THE HISTORY OF THE PITTSBURGH SKI CLUB
December 10, 2020 will mark the 83rd anniversary of the Pittsburgh Ski Club. Directly below are four links, which give you a visual representation of the club’s history. Most of these documents are in Adobe® Acrobat® PDF format. You must have the Acrobat® Reader installed on your computer in order to open and view the contents of the PDF files.
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- For a timeline of skiing and the Pittsburgh Ski Club, click here.
- For a timeline photo collage, click here.
- For a listing of the Past PSC Presidents, click here.
- For a display of the PSC logos and flag, click here.
The Pittsburgh Ski Club was founded on the evening of December 10, 1937 at a meeting in the auditorium of the Frick Training School on 5th Avenue by three avid skiers – Bill Albert, Al Black and Lars Eckwurtzel. Lars Eckwurtzel was the first President, Al Black was the Vice President, and Mary Crawford was the first Secretary. During the first year, the Club went from a dozen members to about two hundred, and has expanded to well over a thousand and maintained that number for the last twenty years.
In its early years, PSC was instrumental in exploring the surrounding area for suitable sites for skiing. PSC helped Adolph Dupre install the first rope tow at “Seven Springs Farm” by obtaining an old Packard car, which was used to drive the rope tow. With the car jacked up on blocks, the rear wheels drove the tow, and the front wheels guided the line.
In 1941, seeing the need for organized safety on the slopes, the Pittsburgh Ski Club organized the first Ski Patrol in the Seven Springs Area. The Club was also registered with the Wilderness Patrol which hunted lost persons and downed fliers in the area.
In the 1940’s, PSC sponsored “Fox Hunts” or “Fox and Hound Chases” on the slopes where one member was designated as the “fox” and the other members wore signs identifying themselves as “spaniel”, “dachshund”, “beagle”, “dalmatian”, “shepherd”, etc. The “fox” was given a 4minute start and it was his job to elude his pursuers for one hour.
The 1940’s also had the PSC hosting “Trail Brushing Parties” during the fall for the purpose of acquainting members with the available ski locations in the area and “manicuring” the rough cut slopes with sickles, hatchets, saws, etc., removing small twigs and medium–sized pebbles, filling in trenches, and chopping down trees, etc.
Ten years after forming, the PSC then centered in Sewickley, almost failed due to the war, so raffles were held at each meeting to keep the Club together.
The 1950’s and 1960’s
In the 1950s, the “trail brushings” gave way to “Stone Picking Parties” which included hikes over the slopes, inspection of trails, and actual “stone picking”. Held at both Laurel Mountain and Seven Springs, these parties prepared the trails for when the snow came for skiing. At Seven Springs, Adolf Dupre usually rewarded the volunteers with some type of roast for dinner with fun and games following.
In 1959, a glee club was formed for members who found themselves singing together. Called the “Choral Group” and directed by future president Joe Cosetti, they sang on various trips and Club events.
Membership in the PSC was not guaranteed just by paying yearly dues; PSC had a selective policy so that only skiers or those seriously interested in learning how to ski were considered for membership.
In the late 1950s, PSC formed a tennis group which met every Tuesday or Wednesday throughout the summer. PSC also organized 3 or 4 “water skiing parties” each summer.
The PSC was the official convention host for the 1961 United States Eastern Amateur Ski Association Convention held in Pittsburgh from May 5 – 7.
Beginning in 1954, PSC rented and maintained the Midway Cabin at the Laurel Mountain Ski Area as its “winter home” – a place in the mountains where members could gather on ski weekends. The Club designed and built its own engine house and rope tow in front of Midway Cabin in 1956 which was put into general use two years later. The tow rope was owned and operated by the PSC for its private use and provided night skiing on Timber Top slope or used when Laurel’s tows were not operating. Then in 1963–64, when the center of skiing began to shift from the Ligonier area to Donegal, PSC sponsored two lodges – Midway and Pine Slopes, near Donegal. Soon after leaving Midway cabin, the Club sold the tow rope to Laurel Mountain.
