The Trenton Ski Club has seen a lot of change over the last 50 years.
The organization, established in 1952, started out as a place where a few people could go to save money on ski trips. Bill Gardner, a Bordentown resident and current member of the club, said the original members started the club to take advantage of group rate discounts and traveled to destinations like Vermont and the Poconos.
Now, 50 years later, the club has more than 200 members. Gardner said at one point, membership was in the 400s at its highest. Meetings were held at the Bromley Inn on Nottingham Way in Hamilton from the club’s inception until last year, when the inn closed. The club now meets at the Hamilton V.F.W., at 77 Christine Ave. in Mercerville.
The club has trips to Europe, Australia and South America and participate in activities like tubing, white water rafting, biking and hiking to stay active year-round.
“We have a lot of fun,” vice president Rose Gould said. “We do more than just ski together.”
Gould, a Lawrence resident, is a club trip leader. She said she and the 12-member executive board try to put a variety of activities on the schedule to account for the growing interests of the members.
“We are one of the few clubs that ask for information from our members,” she said. “We hand out surveys. Everybody is directly involved with trip planning. Not just the board. We take ideas and work with them. We try to put a lot of different things together to keep the club in contact year-round.”
The club members go on ski trips during the season. They plan other activities during the warmer months to stay active and keep in shape.
Gardner said he saw an increase in non-ski activities when members started to bring others, who were not as interested in skiing, into the club. Instead of excluding these new members, the veteran members catered to them.
“They weren’t diehard or addicted skiers, but they still liked to have a good time,” he said.
Still, though, the TSC’s primary focus remains skiing. Bill Shannon of Hamilton said the skill levels of the members range from novice to expert. Shannon, who has been a part of the club since 1978, said this is one of the best things about the club.
“There’s always a whole variety,” he said. “You always have that mix. You can ski part of the day with the big guys, but you can back off later if you get tired. There is always someone else to join up with. That’s what a club should do.”
Barbara Rooks, a Ewing resident and current club president, agreed.
“If you want a challenge, it’s there,” she said. “If you want to have an easy day, you can ski with people in your own level. You are always with a group no matter where we go.”
It is just as diverse in terms of age. Because of its half-century span, the club has seen children and even grandchildren of members and former members learn and enjoy the sport.
“I think it’s so great,” Rooks said. “That means the club will continue on for another 50-some years. It’s just so nice to see people bring in their kids and grandkids for continuity.”
Gould saw this in her own family. She said her daughter learned to ski with her. Now, as an adult, she lives in Colorado and sometimes meets with the club on trips.
“It’s great seeing the different generations,” Gould said. “Some clubs are for people 21 and over, but we do allow families and children. It makes us a little different.”
Perhaps its inclusiveness is what has allowed the TSC to sustain itself for so long, even through a recession that Gardner said is taking a toll on similar clubs across the country. He said the personalities of the club’s members and their overall dedication to skiing and staying active is keeping it alive.
“We’re surviving,” he said. “I think the key is still the people. I’ve seen these people have kids. I’ve been to weddings and viewings. You get to know these people as good as family.”
Several club members have actually become family. Gardner said four or five couples, including him and his wife Mary Jane, met in the club and went on to get married and have children.
Rooks, like Gardner, said members are bound to form relationships with each other because they are all open, outgoing people.
“You form these lifelong friendships because there’s so much camaraderie between everyone,” she said.
“There is a whole lot to share,” he said. “I’ve been involved and I’ve enjoyed it, but the club has given back to me more than I have given it.”
The Trenton Ski Club meets 7 p.m. Tuesdays at the Hamilton V.F.W. at 77 Christine Ave. For more information, go online to trentonskiclub.com