A Little Background
Skiing came to America around 1830. The only people who skied then were European immigrants who skied as a means of transportation in the winter. It was the likes of Jim “Snowshoe” Thompson, who carried the mail on his back between Placerville, California, and Carson Valley, Nevada, who was a true ski pioneer. You can certainly understand why it wasn’t looked at as a sport with the equipment weighting as much as 25 pounds and poles about 8-10 feet in length!
It wasn’t until the early 1900s that ski clubs started to form. The Far West Ski Association was founded in 1930. Around 1950, ski “resorts” started popping up. In California, Dave McCoy was the “Real McCoy” in ski resorts and the founding father of Mammoth Mountain. He and his family used their pickup truck to tow skiers up the mountainside on the weekends. His dream made it possible for many of us to enjoy skiing today.
By the late 1960s and early 1970s, baby boomers had made their mark on the international skiing scene. With the likes of Spider Sabich, Billy Kidd, and Jimmy Huega, the U.S. was winning medals in the Olympics. This is also when the North Island Snowdrifters was formed.
Club History 1977 to the Present
Our club was founded in 1977 by a few North Island Federal employees interested in skiing. Our original name was “North Island Ski Club.” The original 12 members, led by our first president, Jerry Jakel, had visions of chartering buses to Mammoth and renting a condo or two for the club. Many of the original members are still members today – Ed and Doreen Ballinger, and Larry Klaasen. Within the next two years, Jerry and Judy Schultheis, Mike and Gaetana Patton, R.T. and Jonnie Johnson, and Dick Wood helped our membership to swell to 100.
Those early bus trips were quite memorable to say the least. The infamous Kopecky Bus Line probably gave us more memories we’d like to forget than remember. There were many times we had to push the bus out of Four Corners! Once a tire blew and the bus driver didn’t have any money to get it fixed, so we passed the hat so we could get home that night. More than a few of us have “enjoyed” sleeping on the bus when we got stuck in snowdrifts. After several years of trying to navigate the bus into San Sierra condos uphill driveway in winter, we gave up and moved to the Chateau Blanc condos in the early 1980’s.
In 1982, Larry Klaasen stepped up to serve as president. Trips were going for $75 for the weekend, Mammoth lift tickets were about $28 and you had to side-step up to get on the lift at Chair One! Wow, was that fun.
From 1983-1984, Jay K was the president. Jay stepped down two months before his term ended, and Judy Schultheis became the first woman to serve as club president. Mild-mannered Ed Ballinger was elected president in 1984, and he led us to faraway places like Lake Tahoe and Utah – by carpool, of course. Then the San Diego Ski Council hosted a trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado…our first fly-away! I still remember the cowboys racing downhill on skis, jumping over hay bales, then jumping on their horses. Yahoo! This trip really whet our appetites to explore new places.
In 1985, “Big” Dick Wood started the first of his two presidencies. Rick Bonnett served as El Presidente from 1986-1987. By 1987 it was Mike “Who Me” Patton‘s turn to serve as president, followed by Mike C (1989-1990). Dick Wood returned again in 1990. Big changes happened in 1992 when we merged with Rohr Industries Ski Club to become the North Island Snowdrifters. We had two presidents from 1993-1994 – Marlyn C (Rohr) and Dick Wood. The merger brought us about 60 new members.
In 1995, we had our first non-North Islander, first non-government employee as president, Mike “Bubba” Sanford. This retired Navy commander put his heart and soul into the club. The glib Michael solicited everyone and anyone to join the club. I think he even got his own mother to join! As a result, our membership soared. Mike’s energy eventually landed him the presidency of FWSA as well. In 1999, Mike stepped down and Bob March was voted in. Sal Adona served as our leader before Cheryl Riess, was elected in 2003. Cheryl served three terms followed by Rick Bonnett, also serving three terms until 2009. Cathy Hamlin was elected in 2009 and after a one year term which included amending our by-laws and constititution was followed by Nick Cowell in 2010. Nick led the club for a term until Barry Cole took over in 2011. Barry did two terms as the president. Dave Arnold took up the lead in 2013 and served 4 terms then Nick Cowell was reelected in 2018, and served for two more terms, Kris Watkin took over in 2019 as the current president.
With the turn of the millennium, we find ourselves a little older, riding on shaped skis and luxurious buses. We’ve skied the Alps, Canada, and most of the Western states, yet we still have that same camaraderie we did over 40 years ago. Luckily, not all things change with time.
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