Los Angeles Council of Ski Clubs
by Catherine Ohl, Pacific Rim Alliance
LA Council began as the 4th district of the California Ski Association in the 40s. By the 50s, it became known as the Southern Council of the Far West Ski Association. Articles of Incorporation were filed for the Southern Council, FWSA, Inc. on August 11, 1971. Even though the Council was normally referred to as LA Council, the name was not officially changed until 1999 when the current logo was adopted. In 1998 LA Council became a charter member of the newly formed National Ski Federation Association.
California Ski Association
The root of the Southern Council & FWSA is in racing and public affairs programs. FWSA was founded in October 1930 as the California Ski Association (CSA) by “Hall of Famer” Wendell Robie of the Auburn Ski Club. Within three months, the CSA orchestrated a demonstration that resulted in the authorization by the State of California for snow removal equipment on the roads that accessed California’s emerging ski resorts. The opened roads allowed Ski Clubs to set up their own ski tows and the development of California skiing was set in motion. CSA was admitted into the National Ski Association to host sanctioned races and jump competitions.
The Southern Council
Prior to the 1970’s the Southern Council extended from June Mountain to San Diego. In 1971 the Southern Council was divided into three councils - Inland, Orange and Southern. By then, San Diego was already a separate Council. After the spit, Southern Council encompassed an area that extended from “Long Beach to June Lake and Santa Monica to Pasadena.” In 1971 there were 46 clubs in the Southern Council. Most clubs were 100% FWSA and about a fourth of the clubs consisted of junior racers.
Far West Ski Association
After WWII, CSA was reactivated as the Far West Ski Association (FWSA). In 1962 the National Ski Association emerged as the United States Ski Association (USSA) and FWSA became its Far West Division. The focus of FWSA was on its race programs until the early 60’s when the orientation began to shift towards recreational skiing. The Far West Charter Flight Program, spearheaded by Sutter Kunkel of Grindelwald Ski Club, took the Association from 3,000 mostly competition skiers, to 10,000 most recreational skiers in just two years! There was also an upsurge in recreational skiing following the 1964 Olympics at Squaw Valley. But it was the blockage of the development of skiing at San Gorgonio and Mineral King by the Sierra Club that ignited the energies of FWSA.
It wasn’t until 1976 that FWSA was divided into two operating divisions, one concentrating on the recreational and political aspects of skiing and the other directing the operation of sanctioned race programs that developed the youth of America for the US Ski Teams. FWSA continued to develop programs for the recreation skier that included a Membership Benefit Book, Ski Theft Insurance, Ski Weeks, Flight Charters to Europe and within the US, Public Affairs, and Intramural Racing. In return, the clubs sponsored events, like Grindelwald’s Ski Swap, that raised money for junior racers.
In 1980, USSA organized into two divisions - competition and sports. Far West voted to merge into USSA and lead the sports division on the condition recreation programs would have an equal voice with competition programs. The new national organization didn’t work out as planned and at the USSA convention held in 1983 in Boston (often referred to by some as the Boston Tea Party) Far West withdrew from USSA for the last time. LA Council was among the councils that aligned with Far West after Far West reorganized as a non-profit, all volunteer, recreation organization.
The first Sno-Ball is believed to have been held in 1949. Back then it was a fashion show of the latest in ski apparel. During the 50’s the Sno-Ball was held at the LA Breakfast Club. In the 60’s it was moved to the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. It was during this time that the Ball was changed to a Costume Party since the event usually coincided with Halloween. There was a theme to the party. Clubs performed skits and wore costumes and won lots of prizes. In 1969, there were more than 1,000 attendees at the Sno-Ball at the Hollywood Palladium. In 1970, the major prize was a trip to Mammoth for forty people for a weekend and was won by the Wailers.
Woman of the Year
In the beginning, LA Council’s Sno-Queen Pageant was held separate from the Sno-Ball. It was run pretty much like a beauty contest. The event started with a cocktail party or luncheon with publicity photographs. What followed was a hectic day of interviews, tours and parties. In the 60’s, judging was done at Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts and the women had to ski on straw as a part of the contest. The Sno-Queen was chosen by a panel of noteworthy & impartial judges who evaluated appearance in ski clothes, personalities and enthusiasm for skiing. The Queen, Miss Popularity and a court of four were rewarded with ski trips, ski wardrobes, skis, and boots. The first Far West Queen contest was held in 1970 and was won by LAC’s Sharon Reece of the Snow Fliers.
Man of the Year
The Abominable Snow Man was a new contest in 1971 and was won by the man selling the most votes in support of his club’s Sno-Queen candidate. Far West held its first King Contest in 1976. It was won by LAC’s Dennis Eggert of Hughes Ski Club.
Council Ski Week
The first L.A. Council Ski Week was held in Breckenridge, CO in 1985 and was run by Van Smith of Beach Cities Ski Club.
(LAC’s history write-up last updated 10/05.)