During the 1963–64 ski season, PSC made Pine Slopes its home “south of the turnpike” and rented two rooms from December to March on a first–come–first–served basis. At that time a small rope tow was built at Pine Slopes and was free of charge to guests at Pine Slopes. In 1973–74, PSC took over full winter season leasing of Pine Slopes – with the last season in 1988. Currently, it is rented by the Club for 2 or 3 weekends per year to give Club members a weekend in the mountains.
If you were a member of the PSC over 35 years ago, “official Club sponsored week long ski trips” were virtually unheard of and in order to ski at those various locations, members had to make their own arrangements. Beginning in 1956 through the 1970s, members took advantage of the Pennsylvania Ski Federation’s annual charter flights to Europe and occasionally Colorado. In addition, members also joined domestic and European charter flights through the Western Pa Ski Council and the US Eastern Amateur Ski Association. Vail proved to be a popular December destination for many members, as well as Mont Tremblant in Canada.
Little by little, PSC began sponsoring more of its own week–long trips to various destinations. In 1966, PSC sponsored its first charter flight to Colorado, and in 1969 its first European charter flight for two weeks of skiing in Austria.
PSC’s first weekend at Chautauqua, held June 20–22, 1959, was scheduled as a “water skiing party” and was born from the local “water skiing parties” held locally by Club members. Not much has really changed over the years with members still enjoying water skiing, boating, volleyball, tennis, golf, sun bathing, and just good old fashioned partying. The cost for the first weekend was $17 in 1959, $55 in 1987, and $135 in 1997 due to the decision to have breakfast and lunch catered. Traditionally, and presently, Saturday evening has been set aside for the weekend cookout, except for 1967, when members took Boogaloo lessons followed by dinner and trampoline lessons at the Peacock Inn at Mayville, NY. The Chautauqua Weekend has remained one of the most popular and longest running events totalling 42 consecutive years.
It can never be said that the PSC does not appreciate the time and effort that members voluntarily provide for the benefit of the Club. In that regard, the first Annual Invitational was held at Pine Slopes in 1969 to honor the Club’s volunteers with dinner and dancing. In 1975, PSC President Nancy Dunn initiated the first President’s Party at the Green Gable Restaurant (Jennerstown). Since then it has become an annual prestigious event to give recognition to those members who made substantial contributions to the Club. Without the hard work of the volunteers, the PSC would not be celebrating its 83rd anniversary.
Historically, winter has been a very busy time for the Pittsburgh Ski Club; however, throughout the years, the seasons have provided members with enough events and trips to keep them together between ski seasons. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, trips to the beach, particularly Cape May, became popular destinations during the 4th of July and Labor Day weekends. Although originally not official PSC trips, buses were eventually chartered and the trips became part of the summer travel schedule until 1978.
The first official PSC 4th of July Ocean City trip took place in 1983 after several years of PSC groups “hitting the beaches” on their own. From 1983 until 1993, PSC’ers celebrated the 4th of July by swimming, playing tennis and, of course, partying with their PSC friends at the beach. In 1997, PSC once again headed to Ocean City for the 4th of July.
September 1993 saw the first trek to Myrtle Beach for the Myrtle Beach Dream Week, which was (and truly is) a dream for both beach lovers and golfers. This trip started with a small “charter” group of PSC’ers and has become one of the most popular and largest trips with as many as 150 members heading south to South Carolina. Other activities included bicycling, fishing, bocce ball all over the beach, and – last but certainly not in the least – good old PSC partying. Although scheduled for the second week of September which is in the peak of hurricane season each year, PSC members were only evacuated once – due to Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
Since its birth almost 65 years ago, the Pittsburgh Ski Club has grown from a dozen members to well over 1600 members today. Although membership has continuously increased over the years, membership in the Club only dwindled once – down to 100 members in 1945–47 due to the war. In 1946 PSC membership dues were $2.
