SCC member Bob Nicol dug up a 1974 Yamaha STX 340 and placed it side-by-side his 2019 Polaris 800.

What started off decades ago as a gathering of snowmobile enthusiasts behind the Grasswood Esso south of Saskatoon has blossomed into a full-blown organization connected to a trail system that spans province-wide.

This year the Saskatoon Snowmobile Club (SSC) is turning 50, a milestone club president Bob Nicol feels is a testament to how hard the volunteers work to manage club operations.

"It's a tremendous passion," Nicol, who has been involved with the club for 47 years.

"It's just a passion that I have … If I had to quit I would be awfully disappointed."

The club got its start in 1970, when the snowmobiles were smaller and the trails made for a bumpy ride.

The SSC now manages a well-cared-for network of trails from Saskatoon to the Hamlet of MacDowall, part of the 10,000 km of trails in the province.

"To me that's one of the biggest changes and obviously a better change, it's much safer, you always know what's ahead and it's smoother of course," Nicol said, thanks in large part to a groomer acquired by the club in 2000.

Grooming, posting directional signs and speed limits takes can takes days to set up each season, but it pays off in safer rides on trails more suited for today's vehicles.

in the 1970's when the club first formed, Nicol remembers snowmobiles being seen more as utility vehicles to get around in the wintertime.

Five decades later, manufacturers have beefed up the sleds with more horsepower, fuel-injected engines and improved suspension.

"These are travelling machines," Nicol said. "I've gone 450 kilometers in a day and you're tired from the fresh air but your body is good."

John Popoff, who like Nicol, is a long-time club member with the SSC. He said his job at the time forced him to ride a snowmobile, prompting him to become familiar with the snowmobile circles in the city.

"At the time (John Deere) entered the snowmobile market so that was a requirement, we were selling snowmobiles, we had to promote snowmobiles and that's how I got started."

Since then Popoff has spent most of his winters volunteering with the SSC, he was even nominated to the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in St. Germain, Wisconsin for his volunteerism in Saskatchewan.