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First Detroit Snowfest off-road event blows into Holly Oaks Saturday


Southeast Michigan’s biggest annual off-road event, Detroit 4fest in September, now has a winter partner.

The first annual Detroit Snowfest Powered by Jeep kicks off Saturday with hundreds of off-road warriors in Wranglers, Rubicons, Broncos, Raptors, ZR2s, RZRs, 4Runners, 4X4s and side-by-sides expected to descend on Holly Oaks ORV Park.

At their disposal is a 185-acre playground featuring off-road trials, tracks and the vertical Mt. Magna obstacle course with Moab, Utah-inspired features like Potato Salad Hill and the Hot Tub. Detroit 4fest — which will celebrate its sixth year next September as part of Detroit’s September auto-palooza of events including the North American International Auto Show and American Speed Festival — has been a wild success with thousands of off-road enthusiasts descending on the Oakland County park.

“We wanted to provide the off-road community with a wintertime event based on the overwhelming response we have received from 4fest,” said 4fest/Snowfest CEO Tom Zielinski. “And winter brings its own set of fun challenges with more slippery climbs in the wet versus the dry.”

Snow isn’t forecast to make an appearance at Snowfest this year, with no flakes in the forecast until Sunday. But the tundra will be plenty challenging anyway. Zielinski and his team have been busy grooming the back 72 acres, which came on line last year.

Open to the public since the fall of 2020, Holly Oaks (off Exit 101 on I-75 50 miles north of Detroit) has dovetailed with Americans’ lust for all things outdoors. The auto industry has responded with a flood of new off-road vehicles and trims including the V8-powered Jeep Wrangler 392, Ford’s Bronco brand lineup, Chevy’s ZR2 off-road models, GMC AT4 models, Toyota TRDs, Ford Tremor pickups, even dirt-kicking electric pickups like the Rivian 1RT and GMC Hummer.

Holly Oaks offers enthusiasts the chance to try their new wheels (Snowfest only asks that four-wheel-vehicles — no motorbikes — attend) in their back yard without having to travel to remote parks like Drummond Island in the Upper Peninsula or Silver Lake on Lake Michigan. To that end, Snowfest will offer an Off-Road 101 session put on by Discover 4x4 Adventures as well as two guided tours of the park’s trails.

The Jeep brand is synonomous with off-roading and is Snowfest’s chief patron. There will be a Jeep display in the Holly Oaks paddock and Jeep boss and Stellantis Senior VP Jim Morrison, a rabid off-roader himself, will be on hand for a Jeep Talk with Wrangler product manager Scott Blum.

Gates open for parking and safety flag sales at 8 a.m. High Octane Coffee will be served at 9 am., followed by lunch at 11 a.m. For more information and to register for the event, visit www.detroitsnowfest.com.

"We have a great lineup of participants and are looking forward to a great day of off-roading,” said Zielinski.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne

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