Madison Nordic Ski Club: Anthology Part 1
[Editors note: Club vice-president Jan Wood has spent the past months digging through the club’s archives and interviewing old-timers in an effort to document the early days of the Madison Nordic Ski Club. This is part one of a series…]
In the beginning, according to Mike Zweifel of Michael’s Cyclery, the Madison Nordic Ski Club (MNSC) was founded by a half dozen people who enjoyed rollerskiing and ski racing. The first gathering took place at the Memorial Union Rathskeller in the late 70’s or early 80’s. Among the founding members were Mike Zweifel, Tom Mosgaller, Tom Rutland, Charles Curtin, and Dave & Sue Janssen. The club was geared toward racing which may be why there is still a strong emphasis on this aspect in the club presently.
In December 1981 the first “official” meeting of the MNSC, Inc. membership was held with approximately 30 members present. Club by-laws and articles of incorporation were approved at this time. Five members were elected to the Board of Directors while four members were elected as officers with several others elected to chair committees. The first club officers included: Dave Janssen as president, Tom Mosgaller as vice-president, Pat Terry as treasurer, and Sue Janssen as secretary.
The club was initially a UW student organization so meetings were held at Union South. In the fall of 1983 it was decided that the affiliation with the UW be dropped so the MNSC might better promote the sport of nordic skiing in the community. The first newsletter of the MNSC appears to be the issue from October 1982. This issue featured the first ever and ever popular Telemark youth hostel trip. I am sure a majority of present ski club members have experienced this trip at some point in their ski history. The 5th annual Madison Cup rollerski race sponsored by Sepp was won by past Olympian Kevin Brockman. The 83-84 season saw the MNSC under the direction of Alex Ng. Steve Gaskill presented a ski clinic with tips to improve technique. Work parties were held at Blackhawk Ski Jump and the MNSC had access to the ski trails through a cooperative relationship. Rollerski races were hot off-season competition for club members – many placing in the top 5.
It appears that consuming massive amounts of food is not a new phenomenon for ski club members. March of 1984 brought us the first annual potluck dinner at the Shorewood community center. Until this time potlucks occurred in members homes.
The ski club has always attempted to aid people in their quest for ski and training knowledge and this has been accomplished tongue-in-cheek through several newsletter “columnists”. Nordic Norm and Kevin Klister were the first to impart vast amounts of ski knowledge to the masses.
The club sponsored the Odana series and team racing at Wintergreen touring center. The first Odana top male/female winners were 1) Mike Balistreri 2) Jack Heiden 3) Steve Eirschele and 1) Peggy Haas 2) Ann Pollock 3) Sue Gallagher.
Sue Gallagher took the helm as president for the 84-85 season when meetings were held at the library downtown. I guess this means beer was not one of the refreshments being served. Preparations were underway for the Ice Age Classic V to be held at Devils Lake and Saturday tours visited many area ski destinations. Blackhawk Ridge had league skiing on a 5k lighted course. The Bill Koch League was in its second year. Anyone know what a beer and base party is about?
Dave & Sue Janssen, former board members, described finishing the American Classic Series, a year long series of endurance events held by Tony Wise and Tom Kelly. Only for the seriously ski-addicted.
Dean Kleinhans, race chair for the Odana Series, offers to be a “live” nordic hotline, I guess answering machines were a thing of the future. Dean also proposes the formation of a nordic ski patrol.
The MNSC anthology will continue in upcoming newsletters. Send corrections, additions or interesting stories of club history to me, Jan Wood, (836-9512) or at the club meetings. I am also looking for any old newsletters from years 1985-1987, and 1988-1992.
Madison Nordic Ski Club: Anthology Part 2
by Jan Wood, MNSC Vice President
[Editor’s Note: Jan’s been perusing the archives of the club and shares some of the highlights from past newsletters…]
The MNSC was well established by the 1985-86 season with Howard Mead as president. Meetings continued to be held at the Downtown Branch of the Madison Public Library and a lengthy list of ski trips and tours were made to many of the area ski destinations.
This season brought a new event to the winter with Nancy Mead/as chairperson of a “fun ski day” soon to be renamed the “Odanabeiner Ski Fest”. The event was a huge success with an obstacle course, 5k race, tandem skiing as well as ski video’s, demo skis and lessons. Many club members were involved in making this day a success.
Many options were available for race-minded skiers with the Odana series attracting up to 60 skiers for the five week series. Wintergreen again held a night racing series and boasted of their “new electric lighting system” on the 5k race loop. Makes you wonder what the “old” lighting system was? Blackhawk Ridge offered night skiing as well but the prices were almost as steep as the terrain – $8 on weekends, $6 on weekdays.
