Below are memories from some of our long-time members about our ski club in the early days. Thanks to Betty Ann, Chuck, Dan and Mary Lou for these wonderful stories. And thanks to Nancy for spearheading this effort.
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Betty Ann Prescott’s Memories
The Bear Valley Ski Club was first organized in 1966, the year before Mt Reba opened. The owners of the ski area had scheduled the 1969 National Ski Races and needed to have a Ski Club to sponsor them.
The first meeting to organize the Bear Valley Ski Club was held at a restaurant in San Francisco. Most of the members had their jobs and homes in the Bay Area, so for the first years the board meetings were held in Berkeley. Dick [Betty Ann’s husband] and I were there along with other Bear Valley homeowners who were skiers. Our main purpose was to train enough of our members to be able to be pole watchers and to help with the timing at the 1969 National Ski Race. The Aitchisons, Murrys, Burtons, Hoffmans, Dills and Taylors and were in the early group, and all had all homes in Bear Valley. Dick and I built our home there in 1966, the year before the Mount Reba Ski Area opened and we lived there that first summer with no electricity and an eight party phone line. During the first ski year we met Chuck Taylor as we shoveled snow on Upper John Ebbetts to be able to drive up to our homes.
The first ski year we had co-presidents. One was from the San Francisco and one was the owner of the grocery store in the lodge. The next year Dwight Aitchison was the president. Soon an Arnold Ski Group joined us, so we had a good turnout for the nationals.
Chuck Taylor was very involved with timing and was President of the Ski Club early on. Some of us joined arms and boot packed the run down Grizzly. The downhill went from the top of National to the bottom of Grizzly. Those were the days before electronic timing, so the Chief of Timing had to synchronize watches for the top and the bottom of the runs. They used radios to tell if the racer started before or after the “start” and that number of seconds was added or subtracted from the time at the bottom of the racecourse by timers. Gate keepers had to have a pad to show their two or three poles and if a racer missed a pole they were to draw how they missed it. We learned early on in our Family Fun Races to not miss a gate. You were more likely to get a good time if you skied under control.
During the year that Doug Brown was president, he negotiated a deal with the head of the ski school to have our Ski Club members have Ski Lessons for $2.00 each on the first and third Sunday mornings of the month in return for gate keeping and timing. These people also received a day pass for doing this. They had every level of lessons and that was the year that many of us advanced our skiing skills. There were classes for the teenagers as well as for the adults. Every first and third Saturday we had a Family Fun Ski Race. The hill helped us set up poles and we really had a “fun” time and learned more about skiing.
During that period of time, the Ski Club had its 4th of July picnic at Highland Lakes. The road was pretty bad, but some of us would go up the night before and set up camp along the river and then drive on up to the Lakes the next morning. The glacier was still there — or at least there was still snow on the slope on the other side of the furthest lake. Those who wanted to do so could carry their skies and hike up to the top of the snow in their lace-up boots and ski down to the bottom on their long wooden skis with metal edges. My design won the contest for a pin to give to anyone who had done this on the 4th of July. One year the kids who were ready to have new skies decided to try and change from downhill skiing to water skiing and see how far across the lake they could go. Our middle son made it all the way across and into the bushes tearing off a fingernail.
One Friday night Chuck Taylor phoned me and said, “Hey Betty, I’ve signed you up for the Race Clinic tomorrow morning.” I said, “You’ve what?” and he explained that because of the drought not very many people were doing the Nastar Races. Tree stumps were showing all over the place. The age groups advanced by 10 from 20 on, and no woman had done the required three races in Robin’s age goup (30’s) or my age group (50s). Chuck claimed that all we’d need to do was run three races and we’d be a shoo-in for a free trip to Keystone for the Nationals. There were to be two people from Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada. Because so few women in their 50s were skiing I was one of the two from the Western Division. There were five different Regions, so ten racers would run in each category.
During this era I flat filed my own skis and hot waxed them for the kind of snow in which we would be skiing. After the first run I took a look and realized that I actually had a chance. There was one really outstanding woman whose two sons were ski instructors and who had raced on her college ski team in Vermont. But the rest of the women in their 50s were coming out of the gate in a snow plow. They were not used to the steepness of the hill. And so, that is the way that I won a silver cup for 2nd place in the women’s 50s group. The Nastar Races were dropped when Mt. Reba was sold and the new owners of Bear Valley Ski Resort discontinued the twice a month Family Fun Ski Club Races.
The Ski Club also had a New Year’s Eve progressive dinner. We would go by skidoo from one house to another. We had cocktails at one house, salad at another, dinner at still another home and end up with desert and champagne at midnight. We really had some very good times.
As the membership and leadership shifted down the hill toward Arnold, the fourth of July picnic was moved down to White Pines Lake and the New Year’s dinner was held at the Snowflake in Arnold. A new members potluck was held in the fall at Meadowmont Party House. Then as we grew older, there was more interest in golf, so a golf tournament was added to Ski Club events.
