The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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Outdoors

December 4, 2011

'Club is a good testament to a great group of people'

Chickaree Ridge Runners Snowmobile Recreation & Rescue Club in Vinco stands for more than fun in the snow.

From the beginning, the club was created to perform rescue operations and help local charities, said club president Al Martin, owner of Martin Marine Sales Inc., 763 Pike Road, Johnstown.

Their first rescue was during a winter storm that had dumped a foot of snow in the area.

A man who had suffered a heart attack was rescued by a snowmobile pulling a rescue sleigh, which Martin said is like a stretcher on skis.

Club members also helped repairmen get to a secluded location when a local radio station lost its antenna during a winter storm.

They also have rescued lost hunters.

“The rescue part was more evident when we first started and had to get into remote areas,” Martin said.

“Now, there are four-wheel-drive ambulances.”

The club is registered with the 911 call center, and any time there is a snow emergency such as power outages, members are ready and willing to help.

Chickaree works with Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Company, with many members serving as firemen.

“We sometimes get a call they need the sleigh,” Martin said.

“Some of our guys who are EMTs are the first to be called.”

The club also assists local charities.

Martin said within the past year, they had an event to raise money for three families who had lost all their possessions in a Vintondale apartment complex fire.

They also have helped the fire company, ambulance association and local police and food pantries.

The snowmobile club was formed in 1974 with about 30 members and has 65 today.

The Ridge Runners have a clubhouse in Vinco, with trails on Chickaree Mountain, where the club got its name.

After recently cleaning off some areas of the mountain, which is owned by the state Department of Conservation and National Resources, the club increased its trail system by more than 50 miles.

“The club is a good testament to a great group of people with a love of the sport,” Martin said.

The club holds a safety course for youth and inexperienced riders every November.

“It’s from 8 to 5, so it’s pretty intensive,” Martin said.

“It’s a free class, and the club provides lunch.”

Martin said Pennsylvania is one of the top 10 states in registered snowmobiles.

“Potter and Clearfield counties, the Seven Springs area, Ohiopyle and Allegheny National Forest are popular destinations,” he said.

The popularity of snowmobiling goes up and down with the snowfall, always more popular if the snow stays.

“There are more legal places to ride snowmobiles than ATVs, which have no season, but there has to be snow,” Martin said.

“It’s a sport on its own with what you can do in the snow.”

Martin started snowmobiling at age 4 and has seen the evolution of the sport during the past 50 years.

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