The First 50 Seasons of the VSA - 1967 to 2017
The following is a detailed history of the Vernon Snowmobile Association, researched and compiled in the fall of 2016 for the VSA’s 50th Season. The Document was complied by extensive research – by in person interviews with former members, by extensive research of the VSA’s own archives and with the cooperation of the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives.
The Beginning - 1960s
In the early 1960s snowmobiling wasn’t the popular recreational sport it is today. The only snowmobiles at that time were the Snow Cruiser and the Hus-Ski Snow Traveller. Although the Hus-Ski was a very versatile machine used by hunters, farmers, utility companies transporting their crews, and men cutting wood for paper companies and for lumber firms, it was big and cumbersome. It was advertised as safe enough for a child to operate and very easy to maneuver, but it was a heavy machine.
In the winter of 1963/64 a trapper from the Lumby area saw his first Ski-Doo while on a trip to Alberta. He was impressed by its lighter weight and faster speed (25 to 45 m.p.h.) He asked Jack Passmore if he could get one for him. At the time Jack was the manager at Seymour Equipment, the company that sold snowmobiles in Vernon. A company in Creston had an ad in the Vernon paper for the sale of Ski-Doos, but at that time there was no distributor in BC. Jack contacted Bombardier in Valcourt, Quebec, the company that manufactured the machines, about becoming the distributor in BC. The company was planning to send someone to Vancouver to set up a distributorship, but Jack aggressively sought to have it here in Vernon and was successful in becoming the sole distributor in British Columbia. Seymour Equipment became the dealer for Ski Doo but a separate company had to be set up to become the Distributor. In 1965 Alpine Distributors Ltd. was formed with Jack Passmore as General Sales Manager and Eldon Seymour as President. In November of 1967 Alpine Distributors moved to a location where Briteland is now located because they needed to be near the railway. In 1973 they relocated to what became the Alpine Centre on Kal Lake Road.
In the summer of 1965 the first shipment of Ski-Doo snowmobiles arrived in Vernon. Sales were very good with the machines selling for $825. The Ski-Doo was advertised as the only snowmobile that could pass the egg test by gliding over an egg in fresh snow without breaking it. The public soon realized that this machine would be great for fun times in the winter and Ski-Dooing became the greatest recreational sport in North America. Six machines were sold to Tom Barton who set up a rental company. About this time several other makes of snowmobiles were being manufactured and sold in Canada and the United States.
Soon after the arrival of these snowmobiles in Vernon, in February 1966, snowmobile races were organized. Snowmobiling was a new sport and the races were very popular with the public. The first race was held at Kin Race Track and thousands attended to watch this exciting event. Some well-known racers from Vernon were Don Stinn, Jack Tordoff, John Wolfe, Art Fester, Bill Udy, Bruce Georgeson, Chuck Watkinson, and Dave Sparrow of Kelowna. It’s interesting to see the snowmobile “attire” of the day; just regular winter clothing and no helmets! There were 54 entries that year and organizers were convinced this would be an annual event. The following year, February 1967, a two day event took place during winter carnival. On Saturday there were relay races and the B.C. Championship cross country race was held. The following day the spectators were treated to obstacle races, a slalom race, oval race and the Powder Puff Derby, a special race for the ladies. To find a cross country route for the race, according to a newspaper article dated February 1966, six riders went a distance of 60 miles starting from the BX. They travelled to Becker Lake, to the top of Vernon Hill then down to the Coldstream to the east side of Kalamalka Lake. They then went to Beaver Lake, Aberdeen Lake and Nicklen Lake along logging roads and back to Vernon. It is unsure whether this was the route used for the race. Unfortunately mild weather and a lack of adequate snow caused problems some years. The B. C. Championship Races were a very important part of the Snowmobile Association with members helping to organize and help out on race day.
In March 1967 a meeting was held to organize the Vernon Snowmobile Club. About 35 to 40 people attended and elected the first directors. Bruce Georgeson was president, Ray Redstone was vice-president, Arthur Abram was secretary, and Jack Tordoff was treasurer. Other directors were Norman Sasges, Dick Kimball, Jack Passmore, Don Stinn, and Peter Genier of Vernon, and Ray O’Rourke of Lumby. The new club was named the Vernon Snowmobile Association. 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 next year. The fees that year were $2.00 per person over the age of 16. The president stressed that it was extremely important to observe the law at Silver Star. If snowmobilers wanted to use the Park they had to stay off the ski runs unless there was an emergency.
