Jonesin’ For More Snow? Join The Burien Backsliders!

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If the recent snowstorms got your blood pumping and adrenaline flowing, and the reason wasn’t because of the plethora of terrible B-Town drivers, then we’ve got something for you – you can now take a touring-style bus each Wednesday during January and February to go skiing at Crystal Mountain with the Burien Backslider Ski Club!

Pam Harper, Mt. Rainier and Alex Brown are regular Backsliders. Okay, so maybe Mt. Rainier isn't, but you get the picture.

Here’s a history of the Backsliders, courtesy Burien resident Guy Harper:

The Burien Backslider Ski Club, originally organized by Edna Graham, started as the Burien Ski Bus.  Edna met with the Highline Recreational Council in 1959 and explained that many other districts sponsored a ski bus; however there was none from the Highline area.  The council thought it was a good idea and gave their approval to Edna to make all the arrangements. She, in conjunction with retailers “Osborn and Ulland,” who had a sports store in Burien at the time, managed to start the original Burien Backslider group and made Snoqualmie Summit their initial destination of choice.

Lou Whittaker was one of the first ski instructors of this young and colorful group of women. It was not unusual on the way home from the ski area to stop at North Bend to take on a case of beer or two as wine was just not the “in” thing to do at that time. The roster for one of these early trips included many of the current old-timers still living in Burien.

Later, when Crystal Mountain was scheduled to open in the early 1960’s, many of these skiers wanted to change the ski destination from Snoqualmie to Crystal. To settle the dilemma, a meeting was held at the Normandy Park Cove. The meeting was organized by Edna Graham with support from Ada Mottet and Imogene Briacks. A vote showed there were enough skiers who favored Crystal Mountain and that the extra bus expense could be justified – and so Crystal became the new ski destination.

Someone at that Cove meeting said, “What will we call ourselves?”  Arlene Brown quickly spoke up and said, “What about the Backsliders?”  Everyone laughed but that name stuck immediately and continues today.

Adrian Kelly, far left, of Mick Kellys Irish Pub, adds a touch of Irish to each trip.

Adrian Kelly, far left, of Mick Kelly's Irish Pub, adds a touch of Irish to each trip. And perhaps a pint of Guinness afterwards.

Lucy Osbun, one of the early members, said that for the first ten years or so, the club was just for women and that eventually they had enough women to fill two buses with other folks on the waiting list.  At one time, it actually took three buses to carry this women’s-only group to the ski slopes. It was a very lively bunch with many becoming very interested in hiking and camping around the Pacific Northwest.

In the beginning there were no elected officers. The operation was run by the organizers and the prime movers of the club. Sometime later, the idea of  elected officers took hold but even then there were no paid season lift passes for the officers. The job, however, demanded some sort of remuneration and free passes became the accepted routine that continues to this day.

The first staging area in Burien where the skiers could meet the bus was the parking lot at the old A&P store near Five Corners. Then it was moved to Moshier Field, and after that the Burien Elks parking lot; currently the Fred Meyer store location on First Avenue South serves as the pickup spot.

There were bridge players on the early buses who wanted to combine bridge with the bus ride home.  Venida Osols, who was an officer at that time, always made a special effort to obtain a bus with a convertible seat that could be turned into a card table.  This arrangement played host to many stirring and sometime hilarious games.

Inez Burkhard was known at the “Champagne Lady,” as it happened to be her birthday during the ski season each year. She would bring a case of Champagne on board the bus each year to celebrate the occasion.   That must have been quite a ride home!  Pre-season ski club lunches were organized in 1975 and continue to this day.

In those early days, the road to Crystal was unimproved which resulted in cars without chains becoming stuck in the dips and the entire ski population would come to a halt for a time. Guard rails that were next to vertical drop-offs were marginal to say the least. The drive to and from Crystal was sometimes very tense due to the glare ice and no available sand for the highways back then. Those were exciting times!  No wonder beer and wine became so popular on the way back down to the flat lands. To this day, many of the bus riders also bring “finger food” to pass around the bus and nibble on the way down and at times, a Backslider bus will break into songs of earlier years.

This coming year promises to be a good one at Crystal. The roads are safe and wonderful. There are new lifts and improvements almost every year. Willie Grindstaff continues to be one of the outstanding ski instructors at Crystal and the BBS are privileged to have his services. It’s a great time to meet new friends and enjoy the wonders of the Pacific Northwest.

If you’re jonsein’ for some real snow fun, you should check out the Burien Backslider Ski Club; for more information, call or email Yvonne Shimek at 425-745-2335 [email protected].

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One Response to “Jonesin’ For More Snow? Join The Burien Backsliders!”
  1. Don Dorres says:

    The Burien Backsliders ARE a great way to go! I've been doing it since about 1993 and have enjoyed many great times on the bus and on the slopes with a great bunch of people.

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