The new “skate” technique added controversy over skate and stride trails in local parks with narrow trails. Si Widstrand of the Madison Parks Dept. wrote about proposals to alleviate this problem. One of these proposals was a ban on skating at Elver Park except for the “lightly used loop north of McKenna Blvd.” How times have changed!
Club members celebrated the Christmas season with a party at the Park Ponderosa in McFarland. The polka never saw so many variations as with this group of nordic skiers, as some found this the perfect opportunity to do some “dry-ballroom floor” training.
Steve Carlson wrote of his travels to Germany in search of snow and the Konig Ludwig Laug marathon as well as the World Masters held there. It sounds, however, like he found more rain than snow.
The sixth annual Ice Age Classic race was postponed and eventually moved from Devils Lake to Wintergreen because of poor trail conditions. The race finally came off in mid-February after a month of cancellations. Pat Terry Zweifel deserves a medal for not throwing in the towel so that 115 skiers could enjoy the race.
Howard Mead continued as President for the 1986-87 ski season. Newsletter editor Carol Plochman Ricker mentioned that the board had been “toying with the idea of a bumper sticker”. It took us ten years to get around to it and in 1995 members sport the first MadNorSKi bumper sticker.
Early season rollerskiing on Blackhawk road became an expensive way to train. $65 tickets were issued to unlucky skiers caught rolling there. Eric Dott and Chris Hinrichs offered a free dry-land ski training clinic at Blackhawk ski jump and optional rollerskiing/rollerblading to be held at an “undisclosed” location. We hope it remained “undisclosed” to the Dane County Sheriff’s department.
The ’86 season newsletter was a forum for club members John Follet and Dean Kleinhans who took pen to paper to bring us informative articles. John provided us with tips on skiing with kids while Dean, as resident ski patrol officer discussed ski safety and dealing with injuries on the trail.
Early January of ’87 found MNSC members discussing their concerns over the closing of Telemark Lodge in Cable. In the end, arrangements were made for the Lodge to be open for the Birkie and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
With only 25″ of snow for the season it appears that the 86-87 ski season was a lean year. Training for the Birke becomes a challenge to most and it appears from the club mail to “Olga” that some folks never got around to preparing for the race:
I'm confused. I thought the Birkie was supposed to be fun. I signed up because my friends talked me into it, but I had an awful time. What's wrong? - 9 hours
Dear 9 hours,
(Did it really take you 9 hours?) No, the Birkie is not fun. It never has been and it never will be. It is a grueling masochistic test which proves only that you are fool enough to plow through 6 inches of snow for 9 hours. See you there next year! - Olga
In his monthly column, Howard passed on some trivia about the “white stuff” we all have come to love for three months of the year. Snow comes in more crystallizing forms than any other known substance – up to 75 variations by some schemes; but is there a wax for each?
In November of ’87 we hoped for abundant snow and Chris Hinrichs prayed to the snow-god that it would be so – one of the many duties as club president. The club started out the season with a ski expo with many area ski shops setting up booths in the gym at Longfellow school. The monthly meetings found a new home at the Shorewood Community Center. Those members who love to “sauna” would miss the downtown public library greatly.
The “Funski Runski” is put on by the club as part of the Madison Winter Carnival. We made the front page of the State journal with this event. Nancy Wiegand tempted us with thoughts of winter camping in Wyoming. Chris Ransom and Jane Stevenson acted as tour guides to the Winter Olympics in Calgary. Chris Hinrichs’ alter-ego Dr. Von Training made several appearances at club meetings to offer “advice” and humor on cross county skiing.
January of ’88 was a busy month for club events. Nancy Mead and volunteers organized the 2nd annual “Odanabeiner” which was a great success despite the warm temps and fog. The VIII Ice Age race was also a great success thanks to race director Ken Lambrecht and many enthusiastic volunteers. The race was held at Wintergreen (now part of The Springs resort) and attracted 250 skiers from Illinois and southern Wisconsin. The following year the race had to be canceled due to lack of snow. The Springs Resort now holds the race each year, with volunteer help from the club.
Club members who wanted to continue skiing into March were offered a chance to join Howard and Nancy Mead on a nine-day trip to Yellowstone Park for late season skiing. Sounds like a fantastic way to spend what is usually a marginal month for skiing in Madison.
Chris Hinrichs continues on as president for the 88-89 season and offers inspiring messages in each newsletter. More club members than ever are volunteering their time for club activities. Thanks to the work of several women in the club a Women’s Skiing Symposium is organized with the U.S. Ski Association at Telemark Lodge the weekend preceding the Birkie. An auction to benefit the symposium was held at the club meeting with numerous gift certificates and merchandise up for bids.
