The History of San Diego Council of Ski Clubs
by Helen Navoy Harris, Don Diego
The Far West Ski Association (FWSA) board of directors scheduled its summer meeting at the Town and Country Hotel in San Diego on Saturday, August 17, 1963. Joe Harris, Convair Ski Club, was asked by Lee Klein, Executive Director of FWSA, to arrange an informal, social get-together with the presidents of the San Diego ski clubs. These clubs included Convair, Don Diego, San Diego, Torrey Pines, Astronautics, Solar, Aztecs, and Trolls of Oceanside.
In addition to introducing the various presidents, Joe related the many and varied activities that took place for skiers in San Diego. This proved to be a noteworthy session for San Diego ski clubs and FWSA.
On September 9th, 1963, Len Speicher, FWSA president, notified Joe that the San Diego Council was officially declared a part of FWSA. Joe was welcomed as the head of the new council and was given a position on the FWSA board.
This was an historical event for the San Diego ski community. But the stepping stones and building blocks leading up to this momentous occurrence were based on Joe's initiative and energy that bonded the various activities of the clubs, such as:
- Encouraged (i.e., strongly persuaded) each club he helped in its formation (and there were many) to be 100% FWSA members;
- Formalized the ski clubs individual swap meets into a single giant swap called the Ski Trade Night (now the Ranch Craft Swap);
- Established a Sno-Ball (now Winter Gala), with all the ski clubs participating, where the club princesses were judged and a queen was crowned; and
- Promoted racing by having the two strongest clubs at that time, Convair and San Diego, each host an open race so other clubs could participate.
Joe was able to accomplish most of these activities with the assistance of San Diego Club members Bob Dean and Jim Wehsener.
As time went on, the San Diego Council of Ski Clubs was organized with officiating members, such as president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer. It was also incorporated as a non-profit organization through the pro bono efforts of Tom Becea (lawyer and Torrey Pines member) with established articles and bylaws.
The first Sno-Ball was held in 1960 and continues on today as the Winter Gala. It was in the early 80s that the King & Queen pageant was upgraded to the Woman & Man of the Year competition.
The San Diego Skier was introduced in 1969 and published for many years until it was incorporated into the newly reconstructed Far West Skier's Guide.
The first FWSA convention to be held in San Diego (1971) was announced at the Phoenix/Scottsdale convention when San Diego with the Bahia Belle (Mission Bay sternwheeler) won over the Queen Mary in Long Beach.
The Councils Ski Trade (swap meet) outgrew its location at the YWCA and was transferred to the Convair Missile Park for many years until the demise of Convair. The recent location has been at Ranch Craft (thanks to Earl).
Racing participation grew due to the formation of the Intramural (inter club) racing program which is now the Alpine League. San Diego competes in Far West races.
Perhaps, the biggest innovation has been the Council Travel program. In the early days the mode of transportation was generally carpools, then came the availability of bus transportation (remember the Kopecky bus trips), and finally the advent of flights. Through the efforts and expertise of Tom Boren, Travel Director, Council trips were organized, club trips were coordinated, National Ski Weeks, and later Far West Weeks, were supported.
New ski clubs have been formed and some have disappeared. Currently, 40 years after its inception, the San Diego Council is composed of ten active clubs.
Joe Harris, Founder
Joe, born in Chicago, moved to San Diego as a young boy. He started skiing in his 30s, when San Diego Ski Club had their rope tow in the Cuyamacas. One of his instructors was Henry Mandolf.
Joe was employed in Convairs High Speed Tunnel. In 1952, Joe was asked to start a ski club at Convair and insisted that Convair be a 100% Far West Ski Club. In the early 60s, because the Southern Council of the FWSA was too far away, Joe formed an informal association of San Diego ski clubs. With these clubs, he established a Sno Ball, Trade Night (Swap), Race League, and Dry Land Lessons.
In 1963, FWSA asked that this association become a Council of FWSA. Joe was nominated as the first Chairman and served as President for the next eight years. Joe actively participated in the Far West Ski Association, being a member of the board of directors, and chairman of the San Diego Council of Ski Clubs.
Joe was asked by Bruce Barr to teach a dry land ski session at the YMCA in 1959. Interest in learning to ski exploded at such a rate that Joe, Bruce and the Y moved the Dry Land Ski School to Balboa Park, opening it to the public via the Park and Recreation Department. All this endured for over 10 years. Stanley Andrews Sports and later Ranch Craft donated the use of their technicians and ski equipment. Convair and Don Diego Ski Clubs supplied the volunteer help.
Joe was involved in the promotion of Junior Racing programs locally. He also spearheaded many convoys to Sun Valley where he won the coveted Gold Ram and Silver Sun awards.
FWSA presented Joe with the Terry Smith Award in 1979 for standardizing the Far West race rules and the Hans Georg Award in 1982 for his life-long contributions to organized skiing. In 1988, USSA awarded Joe the Fred Braun Award for his handbook National Alpine Rules for Recreational Racing which standardized rules across the country for recreational club races.
We are proud to have had Joe Harris in San Diego.