By Dan McDonald
For Hometown News
BREVARD -- Feb. 5, 2011: Fifty-one Brevardians arrive by plane in Denver and travel by tour bus to the Berthoud Pass - a high, steep, dangerous cut that crosses the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains of Central Colorado.
That evening, after making it safely to their destination, a massive snow storm moved through the area, dropping nearly a foot of new snow on the already nearly impassible roadway. When the 51 intrepid members woke the next morning, they found themselves cut off from the outside world.
For days, the only path in or out of the mountains was closed for all traffic.
So, what were they to do? Being that they were all members of the Space Coast Ski Club, they graciously thanked the snow-gods for providing fresh powder and turned the area into their own personal playground.
"It was a great trip," recalled Brice Crossley, a project manager at Kennedy Space Center, who doubles as a trip leader for the ski club.
"We had the mountain practically to ourselves. You couldn't have asked for better conditions," he said. "We had a blast. I guess those are the reasons you join the ski club. Memories that you'll never forget."
For nearly 30 years, chasing memories has been the motto of the Space Coast Ski Club, a 400-plus member group that has spanned the globe since 1983 in search of that which can't be found in the Sunshine State: snow.
"We've had trips to just about every continent and snow-skiing mountain in the world," said Jeannie Kilpatrick-Staubus, current president and 20-year member of the club. "And, this coming year, we're going to celebrate our 30th anniversary."
"That's an amazing accomplishment, considering we're in Florida," she added. "It just goes to show that people who love skiing are going to find a way to have their fun."
The group's website credits Ed Baines as its driving force. It was Mr. Baines and his wife and a few other couples who chartered the club in the early 1980s.
The first trip ever planned was to Snowmass, Colo., in which 52 snow-braving souls signed up for what was to become an annual trek.
As more people joined and interests grew, so did the destinations. Places like Vail, Steamboat, Park City and Jackson Hole were woven into the itinerary.
In 1993, Europe's Kitzbuhel, Austria, became a target. Since then, the group has ventured just about everywhere someone has advertised a ski-lift, from Japan to New Zealand, South America to Canada.
"More recently, we've started adding trips to places that have nothing to do with skiing," Ms. Kilpatrick-Staubus said. "We should change our name to Space Coast Ski and Travel Club, but we haven't done that yet."
"We've had trips to Ireland, New York City, South Africa and other places, and every year there is a woman's event to a spa in Miami," she added. "We're branching out, so that there really is something for everyone."
You don't have to know how to ski to be a member, Ms. Kilpatrick-Staubus said.
"You just have to want to be around nice people, who share an interest in seeing new places and having fun," she said. "We have many members who don't ski, but just like to go to the mountains. One woman likes to take pictures, while other people ski. We have members who like to use snowmobiles or go skating. There are plenty of activities besides skiing, and we're always looking for new members."
As if the club isn't quite enough of a link to help locals get to the slopes, Brevard is also well-represented in the Florida Ski Council, in which Merritt Island's Clair Quenzler is beginning a two-year term as president.
A former Space Coast Ski Club president, Ms. Quenzler leads the Florida Ski Club, an organizational body that serves 17 different ski clubs throughout the state.
"The advantage of being in the SCSC or any of the other clubs in Florida that the Ski Council serves is that we all have a reciprocal agreement that allows anyone to join in on one of the other club's trips," Ms. Quenzler said.
"I grew up on water-skis, and at that time, never had a thought about snow-skiing," she said. "I have to say, it took a few times before I got the hang of it. But, I admit that once I could actually ski, I was hooked. I've become pretty good. And I know that this whole part of my life wouldn't have happened without the club."
Club members cite several reasons for joining in the group. First, there is the financial reason.
"As a trip leader, you make deals for ski resorts, airlines, restaurants, ski lessons, equipment rentals, lift tickets, ground transportation and other service providers," Mr. Crossley said. "So, someone who is interested in skiing really can save a lot of money by going on one of our trips because we get a group rate."
But, that's not the only reason to go, he added.
"There is also the camaraderie. We have a large group, and there is always someone to hang out with or to ski with," he said. "No matter what skill level you have, there is someone to ski with or have lunch with, or to simply have a beer in the lodge in front of the fire."
And of course, there are memories, he said.
"Everyone who goes on one of these trips has fun. It's a great group of people and we have a good time," he said.
For Mr. Crossley, who joined the group eight years ago, it's not a big shock that Brevard should be home to such a thriving group that is actually based on snow.
"Florida is a melting pot of people from all over," he said. "People come to Florida from everywhere, and there are a lot of different tastes and interests."
Currently, the Space Coast Ski Club is preparing for and planning trips to Heavenly, Calif., Jackson Hole, Wyo., Big Sky, Mont., Schweitzer, Idaho, and two non-skiing trips to South Africa and New York City.
"When you go on one of our trips, everything is arranged," Ms. Kilpatrick-Staubus said. "And since we have so many members and people come from the Florida Council as well, there are always new friends to meet."
And the club is not just for adults, Ms. Kilpatrick-Staubus added.
"A lot of families belong to the group," she said. "My three kids are all in college now, but when they were younger, they took plenty of trips with us."
A family membership with the club is $40 per year and $25 per individual, Ms. Kilpatrick-Staubus said.
The group will host a holiday party on Saturday, Dec. 8.
Anyone interested in attending the party, or gathering more information about the club, visit its website at www.spacecoastskiclub.com.