Ice, rain and more ice were a skier’s nightmare for the month of January. Brad Ricker attempts to maintain his optimism for the Odana race series despite holding only one race for the season. The weather was not to cooperate for those training for the 1989 Birkie like Nina Albanese-Kotar who shares her thoughts on the miserable ski conditions around Madison. She writes, “As Birkie skiers, we will embark on the journey together and all emerge as victors in the end.”
Madison Nordic Ski Club: Anthology Part 3
by Jan Wood, MNSC Vice President
The final chapter in this history of the ski club begins with the 1989-90 ski season. Chris Hinrichs stays on as our fearless leader. There was a great turnout for the kick-off meeting in November with Dan Simoneau as the guest speaker and the Great Hall of the Memorial Union as the venue.
December of 1989: money from the city parks department was approved for lighting of Elver park ski trails. The club was faced with the challenge of raising $25,000 in order to secure a matching donation from the State DNR funds. A subcommittee of club members and Si Widstrand was quickly organized to head up the fundraising effort. The club was able to raise around $10,000 (from what I can figure) and the lights were scheduled to be put up in the fall of 1990. Meanwhile, weekly races were held under the moonlight at Odana.
Preparations were under way for the Ice Age Classic IV with sponsorship from Erehwon and Victor Allen’s Coffee. Hopes were high after the successful race of 1989. Ken Lambrecht was race chair for the second year. Unfortunately, the race was postponed then canceled for lack of the white stuff.
Alex Ng one of the early club members and past board member writes a memoir of the early years of the club. Alex says the club was formed in Sepp’s basement to “dedicate themselves to the promotion of skiing in the Madison area”. Alex has moved on to more cactus-filled pastures but his hard work toward making the MNSC a success will be remembered.
The 1990-91 season brought us the dynamic duo of John Miller and Brian Eirschele as President and VP. This combination brought us both insightful and introspective thoughts as well as just plain zany antics. “If you train, it will snow!”
Trail work at Elver was underway with over 100 hours of labor by club members to get the trails groomed for the coming season. The night the lights came on at Elver, sounds like a catchy pop song phrase, but on Friday December 7th, 1990 it was for real. Skiers enjoyed the 5k lighted trails at Elver and realized the dream of “recognizing other skiers out under the stars”.
Madman that he is, Brad Ricker headed up the race series for the third straight year. Brad pulled off the first race at Elver on January 10th with 41 racers skiing the 5k or 9k course. Kate Lieber, the weekend trip organizer, wrote of a lovely trip to the north shore of Superior to ski the Sugarbush and Gunflint trails. Levi Wood led a long weekend trip to St. Germaine (an ever popular club destination) with around 16 club members. Great food, fun and skiing were had by all.
One of the most enjoyable articles I came across was Bill Warners’ story of skiing his first Birkie. I wondered if Bill had stopped to take notes along the way because in my experience the brain pretty much stops functioning somewhere between “OO” and firetower hill. Thanks Bill for the humor and making us realize what the Birkie is all about – having fun!
Skiing “Down Under” was the feature of the first club meeting for the 1991-92 season. Llona Clausen of Minocqua Winter Park shared her stories and slides of skiing/working in Australia with her husband Dan.
That crazy Oklahoman, Brett Hulsey, caught Presidential fever and took over for the 91-92 season. Brett and Don Fariss formed “Team Madnorski” to give club members an opportunity to train before and during ski season. The Bill Koch league was revived after a few years off. Brad & Carol Ricker coordinated the program and brought together a dozen or so families to participate in an informal league with hopes of a more formal Bill Koch program in the following years.
1991 was the year of the tornado that ripped through Minocqua Winter Park. Scott Spoolman (newsletter editor) wrote about the damage to the trails and plans to redesign and improve the trail system as a result.
Don Fariss, club training guru, writes on the “OS phenomenon”, where you start skiing down a very steep hill at Mach 8 and about half way down you holler out “Oh S___” just before you do a face plant in the snowbank as you attempt to negotiate a corner. Don gives us a helpful hint for avoiding this situation: holler out “whoooppeee” instead!
February of 1992 brought Birkie mania on the 20th anniversary of the Birkie. Training and pasta eating were at a feverish pace. Despite the lackluster snow in southern Wisconsin club members manage to keep their spirits high and gas tanks full for the drive to find snow in northern Wisconsin.
Brett Hulsey arranged for club members to purchase jackets and t-shirts with a logo designed by Kay Rashka. This was a way to recognize other Madison Nordic ski club members while out on the trails.
Derek Popp planned several unique Elver races like Hawaiian shirt night, wood ski/wool knickers night, crazy hat night and my favorite wild lycra night. The less than average snowfall made it possible to hold only one race for the season.
Bob Rabin brought us some data on snowfall for the Madison and Wausau areas from the past half century. The gist of his report was that we all need to move to Wausau from November to March. It seems there is a rough pattern of snow conditions with extensive ski seasons clustered about every seven years. It looks like we must be in one of those “clusters” with the past couple seasons here in Madison.
