HISTORICAL BITS AND PIECES- A Brief History Of Los Amigos Ski & Travel Club
(Put together by Dan Stires from historical documents, newsletters aka TRACKS with considerable input from Ann Myers, Billy Lynum, and a couple of the other Tribal Elders)
September 13,1973: Disco wasn't king, but soon would be. Richard Nixon was President, but soon wouldn't be. Grand Funk Railroad topped the record charts (remember records?) with "We're An American Band." Tom Landry and Roger Staubach were heading the Cowboys into another football season, and thirty-five people met at North Star Mall for the first meeting of a new ski club, Los Amigos.
Has it really been 45 years?
Los Amigos Ski Club marks its birth from a spring day in 1973 when a couple of guys set up a table at North Star mall and began recruiting people for a new ski club. Mike Sauder, then president of Rennert World Travel, and Bob Dauderman, president of the Bank of San Antonio, signed up nine people that first day, including many former members of the San Antonio Ski CIub. Among the first to sign up were Vince and Nancy Dragotta, Ken and Judy Hummell, Jean Kraege, Tom Perkins, Marshall Fein, Arturo Zamora, and Paul Williams. The members elected Dauderman as the club's first president, and began planning the club's first ski trip, a Thanksgiving trip to Vail.
Los Amigos skiers have been on the move ever since. Many of the club’s current members were among those names on the earliest membership rosters: Anne Myers ('75), Billy Lynum '74), and Charles Rubiola (‘78). George Williams, Tom Perkins, and Hank Gomez were also among the "charter members", the ones we now call The Ancient Ones. (It was Hank who introduced the now-famous tiger tail to the club in 1985. See story below.)
The Texas Ski Council had been formed in 1970, and in 1973, Los Amigos joined TSC as the smallest club in Texas. The first Texas Ski Week was held in Steamboat in 1975. Twelve Amigos, led by trip leader Paul Williams, each paid about $300 to make the trip.
The adventurous spirit of Los Amigos was evident throughout the late '70s. Anne Myers tells of those wild 16-hour drives in a 26-foot Winnebago to ski areas in New Mexico. TC Carey, John Kiser, Art Yeager, and many other names turn up in these zany escapades. Since many of those long-ago and long-time members grew up to be respected pillars of the community, it’s understandable why they’re reluctant to talk about those misadventures today.
The annual Los Amigos Style Show had been around almost since the very beginning, and the formula for fun remained largely unchanged, generally a spoof of whatever might be the current rage on Hollywood or on television. The locations for the style show were as diverse as the Theater For The Performing Arts, and what would later become "Baby Dolls" Gentlemen's Club. Aided by the local ski and sports shops, these fashion shows grew over the years to become the biggest and best-attended meetings of the year. Each style show featured a skit, some simple, others more elaborate, including "Who Shot J.R.?" (’81) AND “M*A*S*H”, featuring a very pregnant Hot Lips Houlihan played by a very pregnant Anne Myers. Obi-Juan Gomez was a featured player in '80, and in '86 it was Pile-A-Crock Dundee. In the 90s, it was Forrest Gump, and even Al and Peg Bundy joined in on the merry-making. We never knew who was liable to show up at the Style Show; we did know that it would probably be a little over-the-top crazy.
The club's first Tube ‘n’ Lube party was held at Canyon Lake in June 1976, and continued off and on for about 18 years. The Canyon Lake Summer Party became an annual event, headed up by long-time member TC Carey, Commodore of the Los Amigos Yacht Club. The Tube 'n' Lube, meanwhile, moved over to the Comal and Guadalupe Rivers, and became an annual summer event. Commodore James Langford and wife Margie helmed the Inflatable Armada for many years.
The early Eighties saw the first appearance of what would become the Kamikaze Ski Team. Ancient Amigo John Stone, who joined in 1983, told how the Kamikaze Ski Team terrorized the slopes. Stone, Ted Mallory, Mike Jasinsky, Kenny Madden, Ken Dowling, John Rhode, and Johnny Hernandez were among those whose names turn up on the Ski Patrol blotter. The incendiary brew called the Kamikaze begins to enter Los Amigos lore during these trips. The original Kamikaze Jug was an old Sapporo Beer jug that sported a red-and-gold rising sun with a skier superimposed over it. The jug went everywhere with this group as they got “likkered up” and generally gave ski bumming a bad name. Sadly, the Kamikaze Ski Team faded into the sunset as the various members got married and had to grow up.
TRACKS newsletter, December 1984: membership stands at 169. TRACKS, February 1985: "Can you believe it? Los Amigos is proud to announce we have 200 members, an all-time high!" That month, Pete Peterson led the Steamboat trip, which cost each Amigo $575.
