009 Winter XGames that Levi shocked the snowmobile world when he attempted and almost landed cleanly a double back flip, the first ever attempted in competition.
" I always did some tricks and my snocross experience helped a lot. The double we had practiced on a foam pit this summer, trying to learn the double back flip. We changed the ramp a dozen times,made changes to the sled and my technique. It was a big science project. You are trying to get a 450 pound machine to flip twice. It is quite a feat to do just 1 flip so we started plugging away. We had a game plan from day 1 on how I wanted to do it, the steps I thought would help get the rotation. We kept plugging away until finding the combination in the foam pit. I tried it once at my house before the X Games and crashed by shorting it. At X Games I went out and overshot the landingAand couldn't hold on," said Levi." I just sprained my ankle is all that happened. I was pretty fortunate to fall as far as I did and still walk. There are rumors my fall was 60 feet. The real thing is getting the height. If you can do 1 flip you can do 2, it is just a matter of getting enough time in the air. They do it in motocross with 2 maximum. Snowmobiles are 450 pounds and more dangerous than a motocross bike. Both are super crazy tricks and you have to practice it. It was scary and a goal I wanted to accomplish. There was a lot of time put into it and lot of people who helped out in the process. It was cool to see it happen. When we first started out it wasn't even remotely close and took a lot of figuring until we finally got it. The rotation is there. I plan ontrying it again. I want to ride out of one of them and then park it and never do another one. I just want to rideout of one of them and be done with it. The back flip is a pretty standard trick. Ever time you get upsideAdown regardless of whether it is a pedal bike or snowmobile it is scary when you are upside down."
Levi still views snocross as his main sport. "Snocross is my main thing. Racing has been going well. I have been on the podium and sitting well in points. Everyone wants to win the championship. There is a lot of satisfaction in winning in snocross because you put so much effort in training, the guys getting the machine ready andthe testing," said the ever smiling Levi. Tucker was having a phenomenal year and decided he wanted to focus on motocross this year. It is too bad because he is a big draw to our sport and has a lot of fans. As a racer you want the best guys there and want to beat them outright. Now we don't have that opportunity but he will be back next year."
Does Levi like what he does for a living? Oh gosh you get to ride your snowmobile. In the 4 th grade I wrote my report on being a snowmobile racer when I grow up. It is kinda neat to have that as my job today. The neatest thing about it is if you work hard enough you can achieve anything. A lot of people helped me out along the way and I am fortunate to be here now. I don't want it to go away so that s what motivates me. I am excited.Why not . You ride snowmobiles and people cheer for you.
Favourite Race?I like Canterbury and XGames. Canterbury draws& my family friends. I won two races last year.
Blair Morgan It is a risk we all take in racing or trail riding. With racing and freestyle that risk is a little bit higher but you can't stop doing stuff because of potential injury. You have to have a clear head and can't be thinking about stuff like that. If you didn't think abut the triple ahead of you you will get hurt. All the pro guys are constantly riding at different practice tracks, we bounce around.