The Pittsburg Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club has a current membership of over 3,900 who come from all over the country to enjoy one of the largest and best maintained trail systems available in the Northeast.
Sometime between 1960 and 1961, three men in Pittsburg purchased the new type snow traveling vehicle that had recently appeared on the market, and the nucleus of the PITTSBURG RIDGE RUNNERS was formed. Winters in Pittsburg are usually cold, long, and the snow is deep. Hunting brought sportsmen from throughout New England for the two weeks of deer season, but before the advent of snowmobiles, the town went into almost complete hibernation at the end of hunting season.
With the coming of the snowmobile, families spent evenings and week-ends participating in the new found sport. A social snowmobile oriented group was formed, meeting at members homes. Those with machines gave rides to those without and towed others on toboggans or sleds behind their machines! Half of the enjoyment was taking the spills from the unstable, early machines and taunting your neighbor for such happenings. Together they enjoyed the beauty and splendor of winter and viewing local scenes so familiar in the summer with a new appreciation when viewed as a vast snow covered area. In the evenings the town park became the Mecca for children and adults to join in the appreciation of winter. Short evening rides gave way to week-end trips to points of interest through-out the North Country. The local woodsmen led the groups over the area where no trails existed. Finding the shortest and most accessible route was a challenge readily accepted.
By 1963 the group considered taking the legal step of becoming an incorporated group. By 1966, the idea became a reality. The PITTSBURG RIDGE RUNNERS SNOWMOBILE CLUB, INC. came of age. There were about 40 members by the time the legal papers were duly processed in January 1967. The Club is one of the four charter members of the then newly formed NEW HAMPSHIRE SNOWMOBILE ASSOCIATION, INC. Dues were set at two dollars a year with one dollar retained by the Club and the other dollar went to N.H.S.A. Ike Brown was elected president and Doris Chappell became secretary, a position she held for many years.
The Annual Steak Cook-Out started in the early days of local snowmobiling. Members hauled the supplies by snowmobile to first Camp Otter, on the First Connecticut Lake, and then to Ike Brown’s camp. The camp of Bernard and Katherine Covill, on East Inlet Road, was also used for several years. Snowmobile oriented events funded the many charitable practices of the Club. Unsanctioned races in Clarksville drew a good attendance and spaghetti feeds in the summer were popular.
There were no trails as we know them today, but there were only a few users who were neither residents or at least cabin owners. However, word of the ideal snow conditions, the open space allowed by the large land owners, and the fame of the Annual Steak Cook-Out started a major change in snowmobiling in Pittsburg. The Club made six pipe drags in an effort to improve the enjoyment of snowmobiling. Mr. Webster at Tall Timbers Lodge purchased a commercially made drag to pull behind his snowmobile.
In the late 1960’s the Club purchased Depot Camp, on Indian Stream Road, and paid a yearly lease to St. Regis Paper Company. Fund raisers held at the new club house were well attended. By 1976 as many as 465 steak dinners were served. The Director of BOHV had the new State groomer hauled to Pittsburg to assist the club with trail grooming for the event. Then Governor and Mrs. Thomson were guests at that Steak Cook-Out.
The first Easter Seal Ride-In was held in 1973, but only County Directors carried the contributions of their county to the central meeting place. The total sum donated that year was $3,500, the largest single donation the New Hampshire Easter Seal Society had ever received without any expense on their part. In 1974 the site selected was Paugus Bay in Laconia. All clubs were urged to establish a trail through their area to connect with each surrounding club and to provide a guide to assist snowmobilers from border to border. Thus the State-wide trail system was born. Among the 2,000 snowmobilers who met on Paugus Bay were about 6 to 8 hardy souls from Pittsburg who found their way where no trails existed, turned their contribution in on Sunday morning, then loaded their machines onto flat-bed trailers for the trip home. Wives had met the riders at road junctions with gas, oil spark-plugs and other repair items that were considered likely to be needed. The trip to Laconia was probably over 200 miles, and was a two day trip. Not much by today’s standards, but try it on a machine of the 60′ and early 70’s! In 1977 and 1978 the Club won the Rotating Trophy for making the largest contribution to Easter Seals. In 1979 they again won the trophy gaining permanent possession of it, because they had been the top contributor for three consecutive years. The original thinking was that it would be very many years before a single club would be the top contributor for three consecutive years. That year there were 27 riders, each wearing the name of one or two businesses who had made one hundred dollar contributions to Easter Seals. The Pittsburg Ridge Runners from a town with a population of under 800 had raised $3,500; well over the total of some of the counties in NH.
