It was 1946 or ’47 when Corte Madera’s Alan Best joined the Marin Ski Club—he’s not sure. Yet he knows for certain when the group, originally named the Marin Skate and Ski Club, started up. “It was 1938, when they began carpooling seven and a half hours across the state and up into the mountains west of Lake Tahoe to ride the rope tow at Laing’s and try the jump at Cisco Grove.”
When Sugar Bowl opened a chairlift in January 1940, many club members migrated to the more upscale facilities, he recalls. “For a place to stay, they’d rent some deplorable nearby place, lug cooking gear and bedding in, ski for the weekend, then lug it all back.” Best was a guest on several of the club’s early outings. “But when the war came, with gas rationing and many of the guys in the service, things pretty much shut down.” Then, back around ’46 or ’47, with his navy service behind him, he joined the revitalized, renamed Marin Ski Club.
Best and his wife, Joy, met 10 years later, shortly after she joined the club. It was also around then that the club got serious about having a place of its own. “We had 48 members,” Joy recounts, “and with $2,000 in the bank decided to buy a 10,000-square-foot lot in Soda Springs on Donner Summit Road. It was a little over two miles from Sugar Bowl.” As Al recollects it, “basically, we wanted hot water and johns that worked.” Joy has a different take. “What I remember is a whole flock of us being single and soon everyone was getting engaged, then married, and thinking a place of our own would be great fun.”
By summer of ’59 the group had roughed out plans for a lodge, and with members loaning whatever they could, $6,000 was raised and construction was set to begin. That winter, while the Marin Ski Club was still in rented quarters, Joy Best attacked the hills on a pair of then-newfangled Head metal skis. “And I wore lace-up leather boots,” she adds. This winter, at 74, she’ll handle moguls in Technica boots and on parabolic Salomons. Al has upgraded, too: when he joined the club he skied on wooden 215-centimeter Splitkeins, but today, at 86, he heads down the slopes on a nifty pair of parabolic 165-centimeter Volkls.
As ground-breaking day for the lodge approached, member Charles Massen, a San Francisco architect, volunteered to prepare a set of final blueprints. “We’d agreed on having a four-story, 3,300-square-foot A-frame capable of comfortably sleeping 30,” he says, “with a kitchen, a long living room, four baths generating plenty of hot water, two dorms—one for men, another for women—and a huge stone fireplace.” Construction would happen in stages, with members working summer weekends to complete it.
“The days were long and hard,” recalls Massen, now 77 and living in Corte Madera, “but it was fun, truly a labor of love. That summer—it was 1960—we got the footings in and stubbed out all of the plumbing, and we framed it the next summer, added the living room in ’62, and pretty much finished the basics prior to the winter of 1963-64. Our contractor, who helped immensely with the design, was Walt Stevens, who now lives in Forest Knolls and still is a darn fine skier.”
Another longtime Marin Ski Club member is Kentfield’s Barry Evergettis. “I joined in 1958,” he says, and “met my wife through the club along with several friends I treasure to this day.” Current members can book a bunk at the club’s now nearly 50-year-old lodge; for $8 to $10 a night, Evergettis says, you get “a warm bed, a hot shower and a place to prepare your meals—along with an opportunity to form lifelong friendships.”
The club has a self-imposed membership limit of 80 (currently there are 58 members), annual fees are $200, and joining is allowed only after an “apprenticeship” of one ski season. “It’s a fairly close group, sort of like a large family,” Evergettis says, “which means having not only a love of skiing but a sense of humor and a desire to form lasting relationships.”
Not all members date back to the old days; “families with young kids are always welcome,” he adds. In fact, today’s membership chairman is 40-year-old Mark Wittenkkeller, one of several snowboarders in the club. To learn more about applying to join, go to marinskiclub.com.