Auburn Ski Club celebrates 82 years of teaching kids how to carve up the mountain

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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The first snows of the season have Auburn Ski Club ready to hit the slopes. “It’s our 82nd year of providing winter sports opportunities to families and kids in the foothills,” Executive Director Bill Clark said. “That’s what makes us excited.” New this year is the Twilight Gates mid-week training program. “(It was created) to give high school racers and Far West Ski Association junior racers an opportunity to train under the lights at our race arena here at Boreal,” he said. “It gives kids a chance to complete the full school day, then come up and train and be home in time to do homework.” The program will run from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. Many of the foothills’ young skiers hone their skills in Auburn Ski Club programs. “We get them hooked into the sport first,” Clark said. “The competition comes as they get older and start to mature.” For younger skiers, there’s the Gift of Skiing program that includes the Cisco Kids for ages 6 to 10 and the Boreal Bombers (skiers and snowboarders) for ages 6-13. Cisco Kids includes eight weekend training days and a Boreal season pass at a cost of $275. But it is not for beginners. “They need to be able to make wedge turns down an intermediate slope,” Clark said. The Boreal Bombers package includes 15 weekend training days and a Boreal season pass. Cost is $475 for ages 12 and under and $580 for ages 13 and above. The club’s programs go all the way up to the elite level. “Every year, we send kids to world junior championships in snowboarding and cross-country skiing,” Clark said. There have been some Olympic-caliber athletes, too. “Jeff Hamilton from Auburn grew up in our program,” Clarks said. Hamilton, a speed skier who also developed through the Placer High ski team, took the bronze medal at Albertville in 1992. The club brought in snowboarding in the mid-1990s and it now is about 50 percent of the program. “Our snowboarding is really quite strong,” Clark said. “It was named the No. 1 domestic program in the U.S. last year by the U.S. Ski Association. Our coach Dylan Omlin was named the No. 1 domestic coach by the U.S. Ski Association.” Two club members, including Auburn resident Caty O’Connor, attended the World Junior Snowboard Competition held in New Zealand in August. “They were highest placing juniors for the United States,” Clark said. At Placer High, longtime ski team coach Toby Covich said the Auburn Ski Club’s program have helped produced some of the area’s skiing standouts over the years. “Our best racers have all been part of the Auburn Ski Club race training program,” he said Monday. “We’ve had numerous No. 1 (champions) in the state for individual team members — both boys and girls — and a big part of their success has been the club’s training.” It has also had a strong role in the Placer High ski team’s numerous first-place finishes in the state over the years, he added. Covich was a member of the ski team as a Placer High student and was also a member of the ski club for most of that time. “They’ve always worked with us in coaching our kids,” he said. “Many of our kids were on a specific alpine training team. Those kids compete with Far West Skiing and on the high school race teams as well.” Ski Club membership numbers more than 1,000, with slight fluctuations from year to year “That’s all kids and families, joining to be part of our programs,” Clark said. “It gives kids a chance to learn about the sport and the mountains and to go as far as their potential and desire take them. At the end of the day, we’re teaching kids to be kids and have fun, and experience everything the mountain has to offer. Some will be champions and some won’t, but they’ll all have fun.” As a nonprofit, Auburn Ski Club brings some monetary savings for member families. “Financially, we do our best to provide an affordable program,” Clark said. “Ski racing can be quite expensive. Being a nonprofit and a club-based program, we can offer programs more affordably than a lot of other (ski groups).” Another benefit is the training center at Boreal Mountain Resort. “When the club started out in the late 1920s and 1930s, it had ski grounds at Cisco,” Clark said. “Then Interstate 80 took that land. (So we) bought land at Boreal and have been there ever since. …We have such wonderful facilities here with the training center at Boreal.” The center, a lodge, includes offices, locker rooms and meeting areas. “That’s where we stage all of our events,” Clark said. There’s also a 20-kilometer cross-country trail system that is groomed daily. Club membership is $40 a year for the first family member and $20 for each additional family member. Team and training program costs are additional. Currently the club is signing up kids for the programs, putting together team lists and issuing ski passes. “We’re almost ready to go. We just need another storm,” Clark said. While most of the club’s programs are scheduled to start in early December, the more competitive programs begin earlier. “As soon as there’s enough snow, we’ll put the kids out there,” he said. Reach Gloria Young at ------------ For more information, see Assemblyman Ted Gaines will present the 2009-10 Placer High Girls Ski racing team with a California state Legislature Assembly resolution honoring their State Championship win at halftime during the playoff football game at Le Febvre Stadium Friday night. The Placer girls team has won back-to-back state championships and placed first in the state three of the last four years.