The 1992-93 ski season saw the club starting out without a President. Dory Owen held things together as vice-president until we were able to convince Brett Hulsey to stay on as president. Don Fariss and Dory became co-vice-presidents. Don and Dory kept the meetings and club on track while Brett was busy keeping Bill Clinton on track to the White House.
Dr. Greg Landry, Olympic nordic ski team physician shared his behind the scenes stories of the Olympic games. Don Fariss and the Madnorski training group were welcoming all members to join in some preseason training. The first Madnorski inline skate night was held at Fast Forward.
Our own club hotline (233-MADK) was up and ringing. Mike Ivey volunteers to keep the hotline up to date on the latest ski club and ski condition information from his home. This has turned out to be a great publicity and time-saving system for the club.
We had a fair amount of snow, only problem is we also had a fair amount of rain on top of it. Derek Popp held several races at Tyrol Basin which were a great success despite some icy conditions. Tyrol was also the site of the 1st MNSC spring picnic. A fun day to ski on the slopes in your t-shirts or try out Dale Niggemann’s Sisu rollerskis on the country roads.
Don Fariss assumed the presidency for the 1993-94 season. The first meeting featured a slide show and talk by Hansi Johnson. He and a friend had done a Minnesota border-to-border race – a grueling 500 mile running, biking and canoeing two-man relay.
November saw the Anikins ski clinic which offered club members the opportunity to learn ski techniques with two former Russian ski coaches.
Brock Woods organizes club members interested in becoming nordic ski patrol members. Plans are underway for members interested in attending the ’94 Olympics in Norway and ski a few world loppet races along the way. The Elver series finds a race chair in Ryan Wheeler, a U.W. student and ski racer. Ryan’s organization brings the races to a new level.
Membership renewal is rewarded with an opportunity to win a pair of skis (donated by Sepp) at the December potluck meeting.
The Elver park ski trail committee headed by Ken Lambrecht is formed to address issues regarding grooming and future equipment and trail needs. This work has led to the formation this year of a cross country ski committee to the Madison City Parks Commission.
January of ’94 the club met at Rocky’s for a video and pizza night. It doesn’t take much to convince x-country skiers to attend a meeting where food will be served. In March a contingent of club members made the trip to Thunder Bay to enjoy world class skiing. Amateur videos and photos by club members were shared at upcoming club meetings.
Newsletter editors Kris Long and Cyndi Mackey deserve credit for writing the articles for the entire March ’94 newsletter. It appears board members/club members had run out of things to write about by the end of the season. We all need to get involved to make the newsletter interesting so keep those ski stories coming.
The past two seasons (94-95) will be remembered as the Ivey years. Mike Ivey took over the presidency after serving for a number of years as publicity chair and all-around ski bum.
Team Madnorski trained for another season but disbanded this year with leader Don Fariss making a commitment to train and coach the Madison area junior skiers.
In the ’94 several fall work parties were scheduled to keep area ski trails cleared for skiing. The club expanded on the December raffle by offering a host of ski related prizes to members who renewed in time. Thanks to Tim Wadlington for rounding up all the smaller prizes and to Sepp who again donated a pair of the new “shorty” skis for the grand prize.
The official Bill Koch kids ski league is back thanks to hard work by Brock Woods and Pete Anderson. It seems the number of wee ones in the club has climbed significantly in the past few years. The program has been a big hit with 70 kids participating this past season.
The Ice Age classic was resurrected in January of 1995 by club member Ryan Wheeler and Diane Scherschel of The Springs Resort in Spring Green. The club volunteers were greatly appreciated and all received t-shirts for their efforts. It was a close call this year after the beautiful base of snow we had melted in mid-January whether the race would be held but Mother Nature came through supplying ample snow the night before the race.
The advent of new waxes on the market prompted member Pete Anderson to write on the long-term health hazards of inhaling Fluors or even plain old Start wax. Pete can share with you the best respirator to purchase.
Mike Ivey was present at a People for Parks meeting to accept an award from Mayor Paul Soglin for our work and commitments to cross country skiing most notably at Elver. The club has most recently donated funds for the trailhead sign at the Elver ski trails.
The club continues to carry on many of the founding members traditions along with new ones. But one thing remains the same; we are all involved because we enjoy cross country skiing, some of us even live for it. I want to thank Mike Zweifel and Tom Mosgaller for recollections of the early years; Carolyn Senty, Carol Ricker and the Meads for pulling old newsletters out of their closets.
It is the end of another ski season and volunteers are needed for several board positions. See your name go down in club history by filling one of these positions. You will be greatly rewarded and appreciated.