RISKI is short for Rhode Island Ski Runners -
Lodge is owned and operated by the board and membership.
To provide an opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts to get together to enjoy outdoor activities including skiing, biking, and hiking, through trips and other activities. The club welcomes individuals, couples, and families recommended by members.
RISKI Lodge (Reservations)
Alison Pardee (President/Membership)
phone: (401) 465-5622
Bob Fifer (Vice President)
Janice Fifer (Secretary)
Peter Chappell (Treasurer)
His e-mail: PeterAChappell@yahoo.com
Chuck Wayss (Lodge Chairperson)
Next week's R.I. Giant Slalom has a long history
BYLINE: MIKE SZOSTAK
PUBLICATION: Providence Journal Company
You will not believe what you are about to read.
The first time that skiers raced under the banner of the R.I. Ski Runners club, a throng of 17,245 showed up to watch.
Say what? In Rhode Island, the Ocean State, where there isn't a single mountain, 17,245 people spent a Sunday watching a ski race? Yeah, right.
But it's true, sort of. That first race, on Jan. 16, 1938, coincided with the official opening of Diamond Hill Reservation in Cumberland. That huge crowd arrived on a sparkling winter day to watch skiing demonstrations and racing and to play in a sports park with ski trails, a ski jump and a toboggan slide.
Winter sports enthusiasts went early and stayed late. Police started turning cars away at 2 o'clock. Late arrivals parked on Diamond Hill Road and walked as far as three miles to the slope. They parked on Wrentham Road almost to the Massachusetts line in one direction and to Woonsocket in the other. They left their vehicles on Sneech Pond Road and walked two miles from Cumberland Hill.
Lt. Ernest Stenhouse of the State Police said the traffic jam was worse than any tie-up at Narragansett Park in East Providence during the thoroughbred racing season.
On the snow, founding members of the R.I. Ski Runners (RISKI), formally organized earlier that month, were the stars. Robert Chase won the cross-country run and the downhill, Homer Green the slalom and Paul Anderson the jumping. Members of ski clubs from Agawam Hunt and Brown University, the Appalachian Mountain Club and Hoch Popo, as well as unattached skiers, also competed.
The slopes were lighted, and people were skiing and sliding until 10:30 p.m.
Now, fast forward to next Sunday and the 50th Annual R.I. Giant Slalom Championships.
RISKI officials will be fortunate if 100 skiers enter one of the longest-running races in New England. They'll be ecstatic if 172 people show up tot this much has remained constant:
almost every January or February since 1950, Rhode Island skiers have had a chance to race against each other for bragging rights and a little hardware.
And they have the R.I. Ski Runners, the state's oldest ski club, to thank. Without RISKI and its dedicated race committees, the state championships would probably have followed Diamond Hill, Pinetop and Ski Valley into skiing history.
"Each time the race comes around, we think of the enthusiasm of the older group, even before us," said Dora Koch of Cranston, who has been a RISKI member with her husband Bert since 1975. Both are active on the race committee, and he was treasurer for 17 years.
"In our day there were rope tows, and we had to pack out the mountain. I think of Jeannie Potter and a whole bunch of women being gatekeepers in lousy weather. The enthusiasm was always there and 75 percent of the club members participated."
Organized on a January night in 1938 by 34 zealous skiers, the R.I. Ski Runners staged informal meets at Diamond Hill throughout the 1940s. They held the first state championships in 1950 and have held one every year since, except for two when it didn't snow.
Consistently thin cover at Diamond Hill in the 1950s encouraged the club to move its race to Mount Cranmore in North Conway, N.H., by the late '50s. When RISKI opened its lodge within walking distance of Cranmore's trails in 1961, the future of the R.I. Downhill Ski Championships appeared secure.
Hannes and Herb Schneider, the father-son team that operated Cranmore, took care of the RISKIs for two decades, transporting them about the mountain and setting aside space in the lodge for registration and awards ceremonies.
However, by the early 1980s, Cranmore was having financial problems that affected the area's operations. In 1983, RISKI moved its race a few miles north to Attitash, which had already upgraded its snowmaking system and was aggressively promoting ski racing. RISKI, an active social club in the off-season, also changed the name of its signature event to the R.I. Giant Slalom Championships to reflect more accurately the nature of the event.