At the July 31, 1967 meeting a discussion was held regarding the building of a cabin on the burn. The Parks Board had been contacted and had no objections but consent had not yet been given. The club went ahead with plans for the cabin and a building committee was appointed. In August 1967 permission was received from the Parks Board to build a cabin in Silver Star Park. The members agreed to spend $400.00 on the cabin construction. Also, executive members were encouraged to sell charter memberships for $10.00 to help with the finances of the club. A list of the charter members would be put in the chalet.
At the end of August 1967 construction was started on a 46 by 24 foot chalet. Don Stinn was the building committee chairman. Twenty eight volunteers worked to complete the two story shelter as soon as possible, as at the 6000 foot level snow could fall any time after September 15. This chalet was unique in that it was constructed completely by volunteer labor and by selling charter memberships. Materials were donated by Vernon and area merchants. It was originally estimated that the chalet would be valued at $5000.00 but because the size increased the value was estimated to be $8000.00. A spiral staircase was built from the first to the second floor, a citizen band radio antenna was installed, and a septic tank and water system also installed. This chalet was the first of its kind in Western Canada. The Quebec and Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs requested details on how this chalet was being built and financed. At this time the Snowmobile Association was sure that this area of Silver Star would have huge growth in the coming years. How right they were!
At the end of 1967 there were 67 paid-up members. The bank balance was $404.84.
In February 1968 B.C.’s Education and Labor Minister L. R. Peterson and North Okanagan MLA Pat Jordan officially opened the snowmobile chalet. The Minister, along with a party of 30, went on a snowmobile safari to the chalet to officiate at the opening.
Responsible snowmobiling was an important part of this early club. At one meeting Sandy Boyd gave a talk from a farmer’s point of view. He told the members that private property should be respected, especially gates and fences. Members were advised to stay away from the Repeater Station, the Forestry Look-out, the ski runs and cables and to use caution on the section of Silver Star Road between the Repeater Road turn-off and the newly designated parking area. Also, a report was made by Constable Howard Bruce of the R.C.M.P. regarding licensing, permits and rules and regulations pertaining to the operation of snow vehicles on public roads.
A tentative constitution and by-laws were drawn up in October/November 1967. It was recommended that safety rules and regulations be incorporated in the club’s constitution.
Membership fees were also increased to $5.00 single and $7.50 family for the 67-68 season. Upon payment of membership fees one crest would be given to a single member and two crests to families. In December 1967 there were 67 paid up members. There was also a request from Search and Rescue for cooperation of the club in the event of any emergency. A committee was formed to assist Search and Rescue as needed.
Work continued on the chalet throughout the winter of 1967, such as oiling the floors, building a counter, insulating, getting a table and chairs, wiring lights, hooking up the water and installing a new heater.
In January 1968 the club joined the B.C. Snow Vehicle Association. Vernon Snowmobile Association had 75 paid up members and $433.95 in the bank.
The new executive for the 1968/69 year discussed several projects for the upcoming year. These included obtaining a large map of Silver Star Park area, having a definite boundary between the snowmobile and ski areas, setting up development plans, and a program to co-ordinate safaris, racing and chalet activities.
In March 1968 an open house was held at the chalet with approximately 100 people and 75 machines in attendance.
At a meeting in August 1968 the club wanted a newsletter published during the winter season. This would help in communicating with out of town members. Bob Passmore was the first editor. The first newsletter was sent out in September 1968 but still didn’t have a name. Some names suggested were Snow Topics, Snow Flake, The Blizzard, and Snow Blow’n. The name chosen was Star Riders. Club activities would also be advertised in the newspaper and on the radio.
Plans were made to have a float in the 1969 Winter Carnival Parade.
The end of 1968 saw approximately 98 paid up members and $527.25 in the bank (as of January 13/69).
The Vernon Snowmobile Association was always ready and willing to help in any emergency. In January 1969 a snowstorm in the Fraser Valley caused dairy farmers in the Matsqui-Sumas-Abbotsford area to be snowbound, unable to deliver their milk to the dairies. Eleven members from Vernon took their machines by trucks as far as they could and then travelled to the farms to pick up the milk and take it on sleds to waiting transport trucks to have it delivered to the dairies. This selfless act resulted in the members receiving the Armand Bombardier Award. It was presented to them at city hall by Bombardier Ltd. President Laurent Beaudoin of Valcourt, Quebec. Assisting him was Mayor William Halina. This was the first time the award had been presented in Western Canada.
