Sterling Ski Club was founded at the Sterling House Community Center, Stratford, Connecticut in the Fall of 1937 by six enthusiastic skiers. The first officers were Jack Kelly President, Ann Darak, Secretary-Treasurer, Mrs. Ernest Greenwood, Vice President, and Stanley Starczyk and Casey Jones were the advisory committee. Ski instructor and fellow member, George Earle, who later became coach of the Syracuse University ski team, was also on hand to offer guidance and instruction to the tiny group
Ski areas in those days were few and located some distance away, and to make matters worse, there was little snow that first winter of Sterling's existence. And so, in the Fall of 1938, a novel pre-season ski course was developed without snow. A dry ski slope was constructed at Sterling House from a picnic table covered with straw, and under the watchful eye of George Earle, the beginners practiced becoming novices, while the experts became conditioned for the coming Winter.
To the rest of the community, the small group of Sterlingites were clearly mental cases. The sport of skiing had not yet developed the popularity it now enjoys, and grown men and women who elected to slide downhill on elongated barrel staves were obviously material for the local booby hatch. However, that didn't stop the founding fathers (and mothers) of Sterling Ski Club. At the time the nucleus of the Club was being formed, New England ski areas were just being developed, and the growing list of Sterling members tried them all.
Things changed during World War II, and after being in existence only five years, Sterling Ski Club was temporarily disbanded for several seasons. The Club was reformed in the post-War era, and has been going strong ever since.
During the late 1940's, ski excursions were confined mainly to day trips, while Club members planning overnight ski trips had to find accommodations at commercial hotels and motels. With the membership growing each year, Sterling leaders felt it necessary to establish a permanent Club residence close to the ski areas. Funds, however, were needed to finance such a venture. In 1947 Sterling Ski Club sponsored its first showing of a feature length ski film. Produced by world-renowned cinematographer, John Jay, this movie was intended to raise these needed funds. Tickets were sold throughout the greater Bridgeport area, and the evening proved so successful that for the next twenty five years, the John Jay movies became an eagerly awaited annual event.
So popular were these movies that Sterling had to rent the Klein Memorial Auditorium to accommodate the sell-out crowds. The movies were enhanced by special appearances of world class ski experts and after-movie parties organized as part of the evening's activity.
Although much of the money earned went into a special fund for construction of a ski lodge, the Club always earmarked a portion of the profits to support the National Ski Patrol and the Olympic Ski Team.
The John Jay movies would probably still be a part of Sterling's annual schedule were it not for the fact that John Jay stopped producing these ski films in the early 1970's.
Around the time of the first John Jay movie, Sterling Ski Club also became involved in the Bridgeport Barnum Festival. In 1949, the Club constructed a float for the first Barnum Festival Parade. Designed by John Kordiak, this float took first place as "The Most Original" entry. The next Sterling Ski Club float appeared in the 1956 parade and depicted a ski scene using real snow. Those of us who weren't there can only imagine how that held up on a hot 4th of July.
In 1953, Club membership reached 100 and Sterling established Winter headquarters on an old estate which was rented for the season in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Located a half hour away from Jiminy Peak, the winter retreat boasted a huge living room and sleeping accommodations for thirty.
While the Stockbridge lodge was an all-Club venture, 11 independent Sterlingites undertook construction of another lodge to be known as the Ski Hauf, in Hancock, Massachusetts. This group of 11 had purchased an acre of land in 1952 about 150 feet from the main lift at Jiminy Peak, and without benefit of professional architectural or construction assistance, built the little lodge over a two-year period. When finished, the Ski Hauf provided sleeping room for 16, although such refinements as running water and central heating were not part of the set-up.
During the 1950's, Sterling Ski Club made great strides toward becoming the most active clubs in the Eastern United States. In 1956, Sterling won the Robert St. Louis Trophy, awarded to the Club which had the most outstanding ski instruction program. The following year, the Club hosted 800 skiers for the 36th Annual Eastern Ski Association Convention. At that time, Sterling was awarded the coveted Miller Hi-Life Trophy as the outstanding ski club in the Eastern division. This award was won again by Sterling Ski Club in 1977.
In 1954, the Sterling dream of actually owning a ski lodge came true as the Club purchased a house in Stratton, Vermont, a few miles from the Mt. Snow ski area. This lodge was used for several years before being sold in 1959 to the Buck Ridge Ski Club of Philadelphia. That same year, Sterling purchased land in West Brattleboro, Vermont, and started building a larger, more comfortable lodge. This lodge is still owned by Sterling Ski Club.
