From her very first day on skis, Holly O'Brien needed a harness to keep from tearing down the slope. She was a downhiller from day one and the Zephyr Cove Ski Club helped her control and develop that need for speed, her mother, Sally O'Brien, said.
Zephyr Cove Ski Club, a nonprofit organization run by parent volunteers that teaches children to ski and snowboard, started about 50 years ago with the establishment of Whittell High School. The basin club, associated with Douglas County Parks and Recreation and the Douglas County School District, has two valley-based sister teams - the Saturday and Sunday clubs.
Holly O'Brien got her first taste of skiing with the club at 5 years old, and her passion for the sport continued to grow. She began ski racing, and after a year at Whittell, she left to attend a ski academy in Park City, Utah. Now she works as a personal trainer in Reno, Nev., but her mother still volunteers for the club as treasurer and registrar.
"It's exciting to see when second and third generations start coming through. It's neat --we have grandkids coming through the ski club. And for some of the kids, like my Holly, it isn't enough for them. I think it's a great program," O'Brien said.
Like Sally O'Brien, Zephyr Cove Ski Club President Bob Cook started volunteering because of his child. Cook signed up as a chaperone in 1981 because he wanted his son to learn the right way to ski from one of the Heavenly Mountain Resort instructors. Children don't always learn best from their parents, he said with a laugh.
In his 31 years with the club, Cook said he's seen children grow up on the slopes and the bring their children back to learn through the same program.
"I thought I had been an old member having been with Zephyr Cove for 30 years. But then Rob Pumphery with the Saturday Club gets up and said he'd been with the club for over 40 years. And then Tom Hickey (with the Sunday Club) got up and said he'd been with the club for 50 years," Cook said.
It's a historic organization, and Cook wanted to make sure it continued to be affordable. When the Douglas County School District required that the club purchase its own $1 million liability coverage, Cook and other administrators quickly launched a search for the cheapest insurance policy.
The school district also increased the transportation costs the club would have to pay, from $12,500 during the 2011-12 season to $19,500 this year. A grant from the Douglas County Board of Commissioners has covered transportation costs in the past, and Cook said he hopes the board will approve the funding again despite the higher cost. According to Cook, the club is still waiting on the result of the application, but so far prices of lessons and tickets for participants have only gone up $10.
"It's one of those things we can't sit here and worry about. There are enough people in the community who want to see this organization survive, so it shouldn't be a problem," he said.