In 1979 and 1980 access to the Depot Camp Club House was impossible because of the extensive timber salvage operations that were the result of the spruce bud worm infestation of those years. It was decided to sell the club house and invest the proceeds toward a new building to be built in the future. A lot off Back Lake Road was purchased and a garage was built to house the Thiocol groomer, that had been purchased earlier in the year. An attempt had been made some time before the Thiocol was purchased to groom the trails using a farm tractor with very poor results. Volunteers spent many hours building bridges, cutting trails, grooming and making repairs on equipment. Each winter saw an additional load on the trail system. The four resorts that were open for winter business in the early seventies numbered six to eight with additional areas opening each new season. There are now about fifteen resorts and the current number of private cabins has sky-rocketed. One of the most often asked questions of the local real estate brokers is, “Is it on a snowmobile trail?”.
With the help of the State Grant-In-Aid program and an energetic fund raising program the Club has been able to up-grade its groomer purchases quite often. The BOHV has recognized the increasing burden on volunteer time and money that has resulted from the very heavy use of the club trails. For the 1997-1998 the BOHV helped the Club to purchase three factory rebuilt groomers and new drags. The number of trail grooming hours has been increased and additional paid groomer operators have been hired.
After the club house was sold most club functions were held at the Pittsburg High School. The popularity of the Steak Cook-Out, a major fund raiser, dropped steadily. Classroom chairs were uncomfortable for adults. In the summer of 1987 the possibility of building a club house was discussed. When the lot was purchased the plan was for a building of 60 by 100 feet. In November of 1988 it was voted to build a 40 by 60 foot log building. “It can’t be done” was the cry. A “Log Drive” was held to help raise money for the building fund. For a contribution of $20 the donor’s name would be placed on an engraved plaque and mounted on the wall of the club house. Two Hundred and Fifty logs were “purchased” on the first log drive with the total raised being over $7,000. The lot was cleared in the summer of 1989 and the kit was delivered the first week of September. The cement pad was poured. Workers met to unload the logs and construction started that day. The next week-end was the Annual Land-Owners Bar-B-Que. Attendees were pleased to find four courses of logs in place and the doors and windows rough framed. Volunteers worked seven days a week. Two member families, from the southern part of the state, came up every week-end, paid for their lodging and worked until the building was weather tight. No donation of material and/or appliances was refused. The Club was constantly upgrading what it had; some of the items were somewhat damaged and had to be replaced at inopportune moments, but nothing was ever refused if it was useful.
In October 1989 our first meeting was held on our own land. The Trail Masters made the groomer garage available to the Club. Two gas furnaces were installed in time for our meeting in January of 1990. To help finance the completion of the building, the Club was opened on week-ends and served lunches until it was served with a cease and desist order by the Board of Health as we were not a licensed food server. Conditions were primitive: water in gallon jugs, a donated counter on saw horses, picnic tables in the meeting room, a gas range circa 1929 and a privy across the driveway. Club members voted to assist the building committee and appropriate $3,000 for a drilled well. North Country Septic donated their design of the septic system. Blais Construction donated the installation. Water to the kitchen sinks and restroom plumbing wow! What luxury! In 1996/97 the Manual Arts Classes of the Pittsburg High School made and installed base cabinets in the meeting room and in the kitchen. In the fall of 1996 the old gas range finally became too old to repair and two new gas ranges with self cleaning ovens were purchased. A fireplace was donated and installed in a corner of the meeting room and easy chairs and couches have made a pleasant place for socializing.