Dylan De La Mare fully admits to being taken aback when the Houston Snowmobile Club staged its first poker ride in 2017 because it didn’t know exactly what to expect.
“It has a hit,” said De La Mare, the club president, of the turn out and of the subsequent lift in the club’s profile.
“We decided, as a club, that with a newer generation of snowmobiler coming in, we wanted to have something to bring people in and so we settled on a poker ride.”
The 2018 poker ride built on the first one, attracting approximately 150 people and 127 snowmobiles.
And with a club membership now of approximately 50 people, De La Mare hopes the third annual poker ride taking place March 9 will continue to raise the club’s profile and attract new members.
“We’ve been really pleased with the support we’re getting from the community — donations, sponsorships, there’s been a lot,” said De La Mare.
Businesses for last year’s poker ride also chipped in by offering products at cost so along with donations, it meant that every person who attended was rewarded with a door prize.
“Gloves, toques, there was a long list,” De La Mare said.
Last year’s ride featured a number of riders from the region — Prince George, Vanderhoof, Burns Lake, etc. — and De La Mare is expecting the same this year.
“Snowmobiling is definitely having an impact on the economy; there’s a benefit,” he said of people coming to Houston over the course of a winter to enjoy snowmobiling. “You see trucks with sleds on the back parked at motels.”
Formed in the 1970s, the club maintains approximately 250 kilometres of trails, a task that relies on volunteer help.
“There’s grooming — we have a groomer — and cutting trees and brushing to keep the trails clear,” said De La Mare. “We’re doing maintenance year round.”
“So the more members we have, the more we can do.”
Money raised through the poker ride goes into the ongoing expenses of the club.
De La Mare said the club takes pride in offering a safe place to ride, ensuring there places to collect garbage and building a reputation of responsible recreating.
“We provide education on best practices regarding caribou,” he said of the ungulate population in the area.
That latter took on a formal note in 2017 when the club signed a caribou stewardship management agreement with the provincial government.
Predicting the weather can be tricky but De La Mare said the club schedules its poker run date in March to coincide with more springlike conditions.
“We’ve got a really good snowpack this year,” he said. “Good solid snow.”
More poker run information is available on the club’s Facebook page.