In the 1950’s, memberships in the Club were considered either “social” or “active”. New PSC applicants needed the endorsement of two “active” members and approval by the Executive Committee and, if accepted, became “social” members for their first year. One became “active” by working on a committee or helping the Club in other ways; only then could they hold an office or vote. In 1954 to 1958, membership dues were increased to $10 and then to $20 for sustaining members and increased to $3, $5, and $8 for active members. In 1957, with 400 members, acceptance of new members was temporarily suspended due to limited facilities at the Midway Cabin for members.
In 1970, membership status was eliminated due to the increasing ranks and popularity of the Club. The current single membership class, as seen today, not only simplified membership but greatly decreased clerical time. PSC’s membership milestones are:
- 1937 – a dozen members
- 1947 – 100 members
- 1957 – 400 members
- 1967 – 800–850 members
- 1977 – 2000–2200 members
- 1987 – 1500 members
- 1997 – almost 1800 members
- 2001 – 1600 members
Although many factors have contributed to the success and longevity of the Pittsburgh Ski Club in its 65 years, one of the most significant is its means of communicating with its members. Not only does this bring members together, but it also provides a tangible record.
PSC’s first publication prior to 1946 was a 8½ by 11 mimeographed monthly newsletter named the Pittsburgh Ski Club Bulletin, which contained information about ski slope conditions, results of meets and general Club news. In November of 1946, Club President Mary Hoover began the Club’s Official Ski Whiz Magazine. Originally it was onepage but it was printed on good stock paper. In 1959–60, the Ski Whiz changed to a small magazine format and later to a 8½ by 11 glossy page magazine. It was published four times a year (each season) and contained photos and articles about Club trips, events and members. Additionally a one–page flyer was sent out monthly to members announcing events and trips that were planned. In the summer of 1990, the last Ski Whiz was published; however the flyer continued to be sent out monthly. The 1990s saw increased interest in the Club and the flyer grew from a 4–6 page typewritten publication to the Pittsburgh Ski Club News. Named in November of 1990, it has evolved to a 12–20 page newsletter produced by computer containing photos, trip and social event announcements and short articles of interest to members. This monthly newsletter is mailed to all current PSC members. Other publications have been produced for both members and nonmembers. Since 1991, the PSC Annual Membership Directory has been published containing members’ addresses, photos and additional information and has served as a “yearbook” for Club members. Throughout the years, PSC informational brochures have been published to “share the spirit” with others in addition to the PSC Bulletin, which is published for Club Information and contains a monthly calendar, trip schedule and other current information for prospective members. In August of 1997, the PSC created its own web site on the Three Rivers Free Net service of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. The web site contains detailed information concerning Club activities, travel, skiing, racing, instruction, membership, a membership application, and links to ski resorts, weather information and other web sites of interest. Since going on–line, the website has gotten over 43,000 “hits” or visitors. Prospective members can find our web site using almost any of the many search engines available. Recently, the Club purchased the domain name of pittsburghskiclub.org to give the PSC an easily recognized web address. Future plans include a reorganization of the site to include photos and an electronic version of the PSC News.
Ski Club Meetings
The end of summer has always meant the start of a busy pre–ski season for the Pittsburgh Ski Club – when final plans for the Club’s social meetings, ski instruction and racing programs, and other ski–related activities are completed.
Meetings have been an important part of the Club’s history. In fact, during the past 50 years, meetings have traditionally been held on Thursdays from October through April, with elections of new officers at the last meeting. The very first meeting was held on December 10, 1937 in the auditorium of the Old Frick Training School. The meetings were subsequently held at various locations in the Pittsburgh area and then for the last 17 years or so were held at the Greentree Marriott. Early on, the meetings focused on Club operations and information regarding ski resorts and ski trips and have through the years included movie presentations, guest speakers, fashion shows and socializing – eventually evolving to the present “social meeting” format, with Club business being taken care of at the monthly Board meeting.