During these early years the members worked tirelessly in the off season to make new trails, work on improving the chalet, cutting wood, making signs and generally doing everything possible to make Silver Star the best snowmobiling area in Canada.
Meetings were held with Silver Star Park Board to ensure all rules and regulations were being followed and to promote harmony among all users of the mountain.
Dances, family days and safaris were held to promote fellowship among the members and also to meet members from other club.
The Club Grows – 1970s
The 1970’s were a busy and interesting time for the Vernon Snowmobile Association.
A committee was formed, chaired by Jack Passmore, for the primary purpose of organizing snowmobile outings for families. Nine areas were designated as good places that could be developed. The areas suggested were Jimmy Lake – Woods Lake, Pinaus Lake, Hunter’s Range, Silver Star Area, Dixon Dam -Becker Lake, King Edward Lake – Beaver Lake, Aberdeen Lake, Galloping Hills – Kettle River-Moor Mtn., and Silver Star – Armstrong. One or two men (Safari Guides) were designated to be responsible for each area. This included clearing and marking trails with signs, keeping the area in good condition throughout the snowmobile season, and also patrolling the area at certain times to check for vandalism. In the summer each Safari Guide would check his area and make sure trails were clearly marked. Each of the Safari Guides would need a lot of help to maintain their trails in the very best condition. The idea was that any day of the week a snowmobiler could call a certain number and be told where a group would be snowmobiling that night. A map was made up showing each safari area. In the mid 70’s it was reported that there were several night safaris for men only and some father and son or daughter rides that were very successful.
The B.C. Snowmobile Championship races would be held in Vernon for the next two years during winter carnival. The money received from the races was divided between the Winter Carnival Society (20%), Winterside, the racing venue (60%), and the Vernon Snowmobile Association would receive 20% of the gate money. The club would supply part of the labor involved in holding the races and the Winter Carnival Society guaranteed the prize money.
When the first tax notice in the amount of $140.00 for the chalet was received in 1971 one of the members checked with a lawyer to see what could be done. The following year the taxes were $151.90. The club thought that as a Non-Profit organization the assessment could be lowered and it was decided that the matter should be turned over to a lawyer to handle. It’s unsure exactly what happened regarding the taxes.
In April 1972 some V.S.A. members built a cabin in the Monashee area on a Special Use Permit. When a complaint was made to Forestry the Monashee Snowmobile Club was formed. This cabin was for anyone’s use and a key could be obtained from one of the members.
Summer projects for 1972 included making stairs to the basement to make it easier to haul wood, and do some work on the water supply to prevent it from freezing.
In October 1972 it was reported that all snowmobiles had to be licensed by Nov. 1st for a fee of $5.00. Proof of ownership was required when applying for a license.
The use of a trail groomer from Alpine Distributors was greatly appreciated, but since it was not always available a suggestion was made in January of 1973 to look into the possibility of purchasing their own. It was February 1976 before the club purchased a one year old used Bombi from Alpine Distributors. The price was $8000.00 on a four year plan with no interest. A fund raising committee was formed to raise money for this purchase. A Bombi charter membership was set up with a minimum $25.00 donation. A plaque would be made up of the charter members and posted in the chalet.
The B. C. Snow Vehicle Association annual meeting was held in Vernon on March 31 – April 1, 1973.
The Silver Star Steering Committee put forth a proposal that the ski and snowmobile areas be classed as Recreational areas. At that time there was no legislation classifying these areas as such. The cross country skiers agreed to this proposal. About this time a letter was published in the local newspaper about snowmobilers on Silver Star. The writer suggested that readers write to Victoria condemning snowmobiles on the mountain. The main purpose of the above mentioned proposal was to promote Silver Star Mountain area as a multipurpose park, and advising Victoria that snowmobiling in Vernon was bringing in several million dollars. It was recommended that as many directors and members as possible present this brief in Victoria.
An Alpine Ski-doo and attached groomer was made available to the club by Alpine Distributors.
In 1974 a suggestion was made by President Monika Gobiel that an award be given out annually to the member who contributed the most effort to the club. The award would be called the Russ Varty Memorial. It was said that if an award like this had been available two years ago, Russ would have been the recipient because he devoted so much time to the club.
Alpine Distributors made available a 640 Alpine for use to groom the trails.
