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Go in the snow: Hundreds gladly tackle winter at AOAA


CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO Participants of the annual Family and Friends Snow Ride walk toward the AOAA park office to register for the event Saturday morning in Coal Township.

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO Participants of the annual Family and Friends Snow Ride walk toward the AOAA park office to register for the event Saturday morning in Coal Township.

A brief walk through the crowd revealed just how popular the park has become nationwide. In addition to the locals, many families residing outside of Pennsylvania made the long drive to the Shamokin area from their home states to relax and enjoy the park.

Maryland, New York, beyond

Active-duty military personnel, Rob and Eva Cowles, of Portland, Oregon, said they’d been living in Baltimore for the past four years and will soon be relocating to Colorado. Along with their dog, who was a back-seat passenger, they were

Two long lines of Jeeps and other off-road vehicles sit ready for the start of the annual Family and Friends Snow Ride at the AOAA Saturday morning in Coal Township.

Two long lines of Jeeps and other off-road vehicles sit ready for the start of the annual Family and Friends Snow Ride at the AOAA Saturday morning in Coal Township.

looking forward to getting out and doing some snow riding.

“We’re excited to be here today. This is the sixth time we’ve been here at AOAA. The park is a lot of fun because it’s so open and offers a great variety,” said Eva upon arriving at the park with her husband.

Eddie and Kim Noriega, of Middletown, New York, said it was their first time at the park and hoped they wouldn’t break anything on their 2009 Jeep Wrangler.

Shantel Thompson, of Baltimore, Maryland, said, “I love

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTOS Jeep drivers make their way across a winding, snowy trail and into the woods on the AOAA grounds during Saturday’s event.

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTOS Jeep drivers make their way across a winding, snowy trail and into the woods on the AOAA grounds during Saturday’s event.

how an event like this brings people together and I look forward to having a good time today.”

Brian Simmons, of Abington, Maryland, was thankful to his employer, Adams Jeep in Maryland, for giving him the day off to come to the park and learn more about the performance and handling on an off-road course of the vehicles he sells to the public.

“Looking forward to doing a lot of photos and video along the way,” he added.

It was the second visit for Warren and Danielle Lambert, of

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO A large crowd gathered early Saturday morning inside the AOAA park office to register for the

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO A large crowd gathered early Saturday morning inside the AOAA park office to register for the “Family and Friends Snow Ride” event in Coal Township.

Jim Thorpe, who had their 8-year-old son, Jonas, in the back seat.

“This is the second time we’ve been here. Last year we traded in our RAV4 for a new Jeep and here we are back again today,” said Danielle, smiling. 

Groups take part

In addition to individual families and friends, there were also many different off-road groups represented at the snow ride event. 

Jason Markowitz, of Montclair, New Jersey, said he’s affiliated with four different off-road groups: Outcast Krawlers, North Jersey Jeep Club, Long Island Beach Buggy Association and Montauk

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO Members of the HI-LO 4x4 Off-Road Club from Long Island, New York stand next to their vehicles at the Family and Friends Snow Ride event on the AOAA grounds in Coal Township. Pictured from left are: Christian Elfaham, 5-year-old Isabella Scott, Racha Elfaham, Jackie Scott, Philip Lamonica, Walter Vichera, Nick Acosta and Patrick Scott.

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO Members of the HI-LO 4×4 Off-Road Club from Long Island, New York stand next to their vehicles at the Family and Friends Snow Ride event on the AOAA grounds in Coal Township. Pictured from left are: Christian Elfaham, 5-year-old Isabella Scott, Racha Elfaham, Jackie Scott, Philip Lamonica, Walter Vichera, Nick Acosta and Patrick Scott.

Surfcasters Association.

“This is my fourth time here guiding for the snow event. I’ll have 20 vehicles and 40 people attending from my groups today. I want to thank Dave Porzi and the AOAA for allowing me to participate as a guide for this event. I’ve been coming here to the park since the first trail cuttings back in 2012,” said Markowitz.

The HI-LO 4×4 Off-Roaders from Long Island, New York, took time out to pose for a group picture with a large American flag attached to

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO A Jeep makes its way up a snow-covered hill climb located along the pole line near the AOAA park entrance during Saturday's annual Family and Friends Snow Ride event in Coal Township.

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO A Jeep makes its way up a snow-covered hill climb located along the pole line near the AOAA park entrance during Saturday’s annual Family and Friends Snow Ride event in Coal Township.

the back of one of their vehicles serving as a backdrop.

Always changing

AOAA authority board member Barry Yorwarth spoke of the unique and constantly changing nature of the park that varies with the weather.

“Everything about this place changes with the elements. Today we have the snow and ice early, with rain predicted for this afternoon. There are so many variables within the park itself, and then you factor in the weather. Our riders love the fact that every visit to AOAA is a unique one and

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO A group of Jeeps make their descent down a snow-covered pole line trail near the entrance of the AOAA park grounds Saturday morning in Coal Township during the annual Family and Friends Snow Ride event.

CHRIS J. GREGO/STAFF PHOTO A group of Jeeps make their descent down a snow-covered pole line trail near the entrance of the AOAA park grounds Saturday morning in Coal Township during the annual Family and Friends Snow Ride event.

they live for this,” he said.

Several riders made an attempt to tackle the rugged, snowy hill climb located along the pole line near the AOAA parking lot, while others preferred a less daring route. In any case, Saturday’s course featured a challenging range of snow-covered trails, hills and frozen pools of water.

“The cost of this winter event is our standard price of $30 per rider for an all-day pass ($25 for Northumberland County residents). The AOAA park will be open from 9 a.m. to 4

Eva and Rob Cowles, of Portland, Oregon, stand alongside their Jeep prior to the start of the Family and Friends Snow Ride Saturday morning at the AOAA in Coal Township.

Eva and Rob Cowles, of Portland, Oregon, stand alongside their Jeep prior to the start of the Family and Friends Snow Ride Saturday morning at the AOAA in Coal Township.

p.m. today and this is not a closed event, meaning that other riders not affiliated with the Snow Ride are also welcome. Our facility always remains open to everyone, even during special events such as this one unless otherwise specified,” said Porzi, AOAA director of operations.

Porzi also noted that the AOAA is scheduled to host the national Ultra4 Series off-road race event on April 12 through 15, named “Showdown in Shamokin,” which will be covered nationally by NBC Sports.

“These are exciting times for the AOAA. We’re truly blessed that our current group of riders keep coming back,” he said.