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Auburn Ski Club celebrates 83rd Anniversary

Club members new and old reflect on memories
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Dick Hamilton remembers the days when an afternoon of skiing could end with getting stuck on the road for 16 hours. The Auburn resident and Auburn Ski Club board member has had a lifelong love of skiing and instilled those same values to his children through the club, which celebrates its 83rd anniversary this year. His daughter Mary Beth went on to become a World Cup skier, while his son Jeff won an Olympic Bronze Medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Speed Skiing. Hamilton said he is proud of the club’s history. The Auburn Ski Club was the driving force behind getting the state legislature to approve snowplowing on Interstate 80, which Hamilton said opened up the area above the summit to development, and made travel friendlier to snow-sport enthusiasts. Hamilton skied for the Sierra College ski team, which was how he came to learn of the Auburn Ski Club. “When I joined the club, the hill was at Cisco Grove in ‘54. We’d get stuck out on the highway for a day or so. It snowed 19 feet and then finally they’d get the plow to you. They moan and groan if they are held up two hours now,” Hamilton joked. “I still ski at least 40 days a year, but I pick my days.” Hamilton’s children both went through programs at Auburn Ski Club growing up. They even helped build the organization’s first lodge as a family. One day, Jeff called his dad to tell him he was going to try to make the Olympic team. “This was something we didn’t expect from Jeff. He was working out at Donner Summit and he said, ‘I’m going to try out for the (U.S.) Ski Team.’” Dick Hamilton said the entire family joined Jeff in Albertville, France for an once-in-a-lifetime experience at the Olympic Winter games. It was the only year speed skiing was offered as an Olympic event. During their respective ski careers, Jeff and Mary Beth both broke speed skiing records. Jeff went 150 mph, while Mary Beth broke 110 mph, according to Dick Hamilton. Skiing a family affair Bill Clark, executive director of the Auburn Ski Club said skiing is a sport families can do together and continue for a lifetime. “We are continuing that same sort of thing that they started. We are still providing an opportunity for families in the Foothills-area to get involved and stay involved. Most people do it their whole lives,” Clark said. “A lot of these folks ski well into their 80s. It’s really a culture, a pastime, fun, a way of life.” Many kids that grow up in the program later bring their own children back for instruction, according to Clark. “They come back and they bring their kids back. They always have that love of the mountains,” Clark said. “They can ski any mountain in the world and ski it better than most having been through a program like ours.” Ski club a ‘hidden secret’ The Auburn Ski Club, located in Soda Springs, is adjacent to Boreal Mountain Resort on Donner Summit. They have expanded over the years to offer an array of ski and snowboard disciplines. Guy Hodgdon, of Auburn, and his daughter Sophia, 8, started in the ski program a couple of years ago. “It’s a really nice family organization and the closeness of it and also the cost. If you were to compare this to any of the other programs, it’s a fraction of the cost,” Hodgdon said. “The funny thing is the Auburn Ski Club is like this little hidden secret in Auburn. People are like, ‘I wish I would have known about this before.’” Hodgdon said he has made a lot of friends through the ski club and his daughter has improved her skiing skills. “Just in the first year that my daughter was in there it was from just beginner stuff to double black diamond,” Hodgdon said. “It’s quite amazing what they are able to do with the kids.” Hodgdon said he is looking forward to the future because as skiers progress there is always new challenges for them to take on. Some Auburn Ski Club alumni have won California Nevada Interscholastic Ski and Snowboard Federation State Championships, while others, like Placer graduate Katy O’Connor are on the short-list for the next winter Olympics in snowboard. Sophia said she may have Olympic aspirations of her own one day. “Well, it’s really cool because you get to meet lots of new friends and there is lots of new tricks to learn,” Sophia said. “My favorite is the double black diamond.” Sophia said she even had a little advice for other young skiers that may be new to the sport and nervous. “I would get on the snow. You don’t feel that bad anymore,” Sophia said. “You just have fun.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.