In 1975 the first Search and Rescue meeting for snowmobilers was held with 18 people present. Ray Redstone was elected as Search Master and Jack Tordoff as Assistant. In September 1975 Les Hillier and an RCMP constable from our area went to Victoria for a Search and Rescue Course. This course was mainly about map and compass work on field trips and some classroom instruction. A film on hypothermia would be shown to the membership in the near future.
1975/76 several Junior Safaris were held, which were very successful. The taxes on the chalet in 1975 were $213.33.
In July 1976 the first Summer Jamboree was held at Fintry. Out of town clubs were invited and Larry Williamson donated beef for the barbecue. The Jamboree was a success and plans were made to continue this summer get together.
In 1977 a Slo-pitch team was formed. They didn’t win a lot of games but they had fun. These evening games were family affairs where the children played together while their parents played ball.
1978 was an important year as this is when the first Snowarama was held at L & A Ranch. In conjunction with the Vernon Lions’ Club snowmobilers collected pledges for a 100 mile ride for the Crippled Children of British Columbia. Some of the “celebrity” riders were North Okanagan MLA Pat Jordan, CJIB radio personality Frank Martina, Vernon Daily News Sports Editor Don Kendall, and resident guide Smokey Trumbly. A target figure of $10,000.00 was set, but was exceeded. Frank Martina had the largest media pledge total of $7,050.00. A Vernon RCMP member rode with Frank to make sure he did not exceed the set speed limit! Vern Sparrow had the largest non-VIP pledge total with an amount of $2,682.00. The youngest competitor was Roger Just, seven years old. The total pledged that year was more than $26,000.00 with about $21,500.00 actually collected. A lot of preparation went into this event from grooming the trail to policing to running the concession stand. Vernon received a trophy as the city that raised the most money for Snowarama.
In 1979 there were 103 riders with a total of $31,500.00 pledged. Province-wide over $117,000.00 was raised.
Throughout these years the members kept busy with summer projects to improve the chalet and the trails. Strict attention was paid to the relationship between skiers and snowmobilers and many meetings were held between the groups. The snowmobilers had to police their area to ensure that property and the environment weren’t damaged. Sometimes it was non-members who caused problems but every snowmobiler was painted with the same brush.
Every year there were start up and wind up dances as well as family fun days and safaris. A Preview Show was also held annually. From 1 – 6 p.m. dealers could display machines and advertising material. Often a fashion show was also held. A dance would be held later in the evening.
Safety in snowmobiling was extremely important to the executive and the members. Often speakers would be brought in to talk about Safety and films were shown as well. Sometimes there would be talks on snowmobile maintenance. It was stressed many times how important it was to stay off the ski trails.
Successes and Challenges - 1980s
Snowarama 1980 was held at Silver Star which presented a problem with parking. It took 318 man hours and 17 vehicles to prepare the course for the ride. That year $39,000.00 was pledged. It was easy to get the pledges but much harder to collect the money.
Club Member Larry Williamson moved the Armstrong Chalet from its former location on Baker Road to the current location by towing it with a tractor. The club received a permit to operate trails in the area from the BC Forest Service.
That year the Vernon Snowmobile Association donated $600.00 to the Hunters Range club for their chalet building fund.
The summer Jamboree was held at Newport Beach and was a great success.
It was decided that a trophy would be given to the most active woman in the club and would be named the J. Passmore Trophy.
In 1981 the new All Terrain Vehicle Act was passed. The owner of a snowmobile or any all terrain vehicle had to be licensed under the Motor Vehicle Act, i.e. Driver’s License, and it was mandatory the machines were insured.
Once again Snowarama was held on Silver Star. Over $26,000.00 was collected.
Jeanne Frizzell was the first recipient of the J. Passmore Trophy.
That summer the Newport Beach Jamboree and the Shuswap Fishing Derby were both very successful.
In November 1981 the 301 Snowdozer was leased to Universal Studios for $4000.00 for the period of November 1 to December 15/81. Another source of revenue was a contract with Silver Star Park. The Park was going to take over the grooming and hire the VSA to do the work. When this was first brought up the previous year there was a lot of discussion among the members as to whether this was a good idea.
In 1982 $4000.00 was paid on the loan for the 301 Snowdozer.
A group of exchange students were taken by snowmobile to the chalet. There they were treated to a meal and given VSA pins and crests.
The summer Jamboree was held at Crystal Sands Resort on Mara Lake and on September 1st a fishing derby was held at St. Ives on the Shuswap. The work to be done that fall included repairing the roof on the chalet, one wall, and the water supply. The roof on the Armstrong chalet was also leaking. It was also decided to build a 16’ by 24’ addition. Kurt Petersen donated his time and some financing for the project and the extension was named “Kurt’s Corner”.
