By Seth Fargher
Despite a considerable amount of change over the last four years (getting married, a new job, two children etc) the stars have somehow aligned for me to attend the UTV Invasion in St. Anthony Idaho every year. Coming from the east coast, it’s typically my only opportunity to see many of my west coast friends and certainly my only chance to experience a riding area of that magnitude.
Since my first trip to St. Anthony in 2005 (ish) the area has remained at the top of my favorite duning locations list. The sheer size of the dunes is hard to put into words and photos and video really don’t do them justice. When you factor in the advancements in machinery over the last few years, the dunes simply become more and more enjoyable.
This year I arrived Thursday afternoon and jumped right into the thick of things. After saying my “hello’s” and helping deliver a generator to a vendor (the event promoter is a close friend) we headed for Egin lake to capture some scenery shot’s of Jon’s Polaris RZR Turbo S. Where Glamis certainly has it’s own rugged beauty, the Idaho dunes make for spectacular scenery and Egin Lake is a popular waypoint and makes for great photos with it’s lush greenery and reflective water. On a clear day, you can even spot the Grand Teton Mountains off in the distance.
Once back at camp I meandered through the expanded vendor row and took full advantage of the vendor appreciate dinner before retiring to the campfire. Ten years in the industry has allowed me to make friends from all across the country and events like this are typically my only opportunity to catch up in person. Time around the campfire with good friends is good for the soul.
We kicked off Friday morning with a test drive of the new Textron Wildcat XX. Textron Off-Road had a handful of vehicles on display and although they weren’t offering demo rides to the public, being a member of the media definitely has its perks. Stay tuned for a full dune review on the Wildcat XX in the near future.
Can-Am was however on hand and offering demo rides for the third year in a row. Having OEM representation is huge for an event like UTV Invasion because it not only brings a level of professionalism and credibility to the event, but their ongoing involvement shows their commitment to the industry and the enthusiasts. Plus people love having the opportunity to test out the latest and greatest vehicles.
It is awesome to have demo rides available right at the event. Hat’s off to Can-Am for making it happen the last three years.
On the topic of OEMs, it’s been refreshing to see an increase in the number of competing brands represented at events. Not all that long ago the number of RZRs dwarfed that of any other manufacturer at almost any dune event in the country. Today, and at the UTV Invasion in particular, the field is a little more diverse with almost as many Can-Am vehicles as Polaris along with a strong showing of Yamaha YXZ’s and even a handful of the Textron Off-road Wildcat XX’s. This competition between brands indicates the industry is healthy and consumers have a lot to choose from when selecting an off-road vehicle.
Friday afternoon we spent a little more time in the dunes before catching the HCR Racing UTV Teeter Totter Competition where event regular Max Franco managed to dethrone two time champion Steve Watson. A teeter totter might sound like child’s play but to a handful of these guys, it’s not joke. Another big winner took home a UTV wrap courtesy of Wolf Designs during the Friday night raffle. The night closed out with a newly added beer garden serving up drinks while THE VOLTZ rocked the FUEL OFF-ROAD main stage.
In my opinion mornings are the best time to hit the dunes because the sand is the smoothest and there is usually very little wind. We headed out early with Jake from Polaris and Brent Macias to find a particular jump that Brent had been launching the night before. This was probably the most fun ride of the weekend for me as we were on the gas the entire way, carving and sliding around massive bowls until we found the jump. Unfortunately, Brent ran out of talent after only a few hits on the jump and put his four seat Polaris RZR on it’s side while lining up for another hit. Though uninjured, the same couldn’t be said of his RZR.
Jake on the other hand was playing it safe in his custom, hybrid, “thing” that started life as a Polaris RZR and morphed into a super lightweight, snub nosed rear wheel drive UTV. In addition to being an enthusiast, Jake actually works for Polaris and let’s just say he’s privy to some equipment and information the rest of us just have to wonder about. We’ll be doing more in depth feature on Jake’s vehicle in the coming weeks as well.
Because the dunes take center stage at the UTV Invasion, no trip to St. Anthony is complete without hitting Choke Cherry Hill and Devil’s Dune. Devil’s Dune is probably the single largest bowl in all of North America. I have zero evidence to prove that other than the ear to ear grin I get when carving around it. Seriously, it’s massive.
So we left Jake and Brent to limp the injured RZR back to camp and set out for Devil’s Dune, returning by way of Choke Cherry Hill, one of the more popular gathering places in the dunes.
Back at camp, the kiddos were treated to a kid’s only raffle with some epic prizes like custom painted RC cars and what is becoming a UTV Invasion kids raffle tradition, five pound gummy bears. It’s awesome to see so many families at the event and the organizers are working hard to make sure the kids feel included.
Giving back is a huge part of this event and this year that happened in a couple of different ways. A last minute group ride was organized by the friends and family of Dee Perry, a local enthusiast who was tragically killed just a week prior to the event. In addition to a donation that was taken for his family prior to the group ride, several winners from the “official” charity raffle that night donated their prizes back to be auctioned off with the proceeds going to the Perry family.
This gesture really speaks volumes of the off-road community as people are willing to give up some pretty awesome prizes (a Buggy Whip Inc LED whip flag, a SUPERATV 4500 lb winch and a set of wheels) to raise money for a family that they don’t even know. In the end, several thousand dollars was raised for the Fremont County FOP Lodge 21 with hundreds more going to the Perry family.
Saturday evening closed out with the Wolf Designs Show ’n Shine, followed by the charity raffle and a concert featuring the Dirty Little Richards. As an added treat, BC Vaught who was in attendance raising support for Road 2 Recovery and Colten Moore sat in on a few songs with the band. What many folks might not know is that BC was one of the founding members of Hed PE, a metal core band from the early 90’s. Though it’s been a few years since he’s been on tour, the old guy still has some skills on the drums.
Sunday morning included a chapel service and one final group ride for those who weren’t breaking camp to beat the holiday weekend traffic home. All in all it was another successful and enjoyable trip to the best dunes in North America. If you’ve never been to ST Anthony or even if you have, you should make plans to attend next year’s UTV Invasion over Labor Day weekend 2019. You won’t be sorry.