The RIGS peaked in popularity between 1985, when 135 racers entered, and 1993, when 133 registered. The record of 155 entries was set in 1987. In 1991 there were 100 entries.
The number of starters declined during the 1990s, although 93 did sign up in 1998, but in 1999, another warm winter, entries were down, and fees didn't cover expenses.
Also, the cost of a ski weekend had increased dramatically by the late '90s, contributing to the RIGS's decline.
In an effort to revive interest, and with an eye on the 50th race, RISKI last year moved the RIGS closer to home, to Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, Mass., a 75-minute drive from Providence. But only 62 skiers participated, perhaps because of the late date, Feb. 27.
Don McKenzie, the entry chairman, is optimistic that the start list will have at least 75 names next Sunday. He said the race will continue "as long as there are people to run it."
The people who have run and raced the RIGS, who have made this event an oldie but goodie, are numerous. Many contributed in its formative years and have since died. There were the visionaries who founded the club: C. Raymond Westcott, Boy Scout executive and outdoorsman; O. Reid LeClair; George Parker; Norman and Homer Green; Norwegian jumper Oscar Haug; Dr. and Mrs. Jarvis Case; Mr. and Mrs. Roswell Bickford; Robert Chase; Paul
Anderson; Marjorie Phillips; Journal sportswriter Frank Matzek and his wife Florence; Herbert Machon; Norman Meiklejohn; Hope Almy; William Cook; King Lowe; Hazel Atkinson; Elsie King and William Henry Sr.
There were those who followed and influenced the club in various roles: Pete Laudati, who died Jan. 17 at 81; Bill Beck; Carl and Jean Potter; Bob and Mildred Plouffe; Howie and Dot Hamel; Mary and Charlie Golden; race director Frank Tetreau[t and his wife Natalie; Alton and
Nora Wasson; Charlie and Betty Spooner; Bill and Hope Henry; Lou and Joan Lepry; Alice
Golden; Dr. Tom Payne, race director from 1981 through 1999 and back for this 50th race; Charlotte and Roger Palmer; Peg Williams; Francis Sermon, race director and treasurer for many years until his death in a fire in 1977; Nancy Beals; Gomaire Domaige; Bill and
Rosemary Polleys; Daisy Patton; Joe and Helen Pino; Joe (editor of the club newsletter) and
Doris Abraham; Mary and Bob Benway; John Cosentino; Jere Russo; Ellen and Jack Zawislak; Bill and Mary Ellen O'Brien; Art and Judy Oscarson; Mike and Susan Toole; Don McKenzie and Frank Maddocks.
And there were those who raced, some continuing to run gates: the Coffeys and Goldens of Warwick; Henrys (especially Buddy) of North Providence; Bowes (Patty was the fastest man or woman in 1980) and Egans (especially Dennis) of Cumberland; Days and Paynes of Cranston; Laudatis of North Scituate; Blacks of Pawtucket; Forciers (father Bob, son Bill and daughters Becky and Betsy and now grandchildren) of West Warwick and Coventry; Ronnie Schofield,
Walter Rymanski and Russ Spooner of Cumberland; Charles Harris of East Providence; Ron
Swanson and his crew from the old Alpine shop in Warwick; Kevin Smith and his crew from Smitty's in West Warwick; Jean Mollicone of Providence, a six-time winner in eight years in the late 1970s and early 1980s; Chet Stokloza of Woonsocket; teenager Dawn Grant of South Kingstown; the Cioci sisters Valerie, Michaela and Jesssica of Johnston; Kathryn Collings of Warwick; senior stars Joe Pino of Lincoln and Bill Nixon of Warwick; Judy "Flash" Golden of Narragansett and multiple winner Jean Pontarelfi.
Finally, Everett Hall of North Kingstown, whose spirit of adventure and love of skiing, if not his speed, epitomizes the history of the club and its race. Hall plans to start next Sunday. If so, he will be the oldest competitor on the course. He is 81, a number just as impressive as 17,245.