Doug and Jeanne Frizzell, on behalf of the B. C. Snow Vehicle Association visited several snowmobile clubs in the province to promote Snowarama. Each club was given a pin from the VSA.
In December 1982 Bob Passmore proposed that a museum be set up and called the Jack Passmore Antique Snowmobile Museum. He said three snowmobiles that had belonged to Jack were already available. The motion was passed and it was decided to set up a bank account for this purpose. In January 1983 a meeting was held with Cedar Springs. They had 1.2 acres that would be suitable for the museum. What they required was for the VSA to provide a trail, for year round use, from Cedar Springs to Silver Star. VSA was also to provide snowmobile storage, guided tours, and the museum.
Once the club had an overall plan with the proposed trail and easements, another meeting would be held with regards to acquiring the property. By 2002 when nothing had been done it was decided to turn over the money that was still in the bank to the Vernon Snowmobile Association. The stipulation was that the money be used to purchase a plaque recognizing Jack’s contribution to building the chalet and his tireless work in getting permission for snowmobilers to use Silver Star.
Snowarama continued to bring in pledges to the tune of $32,138 in 1983. The collection rate of pledges was usually around 90%. There were a lot of media comments about the track that year, saying it was the best yet.
A contract was entered into with Silver Star Park and The Forest Service to groom trails. Another source of revenue was renting out the concession booth to different groups for $25/day.
In mid-January 1984 six Vernon and area snowmobilers left for a cross country trek to Valcourt, Quebec, the headquarters of Bombardier. The group consisted of Bill Shields, Bill Udy, Doug and Jeanne Frizzell of Vernon, Bob Sturgeon of Salmon Arm, and Jack Fisher of Nelson. They planned to complete the 5000 km. trip in 24 days and arrive in Valcourt in time for that city’s 1984 Snowmobile Festival. They received enthusiastic support from snowmobile club members along the way. Local riders would ride part way with them and give them safe routes to follow for the next leg of their journey.
In 1985 Snowarama continued to be the major focus of the club although it was getting more difficult to collect the money pledged.
That year the Bombi was sold to Sicamous Snowmobile Club for $4500.00
A Snowmobile brochure was compiled and printed. It included information about the VSA executive, advertising from local businesses, upcoming events within the Snowmobile Club and other organizations such as hockey games, information about snowmobile safety and ethics, and general information about the Vernon Snowmobile Association and winter recreation in and around Vernon.
In 1986 a fishing derby at Pinaus Lake, arranged by Bob and Mary Viala was successful with a good time had by all.
John Kuly of the Parks Department reported that the area including the parking lot was now named the Sovereign Lake area.
The first Snowmobile Rodeo was held on Swan Lake on February 16th. Snowmobilers from other areas were invited to attend and there was no age limit. Several events were planned with gifts and prizes for the winners. The concession stand was on site as well.
In the winter of 1986/87 a culvert was put under Silver Star Road at a cost of approximately $30,000.00 with the Snowmobile club contributing about $10,000.00
The treasurer’s report in Feb. 1986 stated that a $3000.00 Term Deposit paying 9.25% was due for renewal in March. The treasurer was going to look for a higher rate!
In 1987 President Eric Tucker met with the Parks Department. A five year plan that had been drafted was discussed and some modifications were made.
Casino nights and Pokerama were held as an added source of revenue. It was decided not to continue with Snowarama next year. Some of the members felt that the focus was on the media, especially out of town media, who were taken on rides to different areas. This took away from things that the members needed to do. It was to be remembered that Snowarama wasn’t for the media, the Lions Club or the Snowmobile Club. It was for the crippled children of BC.
Conflicts continued with Cross country skiers on the snowmobile trails and extreme caution had to be exercised especially in the parking lot.
In February 1988 a meeting was held with the Parks Department re: snowmobilers and cross country skiers. Privatization or a take over of the operations of Silver Star by the user groups was discussed. Many questions were brought up such as user fees, control of the groomer, the non-profit status of the Vernon Snowmobile Association, and taxes on the chalet. The Parks representative proposed the user groups form a board to take over operation of the cross country and snowmobile area. Parks would not have a board position but would sit on the board as an advisory person.
It was decided to combine Pokerama and Snowarama next year.
In January 1989 relationships with the Cross Country Skiers improved somewhat. The snowmobile members helped the ski group prepare the trails for their upcoming race.