Within eight years, the mortgage on the Brattleboro lodge was paid and the Club bought a lot at Glen Ellen Mountain (now Sugarbush North) in Fayston, Vermont, with the intention of building a second lodge. However, in 1974, before construction began, the Club, purchased another lodge adjacent to the T-Bar area at the base of Sugarbush North. The Club assumed the mortgage on the Glen Ellen lodge, and remortgaged the Brattleboro lodge to finance this purchase. The original Glen Ellen property remained undeveloped and eventually was sold in 1979. Today both lodges are paid in full.
In 1969, Sterling Ski Club found itself back in the Barnum Festival Parade with yet another float entry. This Olympic float, made of over 20,000 paper napkins stuffed into chicken wire, received a "Best Effort" award. The following year, the Sterling float was sponsored by funds from private industry. This enabled the Club to produce the elaborated Skiing On a Star float which featured ski queen Barbara Testi (England) being pulled on skis by a rocket ship.
The decade of the 70's saw Sterling Ski Club becoming more involved in the construction of parade floats. When the John Jay movies disappeared as a prime source of raising funds, the Club decided to use float building as a project for both fun and profit. Since then, the Club has constructed many floats for local businesses and organizations, usually winning top prizes for their design and construction excellence.
Sterlingites had a very active race program through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s with the club continually growing. Many of the members today grew up in the club and participated in the race programs.
The decade of the 80's saw Sterling Ski Club becoming more involved with the needs of the community, in donating time to the Special Olympics and the construction of the community playground at Sterling House. In addition, the Sterlingites were expanding and spent many happy hours renovating and upgrading the two lodges.
The 1990's saw a decline in membership from around 600+ members to under 300 members as the membership aged. Starting in 2001, a new infux of members got involved and a Development Committee headed by Lance Conklin and R.T. McKenzie developed strategic plans to improve the financial viability of the club and make the club more attractive to a new generation. The Development Committee was followed by a new Strategic Development Committee headed by new member Jeff Roblyer and built on these plans by recommending a new Website, implemented in 2011, new marketing ideas, lodge upgrade recommendations, and finally recommending the sale of the Brattleboro Lodge and purchase of a new lodge near Mount Snow in 2015. As a result, membership grew from under 300 to 493 by 2016 and looks to continue growth as the club implements new strategies.
In 2011 to 2012 the Club started major safety and improvement renovations at the two Lodges. The Southern Vermont Lodge got a new Kitchen, water pump, new lower level egress, wireless internet & computer, and many minor enhancements thanks to the leadership of Lodge Chair Jeff Roblyer. The Sugarbush Lodge at Glen Ellen had the chimney removed and replaced for safety reasons and a new vaulted ceiling in the family room and new carpeting in the upper level. Additionally the parking area is being expanding thanks to the leadership of Lodge Chair Robert Owen, Bruce German, and Jeff Roblyer.
In 2015 the Club after extensive analysis determined the location of the Brattleboro (Southern Vermont Lodge) no longer met the needs and desires of our members and that membership wanted a lodge much closer to a Southern Vermont Ski Resort. The membership decided to sell the Brattleboro Lodge and concluded the sale in May of 2015. Following an extensive search for a new lodge, the club found a new home almost right on Mt Snow at 173 Handle Road, West Dover, VT. The new lodge offered great opportunity for growth and an outstanding location. The price was very good and it would require a significant renovation to meet the clubs strategic plan and needs. The property was purchased in June 2015 and renovations extended from June 2015 to December when the the lodge was opened for business. The renovation project was lead by Jeff Roblyer, Bruce German, Kristen Cable, and Diane Weaver. The new lodge offered 11 separate bedrooms and growth up to 6 full bathrooms with 2 kitchens. Also, two additional unfinished floors over the garage that can be finished for future bedrooms, or social areas.
Now in its seventh decade of existence, Sterling Ski Club continues to develop and maintain the sport of skiing, and to foster good fellowship among skiers, while offering its members an attractive program of Club activities. The spirit of the Club is constantly renewed as each year brings new members to join the family that is 100% solid STERLING.
Today, Sterling Ski Club is evolving and looking to the future while honoring the past and what has been achieved. We are looking to enhance our lodges, make use of technology to offer more benefits to our members, and attract new members that will carry the club in to the future.