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SKI CLUBS : Group Effort : While some skiers head for the slopes themselves, others seek convenience by joining one of three area organizations.


Almost daily, the snow base is building on the mountains and local skiers are happily packing their boots, skis and parkas, working the kinks from their legs and heading for slopes outside the county.

Some skiers prefer to go their own way, but others seek camaraderie, convenience and lower costs by joining one of three ski clubs in Ventura County.

"Our bus trip to Mammoth for the weekend and lodging is $125. Try that by yourself. It won't work," said Bob Cooper of Gold Coast Ski Club.

The club leaves from Camarillo on a Friday evening after work, skis all day Saturday and Sunday, and returns home by midnight Sunday. "It's a whole lot of fun on the bus. We have wine and beer and play radios and card games," Cooper said.

Los Padres Ski Club, for a similar cost, even throws in a meal Saturday night. "They'll make lasagna or try to coordinate with the major holiday of the month," Kaarin Simpson said. "On the trip in March, they'll do corned beef and green beer for St. Patrick's Day."

Three or four people make dinner and others clean up in a cooperative effort at one of the condos the club rents for the weekend.

Simpson mentioned another way that a ski-club trip helps save money: Members lend each other equipment and clothes.

For many club members, money isn't the issue; companionship is. Jim Smith joined the Conejo Ski Club to meet new people.

"A lot of people like me have gone through a divorce and are single again and don't like the bar scene all the time," he said. "Not only are we a ski club but also a social outlet."

All three clubs organize year-round activities: softball games, wine country bike rides, white-water rafting, house boating on Lake Mead, inner-tubing on the Kern River, water skiing, sailing at Catalina and Christmas parties.

While Mammoth is a popular skiing destination because of its proximity to Ventura County, all the clubs sponsor an annual trip to such resorts as Steamboat Springs, Vail, Aspen or Telluride in Colorado; Jackson Hole, Wyo.; those near Salt Lake City, or Whistler or Banff in Canada. Gold Coast has twice been to Innsbruck, Austria, and is planning an outing to Switzerland in 1993.

Gary Stouffer, president of the Conejo club, recalled an August, 1990, trip to New Zealand to winter ski down under. He compared skiing conditions at the South Island resorts they visited to Big Bear in Southern California.

"The vertical drop is not impressive. It's about 1,000 feet, whereas Vail is 3,000 and Jackson Hole is 4,000," he said. But skiing was just one part of the trip that included sightseeing, scuba diving and a four-day stop in Fiji.

Buses or planes are the usual mode of transportation, but Cooper enjoyed a Gold Coast trip via Amtrak from Oxnard to Mount Bachelor, Ore. "We spent a lot of time together in the compartments and the club car and the observation car and running around the train," he said. "Some people had never ridden a train."

All the clubs welcome beginning as well as advanced skiers, and members like to offer each other tips for improving skiing. Each year, Los Padres Ski Club sponsors a "learn to ski" week for all levels. "Everybody gets assigned to a class according to ability," Simpson said.

From 20 to 30 people sign up and the group can fill classes at four or five ability levels, thereby getting a special rate on lifts and lessons.


Conejo Ski Club:

Membership profile: Club members are mainly single people in their 40s living in the Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park and Agoura areas, but many live in the San Fernando Valley.

Upcoming trips: Tahoe, Feb. 26 to March 1; Bear Mountain, Feb. 29; Mammoth, March 13 to 15; Innsbruck, Austria, March 20 to 28; Bear Mountain, March 22, and Mammoth, April 3 to 5 and 10 to 12.

Annual dues: $30 per person.

Current membership: about 600, down from 1,100 a couple of years ago.

Contact: 581-2372

Gold Coast Ski Club:

Membership profile: About half the membership is married, half single, and ranges in age from the early 20s to retirees. Children are welcome on trips with their parents or a guardian.

Upcoming trips: Telluride, Feb. 29 to March 7, and Mammoth, March 20 to 22 and April 10 to 12.

Annual dues: $20 single, $30 family. Family membership includes spouse and children under 18 living at home.

Current membership: about 100.

Contact: 482-8058

Los Padres Ski Club:

Membership profile: Club members range in age from about 35 to 55; about 40% are married. Children do come along with their parents on ski trips but are included more on other activities.

Upcoming trips: Telluride, Feb. 29 to March 7, and Mammoth, March 6 to 8 and April 3 to 5.

Annual dues: $35 single, $60 couple. Fees drop for renewals.

Current membership: 175 to 200, of which 50 to 75 are active.

Contact: 984-9995

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