The focus continued on education of snowmobile safety.
Growth and Changes - 1990s
The 1990s continued to be a busy time for the snowmobile club. Fundraising, trail and chalet maintenance, dealing with garbage at the chalets, and trying to co-exist on the trails with Cross Country Skiers. Often it was snowmobilers and skiers who were not members of the two clubs that caused issues between the groups.
In 1991, Larry Williamson of the Hunters Range Snowmobile Club gave a talk to the members on the history of Snowarama. Hunters Range would be holding the event in February 1992 and asked for volunteers from the Vernon Club.
In 1992 repairs needed to be made to the chalet roof, the well and the water lines.
The BR400 was leased to Silver Star for a minimum of 100 hours at $55.00/hour.
Plans were made to put a gate across the culvert on Silver Star Road.
In 1993 plans were made with the Kelowna Snowmobile Club for the first Okanagan Hill Climb. It was held in April 1994 on Silver Star Mountain. This event grew to be a huge event for the club and the entire community. Most years Silver Star’s hotels and restaurants were at capacity. The Hillclimb grew each year and in its final year of 2000 the world championships were held in Vernon. With the change in ownership of Silver Star snowmobile access was severely restricted to the village, and the hillclimb was cancelled. The event was revived in 2015 with a new partnership with Silver Star Mountain and has had two very successful events held since.
Discussions were started with Silver Star Resorts, the Cross Country Ski Club and VSA re: new trails.
In 1994 the VSA began an annual event called the Toy Run. Snowmobilers gathered at Silver Star Resort and brought toys for families in need which were collected by the Salvation Army. Afterwards the sledders traveled in a large convey to the Silver Star Chalet for lunch and a club ride. In the 1990s this event attracted over 100 sleds each year.
The snowmobile clubs in Vernon and Lumby unofficially became the Vernon and Lumby Snowmobile Association. Under the guidance of President Dave Zimmerman, the Park Mountain Chalet was built that year and trail grooming and area maintenance was then carried on at both Silver Star and Park Mountain. In 1998 the name of the Association was officially changed to the Vernon & Lumby Snowmobile Association. The Lumby Snowmobile Club was formed in 1978 but was no longer in existence. The remaining money in their bank account, $320.00 was donated to the Vernon Snowmobile Association for the Park Mountain groomer.
The winter Fishing Derby resulted in $1300.00 donated to NONA on behalf of the Vernon Snowmobile Association. A toy run was held and also a children’s Christmas party.
In 1995 a Snow Cross Race was held on Silver Star at the Village. The B. C. Snow Vehicle Federation sponsored the event and Silver Star helped with the course preparation. This event was very successful with the club receiving $1176.75 as their share of the profits. The members voted to hold it again next year.
In 1996 the 12th Annual Fishing Derby was again a big success with $2500.00 donated to NONA. A certificate of thanks was given to Bob and Mary Viala who planned and co-ordinated the fishing derbies.
In 1996 the VSA held a large group ride to the Kelowna Snowmobile Club’s trail system in the Greystokes. Members left from Harris Creek Road near Lumby, and guided by club treasurer Randy Dortman crossed through the Greystokes to the Kelowna Club chalet where lunch was supplied. This ride continued off and on for several years.
There continued to be damage done and a mess left at both chalets due to parties being held. The VSA began to apply for grant money for a “snow patrol” program where members would patrol the area and report problems to the RCMP.
In 1997 it was decided to alternate the meeting places between Vernon and Lumby but didn’t continue for long.
Ken Pople, a dedicated club member, died in a motor bike accident in September. Just before the toy run that year a ceremony was held dedicating the new trail “Pople Pass.”
Also in 1997 the VSA was approached by BC Parks and the Sovereign Lake Nordic Club regarding realignment of the trail system and parking lots. Sovereign Lakes Nordic club would take the lower parking lot, and the lower part of Passmore. The VSA would gain a new parking lot, and a new section of Passmore to connect with that lot. In exchange the ski club would plow the snowmobile lot, and the VSA would give up use of the new section of Passmore each December when the snow is more plentiful on our trail system. This arrangement continues to this day.
In 1999 problems continued with Cross Country Skiers and a tour group not adhering to trail rules as to which side of the trail to use. This resulted in one snowmobiler having to drive off the trail to avoid hitting anyone.
On February 28 a Food and Fun Day was held on Park Mountain with donations of food going to the Lumby Food Bank. The fees for the contests held that day went to the Park/Nelson Groomer fund.
