Kristen Lodge: Get on the Trail with the Trail Blazers Club
The Trail Blazers snowmobile club started in 1969 and is the oldest established snowmobile club in Colorado.It is a social club with a snowmobiling fetish, but offers more to the snowmobiling community than just pot lucks and group rides. “The Trail Blazers volunteer host program provides key information to snowmobilers on the Arapaho National Forest, in particular, visitors who don’t know the Grand Lake-area very well,” said Miles Miller, Sulphur Ranger District recreation planner. “They suggest interesting routes, give directions to people who are lost and offer safety tips, improving the overall experience for riders on the snowmobile trail system around Grand Lake. Trail Blazers provides a great service to the public, the National Forest, the town of Grand Lake and Grand County. In addition, they are outstanding supporters of Grand Lake’s snowmobile events and grooming program.”On Dec. 3 the club kicked off its season with a free pancake breakfast in the parking lot of Idleglen Trailhead on County Road 4. The Trail Blazers are all about social rides and giving back to the community, according to Tom Mason, the club’s new president, who organizes a weekly ride and all levels of riders are invited. “We host fundraisers in the winter such as the annual Poker Run, and in the summer we adopt a trail through the Forest Service program. We also adopt a section of U.S. Highway 34 and have a clean-up day twice a year. “Generally speaking, snowmobile clubs are a bit on the decline, and we are trying to spark interest and get new members to keep riding,” Mason said. During club rides, members set an example of how to be responsible snowmobilers. “We promote family-type snowmobiling and want to attract new folks to the sport,” Mason said. The club provides an annual avalanche awareness program through Colorado State Parks. “The State Parks send two trainers out and we practice using avalanche beacons and how to cut through layers of snow to show weaknesses.” Dates of this training will be announced on the Trail Blazer’s website. The annual Poker Run is an event everyone from residents to visitors looks forward to each year. It is organized in conjunction with the Mile Hi snowmobiling club and together they raise money for Flight for Life. Last year they raised $8,000. This year Flight for Life asked the clubs to target an area for the proceeds and they decided to put the money toward purchasing a hoist capable helicopter. Mason said this will allow for rescues in hard-to-land areas. A cord would be lowered as the helicopter hovers while the ground crew loads the patient. The poker event is about the social aspect of snowmobiling and raising money for a great cause. Mason says the run gives residents an excuse to get out on the trails and see people they might not see during the winter. The Run starts at the Grand Lake Community House at 9 a.m. Riders draw a card from a box, then ride through town on their snowmobiles toward the Grand Lake-area trail system. They follow a designated route to the set checkpoints at Hot Dog Park, Gravel Mountain, and the Idleglen Trailhead. Riders need to return to the Community House by 4 p.m. The first prize is $700. Last year, 100 people signed up, including many visitors from Denver and out of state, many who rented snowmobiles to participate. The state’s oldest snowmobile club is always hoping to recruit new members. The previous president, Mike Ingle, “did such a great job” to promote and advance the club, Mason said.When asked what he hopes to accomplish during his term, the new president said: “I just want to make sure we preserve what Ingle did and keep moving forward.”
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