CHARLESTON, W.Va. --What began more than 50 years ago as a club for skiers in a state that had virtually no skiing, now offers group trips to resorts across West Virginia and westward to the Rockies and beyond.
Founded in the late 1950s by a core group of Union Carbide engineers, the Kanawha Ski Club was formed to connect Charleston area ski buffs with the nearest slopes, which at that time were mainly outside the state.
In its early years, some trips included visits to Flat Top Mountain, near present-day Winterplace resort in Ghent, when natural snowfall accumulated at depths capable of supporting skiing. There, a rope tow powered by a truck motor was the only amenity.
The club entered a boom period in the 1970s, when ski resorts were developed at Canaan Valley State Park and Snowshoe Mountain, to be followed in the 1980s by Timberline and Winterplace. According to a history posted on the club's website, www.kanawhaskiclub.com, a Charleston singles' club, The Singles Thing, adopted skiing as a favored activity in the 1970s, adding to the surge in membership.
Kanawha Ski Club began running bus trips to Snowshoe and Pennsylvania's Seven Springs resort, and in 1977 booked its first charter flight to a western ski destination. Trips to ski areas inside and outside the state continue to be key components of the ski club's program.
"We make two or three trips out west a season, in conjunction with the Crescent Ski Council, an affiliation of ski clubs from the Southeast," said Kanawha Ski Club President Sandy McQuain. "We just got back from a weeklong trip to Crested Butte in Colorado. We have a smaller trip scheduled this weekend to Timberline." In March, Kanawha Ski Club members will join other Crescent Ski Council members in a trip to Snowshoe Mountain's Silver Creek area.
While membership numbers have dropped a bit since the 70s, as has the Kanawha Valley's population, "we still have an active group," McQuain said. "We had about 50 people at our last meeting, and about 25 go on our trips."
Not everything on the club's agenda involves skiing or snowboarding.
"At our January meeting we had a wine tasting, and at our February meeting, we'll have a chili cook off," McQuain said. In summer and fall months, monthly gatherings are held at Charleston area restaurants and group activities like whitewater rafting, bike rides and zipline tours are organized, and presentations are made by ski area representatives.
Trips and outings are designed to accommodate all ages and skill levels. "We're always looking for new members and getting more people interested in skiing," McQuain said.
Kanawha Ski Club's next meeting will be held Feb. 6 at the Charleston Women's Club at 1600 Virginia Street East, starting at 7 p.m.
For more information, visit the club's website at www.kanawhaskiclub.com. For membership information, send email to Linda Redd at lindaelkv...@aol.com, or write to Kanawha Ski Club at P.O. Box 1775, Charleston, WV 25326.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.