The biggest expenses this year were for the groomers with many repairs needed.
A Snow Patrol roadblock was held in Lumby to check for registration and proof of ownership. 70% of machines checked were registered.
A talk given by Pete Wise and Jon Ottesen explaining how Search and Rescue worked was well received by the members. Search & Rescue asked for help from the club for lost snowmobile rescues. The former Vernon Snowmobile Rescue team which was initially formed in the 1970’s was re-formed in 2000/2001 with Doug Frizzell as the team’s manager.
In 1999 a Ticket Dispenser was installed and the VSA received a User Pay agreement from BC Parks, one of the first in the Province. Users were charged $2.00/day. Dave Richmond from BC Parks said he would try to increase the rate to $4.00/day. The object of this fee was to try to get more members to join the club.
In 2000 a user fee was discussed for Park Nelson.
In January 2000 the price of the User Pay tickets at the Silver Star parking lot was increased to $4.00/day.
A New Generation - 2000s
A gaming fund grant of $10,000 was received. The money was used for new signs for Silver Star, VHF radios, brush saws and patrollers’ packs. The signs were installed outside of the park in the forestry area and were completed over two weekends with each of the approximately 60 signs being hand driven and installed by three members. The work was carried out with 4X4 trucks in mud and heavy rain, and occasionally by walking and carrying the steel posts and sledge hammers. New signs were also installed on Park/Nelson.
The Snow Patrollers were issued with Jackets, avalanche Packs and VHF Radios. Each patroller received first aid training and avalanche training supplied by the club. The program resulted in a large increase in compliance with the clubs User Pay system and promoted safety and responsible snowmobiling.
The Club’s current groomer, a 1994 Bombardier BR400 was purchased from Silver Star.
In the spring of 2000, the club received a letter from the Chamber of Commerce in Lumby advising that a new snowmobile club was being formed in Lumby by former Vernon and Lumby members. They wanted the assets of the Vernon and Lumby Snowmobile club divided between the new club and the Vernon and Lumby Snowmobile Association. This was discussed with the representative of the B.C.S.F. and the decision was that the assets belong to the Vernon and Lumby club and could not be divided. The members voted for a $1000 donation to be sent to the new club. President Sue Shultz guided the VSA through a challenging transition and the VSA emerged intact, and with a new vision for the new century.
A motion was made to change the name of the club back to the Vernon Snowmobile Association.
The Championship Hill Climb was cancelled that year because the new owners of Silver Star and Big White didn’t want any sleds on their property.
In December of 2001 and on January 1, 2002 there were two searches, both on Park Mountain, where members of the VSA assisted Vernon Search and Rescue.
Chalet renovations were planned, and were completed the summer of 2002. This involved cutting half the upper floor out and opening up the building with new stairs. The inside was painted and due to damage and vandalism, the propane tank and water supply were removed.
The Toy Food Run was cancelled due to lack of snow on the Star. Instead a toy drop off would be held at the Banner Sea & Ski parking lot. The proceeds went to the Salvation Army. A memorial plaque in honor of Jack Passmore was installed in the loft of the newly renovated chalet naming it the Passmore Loft.
In 2003 the price of a day pass from the Ticket dispenser was increased to $6.00.
In July 2003 the Vernon Snowmobile Association lost a valuable hard working member when Doug Frizzell died in a boating accident in the Yukon. Doug had been a member since 1970 and held every office in the organization. In his later years the VSA purchased a computer and internet connection which allowed Doug to communicate with other snowmobilers and maintain the club’s email account and website traffic. He was also supplied with a VHF radio to monitor the VSA’s Search and Rescue team, and provide guidance when members were patrolling Silver Star. He spent many hours with the computer and radio “virtually” snowmobiling and ensuring his decades of experience were passed onto the next generation.
In 2006 with club membership falling and lack of participation in many club events, some new blood was needed. Gord and Dianne Evans came to a meeting and were subsequently voted in as President and Secretary respectively. Under their leadership the club became more active, and increased its online presence and participated in more community events. Gord and Diane were also instrumental in reviving the Snow Show and moving it from its long time location at the Vernon Lodge to the Rec Centre. As well, their persistence and drive resulted in many successful fundraisers for the club as well as strong community support for the rebuilding of the Armstrong Chalet.
