By Andru McCracken

Dustin and Amy and their kids out for a rip on snowmobiles last winter.
Free passes for locals in Blue River is getting lots of families into the snow.

Providing free trail passes to local business owners, locals and private property owners in Blue River is paying off in spades for the Blue River Powder Packers, despite the loss of revenue to the club.

“Back when we took over the snowmobile club there was not a lot of buy-in from the local community members,” said Albert Venor, the Blue River Powder Packers President.

A small amount of revenue has been lost, but Venor said that has been more than made up for by volunteerism and donations made by engaged residents.

“A lot of locals were just skipping the booth anyways,” said Venor. “They didn’t like the tourism part of it, they just wanted to have it to themselves.”

But Venor said to hold onto terrain, they need to show to government the economic impact and the value created by tourism.”

“We have to have an economic argument, not just, ‘This is our right to this land,'” he said. “We thought one way to kind of bring those people who were against the tourism aspect would be to give them free passes.”

For the last three years more and more locals have been hitting the trails.

“All the kids in town seem to have snowmobiles now; they go as families together,” he said.

Skiing the steeps with mom and dad. /SUBMITTED
Letting it rip on a tiny sled in town. /SUBMITTED

“We’ve seen an uptick in volunteerism and the community gets behind us.”

Venor said it provides options in a community where there are limits on recreation..

“It’s a different kind of recreation than, say, having a sports complex, which is a really big cost year by year as far as maintenance and staffing,” he said. “Having that trail network has brought in valuable tourism dollars, but it also promotes an active community.”