Levi LaVallee to retire from Snocross
Levi LaVallee will retire from racing in the Amsoil Championship Snocross International Series of Champions (ISOC), LaVallee announced on Saturday, however he isn't retiring from competition. LaVallee plans to continue to compete at X Games, and says Team LaVallee will be fielding a three-man squad during the 2014-2015 ISOC season, featuring Kyle Pallin, Jake Scott, and Andy Lieders.
"I've been planning this for a long time," LaVallee says. "Back in the 2009-2010 season, when we first started Team LaVallee, that was always the goal: to start a team with the hopes of establishing it while I was still competing and bring in other riders so that I could still be involved in Snocross once I'm done racing."
LaVallee was the ISOC Pro Stock class champion in 2009 and also won the ISOC Fan Favorite Award that year, an honor he's received every year since. Saturday's news comes just one week after the release of the Levi LaVallee signature Ski2 Razor from his sponsors at C&A, surprising timing. But LaVallee, 32, says he's been plagued by injuries throughout his twenty-year racing career and is looking forward to giving himself room to heal.
His career injury list is nearly as long as his resume of accomplishments, and includes a latissimus dorsi muscle he tore in his left shoulder at X Games Aspen 2013 and a left tibia he broke during practice at X Games Aspen 2012. In 2010 he crashed while practicing a distance jump in the 350-foot range, breaking three vertebrae and several ribs and fracturing his pelvis, among other injuries.
"The things I do are tough on a body, and there's a lot of bumping around in Snocross," he said. "I've just gotten to a point where I don't need to beat myself up anymore than I have to, and I love so many other things about snowmobiling. Retiring from Snocross will allow me to focus on some of the other things I like, like freestyle and jumping. From here on out the only snowmobile race on my calendar is Winter X Games, because it's just too fun to let go of that one. The track is always awesome, with the biggest jumps and most technical course, and the crowds and the cameras get me so amped up I'm just out there grinning from ear to ear."
LaVallee grew up riding snowmobiles with his dad, got his first sled of his own when he was 12 and began racing immediately afterwards, first in cross-country events, then in Snocross. He's been an X Games competitor since 2003, and won his first gold, in the Snowmobile HillCross event, the following year. He's since competed in X Games SnoCross, Speed & Style, Freestyle, Best Trick and Knock Out -- a distance jumping event he won in 2010 and again in January at Winter X Games 2014.
Among his many other accomplishments -- including seven X Games gold medals, two silver, and one bronze -- LaVallee also holds the distance jumping record on a snowmobile after soaring 412 feet 6 inches for his "Red Bull: New Year. No Limits" jump on New Year's Eve, 2011. On the big marquee stunt front, he says, he's just getting started.
"I'm retiring from racing, but this isn't the last you'll see of me," he promises, teasing several undisclosed projects he's working on. "That New Year's jump scared the daylights out of me, but it was so much fun and that's a direction I'd like to keep persuing. I still have a creative mind and still enjoy going big, and this move is going to allow me to put a lot more energy into those kinds of projects."
First up, however, he's planning to devote himself fully to Team LaVallee for the 2014-2015 ISOC season, managing the team alongside his wife, Kristen LaVallee, and co-owner and crew chief Glenn Kafka. He's aiming to help his team riders do what nobody else has been able to do in recent years: give reigning ISOC champ Tucker Hibbert a proper run for it. Hibbert won his seventh consecutive X Games SnoCross gold medal in January and collected his eighth career ISOC championship title in February, shortly after surpassing Blair Morgan's Snocross Pro National career win record, and has been all but unstoppable.
"What Tucker's done is just amazing, and it's all in the details of how he runs his program," LaVallee says, as he considers the support his team riders will need to rise to the challenge.
"He doesn't overlook anything: every last detail is covered, and that's what you need to do to get to that level. Everything has to be finely tuned, from your training regimen to your nutrition to your sled and your crew, to keep you mentally and physically in the game. There's no one secret to success in Snocross. It's that little advantage here and that little bit there, and it all adds up. That's what makes an athlete great, and that's why Tucker is having the success he's having. Our goal right now is to do every little thing we can to chip away at that momentum he has and get up there and run with him."
Kyle Pallin, 23, will be leading the charge for Team LaVallee this season. He finished third overall in the 2013-2014 ISOC season, behind Hibbert and Kody Hamm. Jake Scott, 20, was the 2013 Pro Lite Champion and finished 11th overall in 2014, his rookie year in the Pro Stock class. And Andy Lieders, 27, finished just behind Scott in the 2013 Pro Lite standings and fifth overall in 2014; he'll be bumping up to the Pro Stock class this season.
"The thing we're really excited about with the team right now is that everyone's fairly young and has a ton of potential," LaVallee says. "It's just a matter of pointing them in the right direction and making sure they use all that energy effectively. I'm really looking forward to focusing on that whole side of things now, as a coach and mentor and team manager."
Racing's still in his blood, too. Just after making his Snocross retirement announcement Saturday at the 48th annual Sno Barons Snowmobile Club Hay Days event in Branch, Minnesota, LaVallee made his debut in the Mystik Lubircants Terracross Nationals series, racing a Pro Polaris RZR XP 1000 four-wheeler.
"Having wheels and dirt under you instead of skis and snow is a different thing, but it's crazy fun: you can really send those things," he said. "They've got so much suspension and you're buckled in, so I feel like I can't fall off this thing like I do with my snowmobile. Hopefully I'll have a lot less injuries."