Recent snowfall was melting away in the Wallowa Valley over the weekend but members of the Wallowa County Gamblers Snowmobile Club were dealt a royal flush as snow fell in the higher elevations. Approximately 75 snowmobilers participated in the Sunday play day at Salt Creek Summit which included a rescue run, obstacle course, obstacle course relay and 100 yard dash. All participants were scored on their best time in each event with trophies and ribbons going to the winners.
Trophies were awarded in five categories including overall points, seniors, men's, ladies and kids. Kids have to attend a four-hour class that stresses snowmobile safety. A written test is also required as part of the course. "The club is all about safety and having fun," said club secretary Pam McFarland.
The events are scored on a timed basis because the Oregon State Snowmobile Association that the club belongs to does not allow racing in their sanctioned events.
The OSSA is an organization of individual, local snowmobile clubs and businesses interested in promoting and protecting the sport of snowmobiling. OSSA was organized in 1972 to provide a voice for Oregon snowmobiling. Through its efforts, Oregon now has a snowmobile program recognized throughout the snowmobiling world of North America.
The club also maintains the cabins at Salt Creek Summit and at Cloverdale and are in the process of helping construct a hut at Clear Creek by Halfway.
Plans are in the works to construct a new groomer shed and hut at the Salt Creek parking lot. The facility will have a space for search and rescue to use as a base camp and for cross country skiers to get out of the weather. "We have a real good rapport with the cross country skiers and try to stay out of their ski areas," said club member Keith McFarland.
The OSSA provides the groomer and $5500 a year for its operation. In return club volunteers provide the man power. The machine smoothes a swath ten feet wide and travels at a maximum speed of ten miles an hour, but normal operating mode is as slow as five to seven miles an hour. "We have 150 miles of marked trails, 100 of which are groomed," said Groomer Chairman Bob Theabolt. "It takes a lot of time," he added.
People interested in snowmobiling should go out with someone that is experienced in snowmobiles and that knows how and where to ride, then take a safety course. The Gamblers put on a safety course every year sponsored through the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles.
Snowmobiles, or sleds as they are sometimes referred to, come in all sizes and prices. " It really depends on what you fancy," Theabolt said. The majority of machines present at the playday were in the 700 cc /100 horsepower range. Some were modified to 1000 cc with turbo or nitrous oxide.
The club name came about in the early 1970s when its founding fathers were out doing a little partying. One of them said that we snowmobile in a paradise which turned into a "pair of dice" that equated to gamblers, hence the name was born. The club was disbanded for a time before Theabolt reactivated it in 1983 and started the playday in 1984. The event was held on Snow Hollow Hill for four years before moving to the fairgrounds for three year. In 1992 the playday was moved to its present location at Salt Creek Summit.
For more information on the Gamblers Snowmobile Club check out their website at www.wallowavalley.com/ohv.