Just the thought of finishing a world-class extreme event like the Erzberg Rodeo or the Red Bull Romaniacs is one that would be laced with “how you got there.” Most likely it would be a history of precision trials riding, and probably prefaced with BMX trials where balance and the ability to navigate terrain and obstacles that would considered illegal in most countries are crucial in normal course management. You would imagine years of practice, thousands of hours of overcoming brutal obstacles and long days of testing yourself against the toughest terrain that Mother Earth can throw at a dirt bike rider.
But, in the case of Keith Curtis, his background is snowmobile riding, or more accurately hill-climbing. This last summer Keith decided to go to Europe and try his hand racing some extreme enduros—the Erzberg Rodeo being one and the Red Bull Romaniacs the other. As testimony to the severe nature of his sport, Keith finished both events, with a 21st place at Erzberg and an 8th at the Romaniacs. There is no doubt that Keith is laced with God-given talent, yet making the transition from dominating the Jackson Hole World Championship Hill-Climb on his factory Polaris to conquering Carl’s Diner at Erzberg on his KTM 300 is a bizarre mating of sporting extremes.
Fortunately, snowmobiling and snow biking offer an extreme level of riding that can always be taken to another level. I ride extreme enduro on the snow in the winter months every day I ride. The difference is there is 3 to 10 feet of snow covering up rocks and obstacles. An average snowmobile/snow bike ride consists of 30 to 80 miles of wide-open throttle making your way up, across and down hillsides with some extreme consequences, all in the midst of tree central.”
“Since a young age I have always enjoyed riding in the mountain scene in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and other areas across the Northwest and into British Columbia. I can’t get enough of the big mountain scene and the technical trails and beautiful scenery that comes with it.”
“Until this summer I had never been fully dedicated to racing dirt bikes. The majority of my races has been totally random and last minute. I have competed in various hare scrambles, taking a fourth and sixth at the Big Sky XC in the Pro class in 2010 and 2012. I also competed in some of the Geico EnduroCross series in 2011 and 2012, winning the Amateur Open National Championship in 2012.”
“Since 2009, training, cross-training, nutrition and a balance of all have become a major part of my success. My philosophy of training consists of a variety of different things; variety is the spice of life and holds true in my training regimen. I enjoy those epic adventures that put the mind, body and skill to the test.”
“It’s almost impossible to train for extreme enduro in the United States when there are thousands of miles of pristine singletrack. This is one of the major differences that I found out after talking to several of my competitors. I have been spoiled riding amazing singletrack, while a lot of my competitors have honed in on their trials bike skills, riding the same zones over and over again.”
“I’ll put it this way—the four hours given to finish Erzberg was much harder than a four-hour segment at Romaniacs. Erzberg is a high-intensity interval, where Romaniacs is a four-day game of chess with high-intensity sections. I’m not sure how often my heart rate dropped under 160 at Erzberg, where at Romaniacs there are sections to catch your breath. Romaniacs demands skill, endurance, strategy and mental [toughness] to make it through each and every day.”
“The toughest part of Erzberg was a tie between Carl’s Diner and Downtown. Carl’s Diner was hard because it was over an hour, three times through and a massive rock field that felt never-ending. Downtown was almost impossible to ride through without assistance, because the entire top layer of soil had been scraped away by the 20 guys who went through there before me. It was basically a sheet of ice, grease and mud where I had to team up with two French riders to get through the section.”
“I went on to win King of Kings in 2008 on my stock sled, which is very rare. In order to win King of Kings at the Jackson Hole World Championship Hill-Climb, a racer must first win a Pro class, then compete against the other class winners of 600 Stock, 700 Stock, 800 Stock, 1000 Stock, Pro Masters Stock and Pro Seniors Stock to win the Stock King title. Once the Stock King, Improved King and Mod King are decided, the three kings race against one another for the King of Kings title. This particular year was a deep snow year, with 4-foot trenches and vertical headwalls, and I ended up being the only one to make it up and over the mountain and took the title!”