The Pikes Peak Snow Run

When did it start ?

The Pikes Peak Snow run was an annual event to race a group of motorcycles from Glen Cove up to the summit of Pikes Peak on New Years Day. Some say it all started as a bar bet, in Manitou Springs in the 1920’s .  How many other great ideas have started from a few adult beverages, many is my guess. For the Pikes Peak Snow Run the question was, could you take a motorcycle all the way to the top, in the dead of winter and  who can do it the fastest?  (Crazy  wasn’t it ! )

In the early years it was done on New Year’s Eve and later changed to New Year’s day. The start of the race would be at Glen Cove seven miles from the summit of Pikes Peak. The local motorcycle clubs would run the show and try keep track of the riders. There can be several weather patterns on Pikes Peak at any given time.  Snow at Glen Cove, fog at Devils Playground and sunny at the summit and all those above switched around and mixed up to include, wind, rain, sleet, hail and perhaps a little sunshine.

Harry’s Roamers M.C. 

The Harry’s Roamers Motorcycle Club of Denver was the driving force behind the run in the early years before WW2. The earliest written article that I have been able to find  about the race comes from” The Motorcyclist” magazine in 1938.

From’ The Motorcyclist” magazine 1938

Some years all the bikes would make it to the top,  some years  only one or two and some years the mountain would win. In the beginning the number of bikes was low from a few to perhaps as many as twenty or thirty.

From “The Motorcyclist” magazine 1940

After WW2  it seems different motorcycle clubs carried the weight of the race. The Pikes Peak Comets and the Dusters M.C. are mentioned the most.

Those who make it and those who don’t.

Most of the motorcycles were stock and the regular transportation of the riders. The event was more about the fun then the actual racing.  Local newspaper accounts are hard to come by. The Snow Run competed with the College Football Bowl game results for column space the following day. Even results from the motorcycle magazines from the day are limited. By the 1950’s this was a big event with up to a 100 riders plus,. Still considered for the most part a local event with racers nearby showing up to test themselves against mother nature and the mountain.

Pikes Peak Snow Run trophy 1955 Best Sportsmanship Ray Koch

Classes were broken up my engine size with professionals and  amateurs classes

Every bike imaginable competed, Harley-Davidson, Indian, Triumph, BSA, etc..  The history of the motorcycle unfolded right there on Pikes Peak for the 50 years the Snow Run was allowed.

Mass starts in the 70s

As the road got better and many families were on the second generation of riders at the Snow Run, the class sizes increased dramatically .

Robert Talbot #44 in the lower center in 1971

Robert Talbot raced this iconic race in the 1970’s and has a replica of his  !971 Yamaha Snow Run bike at his museum in Camel California.

The race would go from calm to chaos in the first few hundred feet.

Above three pictures are from the 1975 Pikes Peak Snow Run start line at Glen Cove

Coming to it’s end

By the 1980’s the race was getting to be a handful to control. Plenty of people wanting to ride but not many to help setup and control the race. The huge elephant in the room was working with the City of Colorado Springs who owned the road and Forest Department.  The end was near.

Event poster for the 1981 Snow Run

The poster says it all !!

Not for the Rose parade on TV types-for the riders with enough grit to prepare for the cold and wanting a treasured experience.

The last record I have of the race comes from the Gazette Telegraph newspaper in 1982.  Richard Dostal of Layfette Colorado, B.Theil,  King of Denver, Blake of Colorado Springs and Brewer of Lakewood were all winners. Yes, even when results were given it was tough to figure it out. (You try getting times at 14,000 feet and 30 below temps with winds of 30mph plus)

The race had run it’s course, starting out as a drunken bet and running for 50 years, the Pikes Peak Snow Run had changed the lives of the thousands of racers that had the gall to take a motorcycle in the dead of winter to the top of a  mountain.

If you have additional pictures or stories from the Pikes Peak Snow Run, please contact me. Over time I hope to update this post with a more complete story.

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