Small Ontario club grabs big honor
A small snowmobile club just north of Toronto, Ontario has won the highest honors given to snowmobile clubs! Gravenhurst’s Snowcrest Riders Snowmobile Club has recently won 2013 International Snowmobile Club of the Year from the iconic International Snowmobile Hall of Fame (ISHOF), which is based in Eagle River, WI. This same club was also named 2013 Club of the Year by the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations.
Snowmobile.com interviewed Snowcrest Riders SC president Bob Clarke about this recent ISHOF recognition. From the start of the interview, Clarke responds with a broken sentence, “Honored, thrilled, feeling a little emotional… surprised, but all of this is still sinking in.”
He explains how his club has come a long way. He notes that just seven years ago, the Snowcrest Riders SC was on the verge of folding. “But at that time, we knew that the club needed to do things differently and take a new direction. This new direction included the community; support from local business, town council along with a strong volunteer base.”
Not long ago, Clarke went to the Town of Gravenhurst and presented Council with an idea to make the town more snowmobile user friendly. The town agreed with Clarke and appointed him the chair of a new Task Force to examine these ideas. The Task Force included members of the community; marketing people, local business owners and snowmobile club members. The committee’s work resulted in a seven-page business plan for the town of Gravenhurst. That plan was part of the package that leads to all the recognition awards achieved by the snowmobile club. But, Clarke is quick to point out, “These are not Club Awards, these are Community Awards”.
The Snowcrest Riders Snowmobile Club was notified by the ISHOF only a few days before the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs’ AGM. Unfortunately, that did not leave enough time for the club to go to Wisconsin for the ISHOF Award presentation. So, ISHOF’s Vice-President, Tom Anderson arranged to send the award to the OFSC AGM, where the ISHOF award was presented to the Snowcrest Riders SC on ISHOF’s behalf.
The Snowcrest Riders Snowmobile Club winning formula rests with its memberships and community of support. This organization has 900 members that purchase Trial Permits. Key to success are the 64 active volunteers who are the backbone of the club.
Clarke notes, “Having an active club attracts volunteers, being positive, involved with snowmobiling and the community is key.” The club’s seven-year journey to success started with showing people the great things that the snowmobile club is doing. Clarke said, “That all snowmobile clubs should look at working with the municipalities.” But Clarke doesn’t stop there, he continues with higher levels of Provincial and Federal governments as well. Three years ago, MP Tony Clement came to a Snowcrest trailside event in the heart of winter to speak to the club about its successes.
Partnerships and involvement are also crucial and the Snowcrest Riders SC has several partnerships throughout their community. They also enjoy social events, work on charity events and are active with the Ontario Winter Games. The Snowcrest Riders SC is also very involved with the Prostate Extreme Team (PET) also known as the Cancer Tour of Hope; this annual fundraising event has already raised over $40,000 for prostrate cancer victims.
Of course, the Snowcrest Riders SC also does what snowmobile clubs do – maintain and groom snowmobile trails. The club’s trails are just 100 miles north of Toronto in the heart of the busiest trail system in Ontario. Maintaining these trails is a big job with the amount of traffic that is received, especially on the weekends. Snowcrest takes pride in its trails. Club volunteers do a great job in maintaining and marking its trails, including the staking of routes across the several lakes that are within the club’s trail system. These lakes are staked every season, once the ice is safe, of course.
The Snowcrest Rider’s future is to continue working with the town of Gravenhurst to obtain property for a clubhouse and a club workshop. This is an on going project for the Snowcrest Riders SC along with all the other projects they have on the go.
As for Bob Clarke, the president, one can tell very early in a conversation that he is very proud of his club. “I’m looking forward to retiring soon, so that I can spend more time on club stuff and more time in the groomer.”