The famous Los Amigos Tiger Tail made its first appearance in January 1985, on a trip to Copper Mountain. That was the same trip that gave birth to the Toga Party Legend. Presumably, this party got underway at someone’s condo. How they ended up at a nearby saloon is unexplained, but the Trip Trash in the newsletter notes that the house band selected Jan Ferrell for Best Toga. (We'd really like to know how you attach a tiger tail to a toga. Duct tape it to a prominent body part?)
Word was getting out. By the Spring of 1986, membership had reached 350. The koozie had joined the tiger tail as official equipment. In October 1986, the club finally acquired a trophy case through the efforts of Ted Mallory. For several years, this custom-designed case moved from one ski shop to another, finally ending up at Sun & Ski Sports. (It’s no longer on display there, but in storage. Hopefully the trophy case and all those trophies will once again find a prominent location.)
In the October 1987 issue of TRACKS, the price shown for ski week at Winter Park is $385. That included airfare, ground transportation, lodging, and all TSC parties.
We've lost count of the number of couples who met through the club and later wed. The best guess is around 35, but we're missing a lot of early TRACKS and may have missed some of the announcements. However, it's obvious that from time to time, outbreaks of matrimony strike the membership. In our count, we're not going to include the impromptu ceremony held in a rooftop hot tub at Crested Butte. The pitchers of margaritas that were spilled into the tub probably rendered that one invalid, and in any case, trip leaders, unlike ships' captains, are not yet authorized to perform marriages. We're still working on that.
The first Summer Triathlon was held in July 1989, headed up by Randy Hinds. Not to be confused with anything athletic, the Triathlon included volleyball, softball, and a chili cook-off. The Kamikaze chili Team made its maiden appearance there. Los Amigos was joined by clubs from Austin and Corpus Christi, as well as the San Antonio Ski club and Club St. Bernard. That summer event evolved into the annual Summer Meltdown at Port Royale.
Through most of the 80s and into the early 90s, Los Amigos club meetings were held at Colonies House on Colony drive. In the summer of 1991, meetings were move to the St. George Maronite Center on Babcock Road, and in 1994 we moved to Aggie Park on West Avenue. The extra space was needed; by 1993 membership had grown to over 400!
In 1990, Jan Ferrell became the first woman in 17 years to head the club, followed by Cindy Hinds. By the spring of 1999, membership hovered at about 550, and for a few brief months in 2000, topped just over 600! The largest trip ever? The January 1996 trip to Park City UT seems to be the record-breaker…Christine Augustine led the long trip, and when Jerry Wayne showed up with the short-trip group on Tuesday, there were over 210 Amigos on the slopes! Total cost of the trip, including air - $750.
The Internet and social media have rapidly changed the way clubs such as ours do business and run trips, and we’re constantly adapting (well, at least trying to keep up.) Even the club’s name has changed to reflect our growing emphasis on year-round travel and adventure. But one thing has never changed: for many of us, Los Amigos is a lot more than just a ski club. It’s an extended family and we share a lot more than just a love of skiing and adventure.
It's fun to trace the history of the club through the old printed newsletter, TRACKS. Back issues fill three huge 3-ring binders. But many issues prior to 1981 are mostly lost forever, and none of the earliest issues survive. Thus our earliest club history must be drawn from the memories of Club Elders, from tales told around the glowing embers of a campfire. Since these tales tend to grow taller as the years (and the margarita jug) pass, perhaps we should undertake to write it down the way it really happened before everyone forgets.
Or maybe we should let the tales just grow taller. They're more fun that way.
Thank you Dan for the hard work of going through the Newsletters, talking to Tribal Elders, and putting this together!
Feel free to contact Dan if you have any additional history information to add to this account.
*Tale of Tails from an early marketing brochure: The Los Amigos Ski Club stands out as being the most visible and highly recognizable group on the slopes. The primary reason we stand out so prominently is because of the Tiger Tail we wear during our ski trips, both on and off the slopes.
The origin of the Tiger Tail came from lifetime member, Hank Gomez, now deceased. He was an everyday skier, even into his late seventies. In 1985 we had a ski trip to Copper Mountain which he could not attend. On the day of our departure he came to see us off at the airport and brought 100 Tiger Tails. He asked us to wear them and think of him, which we all did. He brought 144 Tiger Tails on the next trip which we all wore and a tradition was born. The Tiger Tail helps us recognize other Amigos on and off the slopes, and allows other skiers know who we are too.
It is a tradition that has inspired other clubs in the Texas Ski Council to come up with a trademark of their own, even having contests within their clubs to find something that will distinguish them from the rest. The Tiger Tail has been the only trademark to survive the test of time.
Thanks to Hank for giving us the spark of an idea that has helped make our club stand out from the crowd in ski areas in North America, Canada, and Europe. Our Tiger Tails are coveted by many skiers and non-skiers alike, who will do anything to have the privilege of wearing one. This is why we wear the Tail so proudly!