Willford brothers tasting success racing snowmobiles uphill
Cable and Cole Willford spent their childhoods seated on a snowmobile. Decades later, nothing’s changed.
The Fruita brothers grew up in Walden cruising the backcountry with their dad, Harlan, doing the steering behind them.
“We were always very involved in snowmobiling as a family,” Cole fondly recalled. “On the weekends, we’d just go out and ride. From the time I was 5 years old, I’d ride between my dad’s legs. I grew up always being around snowmobiles.”
For both brothers, that recreational pastime has blossomed into a professional career. Cable, 38, and Cole, 35, are making names for themselves on the Rocky Mountain Snowmobile Hillclimb Association circuit.
Cole, who mans Polaris sleds, successfully defended his 2012 600cc modified title at the Jackson Hole World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb with a 2013 championship at the famed Wyoming ski resort last month. He also finished as the RMSHA points champion in the same division. He added a third-place points finish in 700 mod division, a fourth-place showing in open mod, a sixth in 1,000 stock and eighth in 800 mod.
Cable, a Team Yamaha rider who began competing only three years ago, scored a number of top-10 finishes throughout the season and finished in the top 20 in points in each of the five divisions he competes in — 700 improved stock (10th), 600 improved stock (11th), 700 mod (12th), 600 mod (18th) and 800 mod (19th).
The technical, uphill courses on which the Willfords compete every winter serve as battlegrounds for a burgeoning sibling rivalry.
“He’s got the upper hand on me right now,” Cable joked.
Cole’s been at it a while longer. The former Mesa State College football player became a professional snowmobiler in 2006 and really began to put it all together last year, following up his world title at Jackson Hole with points titles in both the open and 600 mod divisions.
“I really finished off very strong last year,” Cole said. “I wanted to go into this year, you know, carrying that momentum. So this year I’ve done a really good job with that, staying consistent every week and going into Jackson with the ultimate goal to recapture the 600 mod world title.
“I didn’t know if it would happen or not, but I felt prepared, and my snowmobiles and equipment and everything just seemed to fit and be working really good.”
From January through April every year, the Willford brothers spend most every weekend on the road, traveling to competitions throughout the Rocky Mountains. Most competitions are held at ski resorts.
With different sponsors and different rides, they don’t travel together these days.
Cole uses his black Ford F-450 pickup to haul a 44-foot trailer emblazoned with his likeness, the names of his numerous sponsors and his bib number: 252. Within the walls of his second home sit his three sleds, for which he is the chief mechanic.
“Unfortunately, I’m not lucky enough to have a full-time mechanic to help,” he said with a laugh.
Cole’s day job is in the oil and gas industry. He’s a wireline operator for Rocky Mountain Wireline Service.
Cable is a truck driver with his own rig.
Balancing day jobs with their competitive endeavors makes winters rather hectic for the Willford brothers.
“I’ll knock out a few loads between races,” said the self-employed Cable, whose bib number is 475. “Whatever makes sense. I definitely plan my entire career around racing.”
“Wintertime is definitely a busy time for me,” Cole said. “I almost don’t have time to think.”
Both are family men, too.
Cole has a wife, Jill, and two children: a 5-year-old daughter Peyton and 10-year-old son Tanner.
Cable and his wife, Megan, have an 8-year-old son, Ryder.
And, sure enough, the youngest generation of Willfords all spend some time atop a snowmobile.
“It’s what we do as a family,” said Cable, whose son is already competing. “It’s kind of something we’ve built our time around.”
Just as his son is following his own lead, Cable’s path to the uphill racing circuit followed that of his brother.
“Basically, all my friends were doing it,” he said. “I figured, ‘Why not try?’ I was riding Yamaha, which was kind of the black sheep of the industry at the time. It’s four-stroke as opposed to two-stroke, and no one was racing Yamaha on the circuit at the time. Everybody said it couldn’t be done. I took it upon myself to maybe be the first to do it. That kind of spurred me into it.”
Since then, Team Yamaha has grown, as has the success of both brothers. All with their family by their side.
“They’re probably the biggest reason for my racing now that I’m at where I’m at,” Cole said. “It’s a big thing for me to show my kids, you know, that if there’s something they want to do to just go out and do it. It’s kind of cliché, but for them to have somebody to look up to, to have a dad to be proud of, I really strive to be that. And my wife, she’s the biggest supporter and pushes me and has always been behind me in it.
“This is not only rewarding for myself, but for my family. If I didn’t have them to share it with, it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting as it is.”