In 1974, snowmobiling was a booming market. Close to 100 manufacturers were building snowmobiles for recreational and utility purposes, and the North American public was accepting snowmobiling as a true form of winter recreation. It was at this time that a group of local snowmobile enthusiasts formed the Chickaree Ridge Runners Snowmobile Recreation and Rescue Club. Some of the early snowmobile brands represented by the club were Alouette, AMF Ski Daddler, Arctic Cat, Johnson, Mercury, Polaris and Starcraft.
The first meeting of the Chickaree Ridge Runners took place at D. Martin Sales, a local hardware store, located in Mundy’s Corner, PA. At this first meeting, the name of the club was adopted, and the first officers were elected. They were:
Alan Martin – President
Kenny Williams – Vice President
Buck Devlin – Treasurer
A.J. Devlin – Secretary
The first Senior Members of the club were:
Bob Cunningham Sr.
Dennis Devlin Sr.
Jack Shirk Sr.
Rene Wimmer Sr
Also, during their first year, Attorney Freemont McKenrey chartered the Chickaree Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club.
Shortly after the formation of the Ridge Runners, the Energy Crisis caused many of the manufacturers to sell off their snowmobile business, or go out of business altogether. Some manufacturers struggled through the crisis, and survived. The brands that survived the Energy Crisis were:
Kawasaki / Sno-Jet
Gone were famous names such as Alouette, Boa-Ski, Harley Davidson, Johnson, Mercury, Rupp and Skiroule, to name a few. Through all of this, the club survived. The club also became a member of the Pennsylvania State Snowmobile Association (PSSA) shortly after the Energy Crisis.
Snowmobile racing was still very popular, and could be seen on prime time television, especially on Sunday afternoons on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The Chickaree Ridge Runners passion for snowmobile racing also flourished in the mid- to late seventies through the early eighties. The club held various types of racing during the winter months, including snow drag, oval and sno-cross racing. The first snow drag race was held at Wilson’s Field on Old Route 22 in Mineral Point, PA. The first oval race was held at the Cambria County Fairgrounds in Ebensburg, PA. This event was USSA sanctioned, which brought in many professional racers, and also made headlines in the local news media. At the beginning of the Sno-Cross era, the Ridge Runners were prepared. A sno-cross race was held once again at the Cambria County Fairgrounds in the early eighties.
During this time, the club needed a place that they could call home. The first clubhouse was an old mobile home that the club members moved to Donny Rose’s property. This was a temporary arrangement until the club could get enough money saved in order to make a more permanent residence.
Racing wasn’t the only reason the club was created, though. The Chickaree Ridge Runners were also formed to help various charities and to perform rescue operations as required. The club’s first Poker Run was held to raise money for the family of Randy Horner, a club member who was tragically killed. The Ridge Runners also raised money for various charities including (but not limited to) The Salvation Army, National Cancer Society, Lions Club, PSSA, and for individuals in the community that required extra money for medical expenses.
As for rescue operations, the Ridge Runners work with the local fire departments and provide support when wheeled transportation is not an option. The Chickaree Ridge Runners first rescue occurred during a winter storm that dumped a foot of snow in the area. The victim had a heart attack, and was retrieved by a snowmobile pulling a rescue sleigh. Also, a local radio station had their antennae fail during a winter storm, and the Ridge Runners were there to help. The club provided transportation for the repair crew to get to the secluded sight in order to get the station back in operation.
Through the years, the club has also provided funds for organizations within Jackson Township, including the Fire Department and the Jackson Township Halloween Parade. The Ridge Runners have also participated in the Johnstown Halloween Parade and Thunder in the Valley. The club also holds an annual Snowmobile Safety Course open to the public free of charge.
In the early eighties, the Chickaree Ridge Runners were able to lease property from Jackson Township, located below Mitchell Ball Field in Vinco, PA. A permanent clubhouse was constructed, as well as our current grass drag strip, Announcer’s Stand, and pavilion as the years have passed.
Currently, only four manufacturers remain in snowmobiling, and are represented in our area. They are Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-Doo and Yamaha. You may think that because there are only four manufacturers remaining that snowmobiling is dieing away, but this is far from the truth. Snowmobile sales are high throughout the country, and, believe it or not, Pennsylvania is one of the top ten states in registered snowmobiles! The Chickaree Ridge Runners, throughout the past thirty years, is still thriving and enjoying our sport! Each year, we have local trail rides, Poker Runs and snodeos, weather permitting. We also travel to various parts of the state for club rides, and even venture to far away destinations such as Canada, Michigan, and Yellowstone to enjoy our favorite winter pastime. Our main fundraiser is still racing, although we now hold the races on grass at our drag strip, so as not to interfere with our riding season.
The Chickaree Ridge Runners Snowmobile Recreation and Rescue Club remain as dedicated participants in our community, offering family fun and entertainment for fellow winter recreation enthusiasts. We always welcome new members, and are always dedicated to our community and the well being of our sport.