Snowmobile club marks 50 years

Gold is traditionally the colour for 50 years. But this time around, it’s white, pure white.

It was in 1967 that the Vernon Snowmobile Association first hit the powder, and the club still remains an active force five decades later.

“It’s the oldest club in B.C.,” said Ben Drodge, president.

“They (charter members) laid the foundation for the sport.”

And it’s those early roots that will be celebrated during a 50th birthday party March 11, with a ride to the Silver Star chalet.

“We are hoping to bring former members together,” said Kevin Hillier, a club director.

About 40 people gathered in March 1967 to form the club and the board included Bruce Georgeson, Ray Redstone, Arthur Abram, Jack Tordoff, Norman Sasges, Dick Kimball, Jack Passmore, Don Stinn, Peter Genier and Ray O’Rourke.

“The aim of this new club was to promote better fellowship, organize trail rides and family winter sports and also to promote bigger and better snowmobile championship races,” said Sybil Hillier, club historian, in a history she has compiled.

At the end of August 1967, construction was started on a chalet and it was officially opened in February 1968 on Silver Star Mountain.

“This chalet was the first of its kind in Western Canada,” said Sybil Hillier.

Responsible snowmobiling was an important part of the early club, and that tradition continues today.

“We want all of our members to be respectful of the backcountry. We want to promote safety,” said Drodge.

All of the association directors have received avalanche training and members are encouraged to do the same.

Volunteer labour has always been a critical part of the club’s success and that was evident when the Armstrong chalet burned down in early 2010.

“Due to a high snow load that year, which stayed late in the season, construction began in July 2010. Members moved all of the material up to the cabin site in pickups and trailers, which could be up to a two-hour drive from Armstrong on the deactivated road,” wrote Sybil Hillier.

“The construction was headed up by president Gord Evans and the owner of Cedar Solutions, Dwayne Baumle. The building continued through the summer and fall of 2010.”

The club currently has 79 members and a resurgence in the sport is taking place as individuals and families want to spend more time outdoors.

“My wife rides and my daughter rides,” said Drodge.

“This sport is real face time. In the woods, the phone doesn’t work and people want that. It gets the kids out of that whole (electronic) environment.”

A major focus for the club is the annual Provincial Snow Show, and $28,000 has been donated to Easter Seals in the last two years.

Plans are also underway for a new club facility and discussions are being held with Silver Star Mountain Resort.

“We’re going to build the sport the best we can,” said Drodge.

For more information about the Vernon Snowmobile Association, go to www.vernonsnowmobileclub.org

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