A legacy in the making

Doug Williamson has a storied history with the Cranbrook snowmobile scene

by Kirsten Armleder

A grey-haired man sitting on his Pro-RMK snowmobile.
Doug Williamson is an avid snowmobiler and ATVer who is always eager to talk about his outdoor pursuits. photo courtesy Doug Williamson

A lot has changed since Cranbrook’s Doug Williamson appeared on the second ever cover of SnoRiders magazine back in 1991, but the one thing that hasn’t is his passion for the sport.

Williamson’s journey into the snowmobile world began when he first arrived in Cranbrook, B.C., in 1976. Seeing as there was no snowmobile club in town, Williamson decided to start one, and so with the help of another local named Ray Kelly, the Cranbrook Snowmobile Club (CSC) was formed in 1980.

At the same time, Williamson was running two car dealerships, and a sled, ATV and bike shop that would later become known as Peak Performance Motorsports.

The photo that landed Williamson on the cover of SnoRiders' second issue in 1991 was taken in the Barkerville, B.C., area and he remembers it well. "It was a good snow day," he said.

As the years progressed, so did the sleds Williamson owned. From a Yamaha Phazer to a Polaris 600 triple to a Ski-Doo 600 to a 500 fan-cooled Ski-Doo to a Ski-Doo Rev 550 and on and on. His current ride is a 2015 Arctic Cat M6000 SnoPro.

The vast majority of Williamson’s ride time has been spent in the Lumberton area where the CSC has 70 kilometres of groomed trails—many of which Williamson has helped to create.

His first ride of the season, though, has always been and is still a ride up to the VOR tower at Perry Creek. The place is so special to him that he erected a memorial there to his late wife, Fiona, who passed away in 1998. They were inseparable, and even though they lived and worked together every day, Williamson said they regularly found time to play—whether it was dirt biking, quadding, sledding or camping—in the Kootenays that they both loved. 

Growing the sport

In the last 35 years, Williamson has held just about every position there is with the CSC, and he is currently the secretary. Seeing the club grow from 20 to the 200 members it represents today has been rewarding for Williamson—although the reasons for its existence have changed.

“When the Cranbrook Snowmobile Club was started,” he said, “it was for the social aspect, and now it has shifted over the years to keeping the trails open. If we don’t have organizations like snowmobile clubs lobbying to keep areas open, gradually areas would get closed.”

To assist the snowmobile club’s efforts even more, Williamson helped form the Kootenay Rockies ATV Club (KRATV) in 2012, and today, the two groups work closely together.

Three people on older snowmobiles.
Williamson got serious about snowmobiling when he moved to Cranbrook in 1976. photo courtesy Doug Williamson

In addition to his duties with the CSC, Williamson—who is now 74 years old—also serves as the president of the KRATV. Quadding has become one of his favourite pastimes, but if he had to pick only one, it would be sledding.

“Quadding, I really enjoy.” he said. “It’s more social, more relaxing, but sledding, it’s the freedom. You feel like a cowboy in the Old West, sidehilling and carving through the powder. And these machines are so good that we can get to the tops of the mountains where we can see the whole East Kootenay. When the sun is shining and there’s fresh powder, it’s pure magic.”

A group of snowmobilers parked on a mountain.
He helped form the Cranbrook Snowmobile Club and the Kootenay Rockies ATV Club. photo courtesy Doug Williamson

Like most Cranbrook residents, Williamson takes great pride in the backcountry around his home, and he hopes that the work he has done over the years will contribute to it being kept pristine for many years to come.

“For me,” said Williamson, “this is my legacy, to give back to the community, and I see snowmobiling and quadding as my legacy so that when I’m gone, people can still go out and enjoy the backcountry that I’ve been enjoying for so many years.” 

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