I was the President the year that our annual Ski Swap was held at Klines. I started getting phone calls at 3:30 a.m. wondering if we were cancelling since it was snowing at Bear and raining in Arnold. Doug Brown came to my aid by getting in touch with someone on the Board of Independence Hall and we were able to paint on sheets the fact that the Swap was moved to the Hall. We still had our home at Bear, so that must have been before 1982.
Dick and I decided that we should plan ahead and sell our two homes when I retired to build one down lower at 5,200 feet elevation. We had twelve good years in retirement there before my husband, Dick, died. I have a season ski pass for this year and a locker, but am not sure if I will regain the needed strength to put the darn boots on.
Betty Ann Prescott
January 11, 2011
[Betty Ann was the first woman engineering teacher to be elected to the California Junior College Engineering Instructors branch of the American Association of Engineering Educators. She was also the first woman appointed to the California State Board of Engineering Liaison. When Junior Colleges were first allowed to have a Faculty Senate, Betty Ann was a Senator for Delta College representing the Science and Math Division. She was asked by several of her male friends to run for that office because they felt that “they wanted a woman to run, but wanted someone who thought like a man.” According to Betty Ann, this was a compliment in those days.
Betty Ann passed away in October 2011. She was one of the original members of the Bear Valley Ski Club, and was awarded an Honorary Ski Club Member Award in January 2011. She has left her legacy by the person she was and the years that she could be seen on the slopes. Betty Ann was an inspiration to all of us. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.]
Dan and Mary Lou Wilkins’ Memories
The Bear Valley Ski Area in the 1970s and 80s was a family oriented ski area with frequent family and children oriented activities. A Buddy Werner ski race program sponsored races for kids every other weekend. Easter weekend was a festival of activities including an Easter egg hunt, Easter Bonnet Contest on the sun deck and a Torch Light Parade from the top of Porridge Bowl down through Spring Gap to the lodge. A Pajama NASTAR was free for participants. Sky Divers sometimes dropped in front of the lodge.
The Bear Valley Ski Club was a frequent participant in these activities and sponsored a number of its own. Frequent Family Fun Races down the Rodeo were set up and run by the Ski School for BVSC members. An annual Beer and Pop race consisted of tying two skiers together and running an obstacle course near and through the trees in the lower basin – with required consumption of a beer or soft drink upon successful completion of each obstacle. BVSC members frequently manned the gates at regional ski races held at Bear Valley in those days and the kids brought coffee and chocolate to the gate keepers. The annual New Year’s Eve party was a tradition well into the 1990s.
Dan and Mary Lou Wilkins
December 10, 2010
Chuck Taylor’s Memories
The history goes back to 1966 or 1967 (how soon we forget). The club was formed by the developers of Bear Valley/Mt Reba to entice buyers of the subdivision and to host the United States Winter National ski race. A ski club was needed to be host. The race was part of the US Ski Team national race circuit. This included all the big guns of the US Ski Team.
There was an Avalanche Ski Club in Arnold about the same time that disbanded. We were given what was left of their treasury. This part is really hazy in my mind.
The ski area did all the organization, and the few club members were grunts to pack the course and gate keep. We all had a great time and worked hard. We mingled and skied with some of the top racers of the day. The race was held in February, 1968
After the race we were on our own. Dwight Aitcheson was the first president in 1968/1969. My arm was twisted to be president in 1969/1970. Bob Wallen was president in 1970/1971followed by Doug Brown. I became president again 1973/1974 followed by Ed Hoffman.
I got the club involved in the Bay Area Council of ski clubs. We hosted several council races and traveled to other areas for council races. (Oh to be young again)
Robin [Chuck’s wife] and I started the Buddy Werner Ski League for kids. Kyle Rasmussen was in this early program. We started the once a month family fun ski races for all members. This prompted members to race in NASTAR and the Equitable Family Ski Challenge with some going to the national events.
Robin and I worked at Soda Springs Lodge on Hwy 80 weekends while going to college. Each spring they had a beer and pop race. We started that race for club members in 1970. The race was an obstacle course in the trees with bamboo poles, a truck inner tube and anything we could think of. Two people were tied together with a 15 foot rope and skied the course for time. The team needed to drink 3 beers or sodas at various point on the course. Some very prominent members could belch loud enough to start an avalanche. Somewhere in the late 80s the race died.
I got involved with the Far West Ski Association and became director of race officials for the western states. I held clinics and certified many club members as race officials. The Bear Valley Ski Club at one time had a reputation of hosting the best races in the western states. That changed when the Mt. Reba Ski School decided that could run Races and make money. That administration is now long gone.
As we got older the racing thing faded away. The good news is we still have fun.
November 20, 2010