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Snowseekers club celebrates 50 years of skiing

Kathryn Billings Wildwood hits slopes 2002 Park City Utah during trip with Snowseekers Ski   Snowboard Club Illinois. |

Kathryn Billings of Wildwood hits the slopes in 2002 in Park City, Utah, during a trip with the Snowseekers Ski & Snowboard Club of Illinois. | Courtesy photo

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50 Years of

To celebrate 50 years as a club, members of Snowseekers Ski & Snowboard Club of Illinois are looking for old members of the Waukegan Ski Club or Snowseekers who dropped out years ago. They are planning to reminisce at the annual Avalanche Dinner at the end of April, date and place to be announced. Bring your memories and old pictures.

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Updated: March 16, 2014 6:07AM

“It’s the beauty of the mountains and the crystal clear snow,” said Jan Billings, 68, of Wildwood, explaining the lure of skiing out west with her husband, Al, and their children.

They are members of Snowseekers Ski & Snowboard Club of Illinois, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a ski club that meets monthly in Mundelein.

“I love the air when the snow is in it, all the colors, you get this beautiful color from the snow and ice crystals in the air,” she said.

“And the blue sky is bluer than you’ve ever seen before because there’s no pollution up there. It’s absolutely sky blue,” she exclaimed.

And joining a ski club can help you cut the expenses of such a trip while also giving you plenty of people to socialize with once you are at your destination.

“Our primary purpose is to promote skiing and other outdoor activities,” said Stu Howes, 78, who lived in Libertyville for 40 years before moving to Elgin to be close to his grandchildren.

The group meets at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month at Dover Straits Restaurant in Mundelein.

“It’s like a warm up to get the legs moving. We call it our learn-to-ski-and-ski-better,” he said with a laugh about the first weekend trip of the year to Devil’s Head, Wis., in January. They also make two trips to Colorado — this year it’s Snowmass and Breckenridge. Membership in the club costs $40 per family or $30 for singles.

While skiing is the focus, they also have get-togethers for club members to just enjoy each other’s company. They’ve done public service days, golf outings, biking, golfing, plays and camping. They also hold an annual Christmas dinner, which some former members like to attend to see old friends, and another dinner for socializing.

“We’re hoping to get more families with younger kids,” Howes said. One of the oldest members, Ken Hoffman, 91, still hits the slopes and races in the Nastar, a program where recreational skiers of all ages and abilities can test their skills on courses.

“He told me recently he will probably win gold because there’s only one other person in his age group,” Howes chuckled.

Jan Billings joined the club in 1977 when it met in Waukegan and was already 13 years old. Back then it was simply called the Waukegan Ski Club. They changed the name in 1982 to be more inclusive.

“I brought my two children up in the ski club,” said the mother of Daniel, 31, and Kathryn, 27, also skiers. “We’ve held on to the older crowd because we are pretty serious skiers, we’re not the big party crowd,” she said.

“This is a family club and it has always been that way. If you are under 19 you can’t come on a trip unaccompanied,” she said, adding young couples and singles are welcome.

“I’ve been to just about every snow state there is, we’ve gone to many, many, many different places,” she said, including New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Montana and Canada. They avoid the bus-trip type ventures that are the bread and butter of some clubs.

“An eight-hour bus trip is too long,” Billings said. On each of their trips, they will have between 20 and 40 people sign up. The cost to go to Colorado, which includes airfare, lodging, lift tickets and transportation to the condos where they stay, is $1,300. You buy groceries yourself, or eat out, your choice, and sign-up is in August. They are hoping to add some new members to the club.

“With the recession, it has been difficult to get families back in the group. But we have the lowest priced trips out there,” she said. That’s because they have a good reputation with various organizations in charge of renting condominiums and making other arrangements.

“It’s really a fun group,” she said.

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