Instruction and Racing
PSC has been providing reduced or subsidized ski instruction for its members for well over 40 years – either through professional instruction or informal lessons by members. In 1958, ski lessons for PSC members at Laurel Mountain Ski School cost $1. A few years later, free informal ski lessons were offered to members by the Club’s nonprofessional staff in order to get more members safely on the slopes. By 1972, PSC members were enrolled in the “Learn to Ski” program at Boyce Park on Wednesday evenings at reduced rates. In 1977, the six week ski instructional program at Hidden Valley began offering lessons to beginning, intermediate and advanced skiers any of three nights. More recently, with the continuation of these programs, coupons for discounted advanced lessons at Seven Springs have been available to members as well as a first time “Learn to Ski” day for first time skiers. Additional subsidizing of the “Learn to Ski” Day by the Western Pennsylvania Ski Council the last couple of years has made it possible for the PSC to offer a totally Free ski lesson including ski rental for PSC’s newest skiers and a somewhat reduced cost for snowboarders.
Up until the late 1950s, racing was “something new” for the PSC. To stimulate participation and improve skiing techniques, uniform ski proficiency tests were administered and competitions were held. In the 1980’s, with the addition of the NASTAR races and competitions with other ski clubs, the racing program was expanded and an organized racing program was set up with regularly scheduled racing clinics provided. However, it was not until 1995 that the PSC race team began to be noticed on the slopes at Seven Springs. Under the guidance of Larry Collins and company and with sponsorship each year from the Pittsburgh Brewing Company, the PSC Racing team has grown to not only have the most racers on the mountain but has made it into the national rankings for a ski club of over 1000 members. Many racers from other teams join the PSC team to take advantage of the coaching and gate training available to PSC members. In 1999, in its most stellar performance, the Club took First Place in the prestigious WPSC Council Cup race at Seven Springs, beating out the perennial winning Mon Valley Ski Club. Since then, the Club, in its 8th year with IC Light and the Pittsburgh Brewing Company, continues to threaten the Mon Valley dominance of the Cup by its close second place finishes each year.
Tradition, “NOUN. an old well–established custom”, is a word that should be synonymous with the Pittsburgh Ski Club and its “spirit”. As you can see by reading through the history of the Club, many events and activities have been a “tradition” in that they are held annually and their origin goes back many years. Two of the largest and longest running Club events have been the Fall Picnic and Monte Carlo.
The Annual PSC Fall Picnic has been held at various locations within South Park since 1963. Although occasionally the theme and menu has not always been the same, one thing has remained constant – it is the annual gathering of PSC friends enjoying the last bit of summer fun (volleyball, softball and, of course, dancing) – regrouping in preparation for ski season.
For the last 31 years, the Pittsburgh Ski Club has held its annual Monte Carlo Night, and traditionally it has been the largest social event and only Club fund–raiser. In October 1971 and for the next seven years, the event was held at the Allegheny Club at Three Rivers Stadium and was a formal affair with those attending wearing long gowns and tuxedos. The Clairton Lions Club has provided the equipment, gaming tables and assisted for every year except the very first Monte Carlo Night. With the assistance of PSC Volunteers, Lions Club members run the various gambling tables such as roulette, craps, dice–a–cage, chug–a–lug in addition to dealing the ever– popular Blackjack. Upon admission, each person receives PSC “play money” and can gamble it away to win more play money at any of the tables. The “play money” is later redeemed for raffle tickets that are randomly selected at the end of the evening for prizes donated by various businesses, restaurants and ski resorts specifically for PSC’s Monte Carlo Night.