In 2008 the snowmobiling community lost a member who was a big part of the VSA in the 1990s. Former VSA Director Randy Dortman was killed in a snowmobiling accident on Park Mountain in February 2008. In 2010, former club President Dave Zimmerman who was instrumental in guiding the club through much of the 1990’s passed away. Their contributions will be remembered.
The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes - 2010s
In January 2010 the Armstrong Chalet, which was uninsured, burned down. The cause was undetermined. As was the case with the Vernon Chalet in 1967, this new Armstrong Chalet was built entirely by volunteer labour. Donations of both material and labour were received from Cedar Solutions and Millwork in Enderby and Shepherd’s Home Hardware & Building Supplies in Armstrong.
The location for the new cabin was moved slightly from its former location and was surveyed in May 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 pick ups and trailers, which could be up to a 2 hour drive from Armstrong on the deactivated road. The construction was headed up by President Gord Evans and the owner of Cedar Solutions, Dwayne Baumle. Dwayne supplied much of the labour and almost all of the materials for the building. The building continued through the summer and fall of 2010 and the last day when the wood room was stocked was done in heavy snow in late October.
The new chalet was dedicated to the memory of Doug Frizzell, and a grand opening was held in winter of 2011.
In 2011 The price at the Ticket Dispenser was increased to $10/sled. It was hoped that by increasing the daily price more people would join the snowmobile club.
In 2012 with Gord and Dianne looking for a well deserved break, once again a new member found himself in a leadership position seemingly before he knew what happened. Current President Ben Drodge was introduced to the club and brought his infectious enthusiasm and vision to a largely new group of Directors.
Under his leadership the club took on some ambitious projects and regained more recognition in the community.
The VSA today maintains an active and strong partnership with its neighbors on Silver Star mountain. A renewed friendship with Silver Star resulted in the Hillclimb returning to the mountain in 2015 and again in 2016. The Snow Show grew substantially to today’s BC Provincial Snow Show with over 70 exhibitors and attendance of over 10,000 people over two days.
The VSA recognized growth presents challenges and in 2015 undertook a Strategic Planning process which resulted in a 5 year plan to manage growth and sustainability. This Strategic Plan was the first from any club presented to the BCSF in 2015 and is the VSA’s guiding principle for growth and community engagement moving forward.
Today the Vernon Snowmobile Association continues to be an active and vibrant club. Club members are busy all year long with chalet renovations, trail upkeep, and charity events. The annual Snow Show is the main fundraising event and one of the largest Snowmobile shows in Canada now. Many members volunteer with Vernon Search and Rescue which keeps them extremely busy, both winter and summer. The Hillclimb, family events, dealer demo rides, and club events are a part of the VSA’s season and the club enjoys a renewed and vibrant sense of relevance in the community.
The club is focused on Safety, on responsible snowmobiling and maintaining the beautiful sledding area on Silver Star Mountain for future generations.
The Next 50 Years - 2017 and Beyond
The VSA has adapted to the changing face of snowmobiling. With the big mountain machines the trails at Silver Star hold less appeal, however in spite of this the mountain continues to grow and thrive. This is due in part the location, close to Vernon, but also due to a strong sense of nostalgia and attachment by many locals who grew up on the mountain The VSA today contains families who are the third generation of snowmobilers and counts many members with young families who use the area for what it’s great for – safe, accessible family oriented snowmobiling.
The Directors are moving towards a vision which includes events and fundraisers which involve the community and will sustain the VSA moving forward. The riding area has become popular with snow bikes, for snowmobile training and avalanche training. The area is used by the Canadian Military and many other user groups, now all year round.
As much as the VSA is looking forward, the members and directors will not forget the many who came before us. From that first meeting at Norm Sasges’s house in March of 1967, the Vernon Snowmobile Association has become part of the fabric of Vernon. Through responsible growth, boundless dedication and strong foresight of past Members and Directors, the VSA has regained a renewed sense of belonging in the community.
The early members of the Vernon Snowmobile Association laid a strong foundation which has contributed to its success to this day. The dedication and vision of all of the former Presidents, Directors and Members has ensured that the next 50 years will be even better.
Vernon Snowmobile Association Club Presidents
||Monica Roesner (Gobiel)
||Hans Van Meenan
||Bruno Stass (acting)
||Bob Welsh (acting)
The Board wishes to acknowledge the assistance of the following in the compilation of this document:
- Sybil Hillier and Les Hillier
- Sue Shultz
- Bob Passmore
- Vernon Museum and Archives
- Aime and Alice Archer
- Don Main
- Larry Williamson
- Wholesale Grafix