Accelerating to pro

Published 9:18 am Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Local snowmobile racer, Jake Helmers, returns to Albert Lea and hopes to be in top shape for the racing season. -- Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune

Local snowmobile racer, Jake Helmers, has battled some major injuries throughout his 10 year racing career in The International Series of Champions.

Born and raised in Albert Lea, Helmers went to school in town and graduated from Alden-Conger High School.

He spent a few years in Shakopee, where he started his own business, Environmental  Lawn Care, Tree Service & Landscape, Inc.

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Helmers now returns to Albert Lea in hopes of expanding his business to include his hometown. Helmers is the father of two children, Alexis Tasker, 13, and Braxton Ryder Helmers, 5.

Helmers hopes for the 2012-13 ISOC season are to compete in the entire series, which goes from South Dakota to New York, with a majority of it being in the Midwest. There are eight stops on the tour, starting with the series opener on Nov. 25 to 27 in Duluth.

ISOC is the playground of a handful of famous riders including: Levi Lavalle, Tucker Hibbert, Ross Martin, Tim Tremblay and Robbie Malinowski. Most of these riders can also be seen during the highly anticipated X Games held every year in January.

Helmers has gotten to know most of these riders and has learned a lot from them. He has spent many weekends practicing with these competitors at various tracks and facilities.

“We go to ERX Motorpark in Elk River and practice,” Helmers said. “We test, do practice laps and practice our starts.”

Helmers said racing the entire season depends on sponsorship to make the long trip to New York this year, and also depends on keeping healthy and staying away from injuries.

The racer’s injury list has been extensive since he started racing.

In 2004, he was hit in the chest and crushed all of his ribs. In 2005, he shattered his leg.

In 2006, he was run over by another snowmobile in Brainerd. He was knocked out and had swelling around his spinal cord.

“It was a pretty serious injury,” Helmers said.

In 2011, Helmers missed the entire season after he messed up his leg.

“I popped my knee out,” Helmers said. “I broke my leg in five different places.”

Helmers had surgery last spring to remove all of the hardware from that incident.

“Hopefully, I’m 100 percent this season,” Helmers said.

To get ready for the upcoming season, he has been working on staying in shape and getting his body ready.

“I’ve been training with a trainer out of Lifetime Fitness for 10 years,” Helmers said. “Our legs are like a second pair of shocks when riding.”

This will also be Helmers’ first attempt at the pro open division. He started out in the beginner division and has worked his way up through the ranks through his career. Currently, Helmers is in the pro lite division, which is just below the pro open division.

“We have the same sleds, same set-ups as the pro open,” Helmers said. “We run similar lap times. We run less laps as well. If I can improve my lap times, I may move to the pro open division, if they allow me to.”

Helmers began in 2003 in the beginner class.

“I finished first or second almost every time out in the beginner class,” Helmers said.

From there, he moved onto the sport class for a year before moving to the semi-pro division for four years. In 2010, Helmers moved to the pro lite division. The wins were harder to get as the years went on and competition grew.

Helmers thanks fellow racer, Dan Ebert, and his family for getting him into snowmobile racing.

Helmers also attributes most of his success to some of his fellow racers who have helped him over the years, Lavalle, Blair Morgan, and Hibbert, to name a few.

“Blair Morgan used to help me out when I was with Ski-Doo,” Helmers said. “He’s paralyzed now, but I learned a lot from him, watching him, and just hanging out.”

Even with the dangers of the sport, Helmers is gonna give it all he’s got this year, which he said will be his final year racing snowmobiles. He is going to step aside and help others wrench on their snowmobiles and maybe get his son into the sport.

For more information on the ISOC, go to