PSC’s first organized Monday night volleyball was held on June 14, 1971 at Schenley Park in Oakland. Weekly volleyball games continued to gain popularity with as many as 75 people attending on a good evening. These volleyball games have continued to attract a committed group of volleyball players for well over 31 years. Post game gatherings which were originally held at Lasek’s Tavern have moved to various other establishments throughout the years. Due the success of summer volleyball, it was continued during winter, and originally held at the Shadyside Boys Club. The next year the Club moved to a different area of Schenley Park and the “winter games” were moved to Taylor Alderdice High School in Squirrel Hill, where we still play today. From the mid–1970’s through the early 1980’s, eight weeks of ski conditioning (or “body shaping”) classes were held in the gym before the volleyball games started.
In looking back at PSC’s history, it is quite apparent that although a number of things have contributed to the long existence of our Club, there is only one that makes everything else work. From the PSC’s earliest beginnings ... its organization and dedication to skiing in Western Pennsylvania ... its activities year round ... its extensive travel schedules ... to its publications and traditions, one factor has been the common thread throughout these 65 years ... PSC PEOPLE. Whether it be volunteers through the years who have had a role in Club destiny or those members, especially those long term members who continue to support the Club in its 65th year, this volunteerism and support along with friendship – coined by Past President Keith Susany as the “Spirit of 1937” – is alive today. From the moment Bill Albert, Al Black and Lars Eckwurtzel met that evening on December 10, 1937, PSC members have been the “Spirit” that makes everything else work.
As can be seen from the many old Ski Whiz magazines and flyers, especially the 50th and 60th Anniversary Yearbooks, the newsletters, and the various Homecoming meetings, a number of PSC members have something in common – longevity in the Pittsburgh Ski Club. Many of their names and/or faces are familiar; some simply continue to support the Club’s activities while still others continue to take a more active role in Club organization. No matter what role is taken ... the Spirit is still there.
... 5 years since the 60th Anniversary finds the Pittsburgh Ski Club continuing its mission of promoting skiing and friendship. The use of the computer and worldwide web has become commonplace by volunteers. In a short 5 years, the PSC website has not only had over 43,000 visitors but has become an important source of new members, who are searching the web for skiing friends. With a website update due at anytime, communication via email has developed into an important tool of communication between members and volunteers. The PSC News, still published and mailed to members via the US postal service, can be e–mailed to those members as a portable document file (pdf) for those wishing to get a full color electronic version until it will be available on the Club website. Currently all PSC publications, printed conventionally (on paper) for members, are also available in digital format.
The Travel committee, faced with efforts by local ski resorts to recruit pass holders at the expense of PSC would–be travelers, is creating new innovative plans for ski trips guaranteeing better prices, accommodations and new destinations for its members.
The Program committee continues to try new events, as well as plan traditional ever–popular activities throughout the year. For instance, social meetings have undergone a new look and have been held at various places the past two years. These welcomed changes to the meetings have the approval and praise of Club members, both new and old.
Instruction has added some new instructional venues and has included snowboarding in its program. Future plans include recruiting more members to take part in the Club subsidized instruction as well as making it a more organized and visible program.
The Ski Racing program continues in popularity with its sponsorship by the Pittsburgh Brewing Company and IC Light Beer. 1999 produced the coveted Council Cup First Place finish by the PSC, with 2nd place finishes the last two years.
New and innovative ideas keep the Club moving forward while the friendliness of PSCers and the fun–loving–ever–so–young spirit continues to attract new members and keep many renewing members. The PSC continues its strong commitment to skiing through its support and involvement with other ski clubs making up the 15 member Western Pennsylvania Ski Council. This next year, as the Club begins celebrating 65 years of skiing and friendship, we embark on a most ambitious project – sponsoring a Ski Gala to benefit the US Ski and Snowboard Teams; thus proving once again that the PSC “Spirit” is still alive and going strong in yet another decade.
This review of Pittsburgh Ski Club History – originally published in the PSC News from December 1996 to December 1997 as a series of monthly articles and updated February 2002 – was compiled from the 1987 50th Anniversary Commemorative Yearbook and other Club publications by Marlene Czarnecki, former PSC Newsletter Editor. It is dedicated to all PSC Members, past, present and future.