NORTH CREEK - Some readers have heard the sad news that Ernie Johnson died on Oct. 1. He was known to many of us in a variety of roles. We knew Ernie for over 25 years as a member of the Backwoods Ski Club at Gore. We will all miss him, and as a tribute we wanted to share the following article Ernie wrote in 1998 for the News Enterprise.
Mary Ellen & John Jackowski
Backwoods Ski Club
The Backwoods Ski Club is not a "club" in the usual sense. No officers, no meetings, or any other bureaucratic trappings that characterize what is commonly known as a club. It is nothing more than a group of friends who ski together a Gore Mountain, enjoy lunch together and sometimes party together.
There was no starting date for the club, it just happened sometime in the mid 1950's at the North Creek Ski Bowl, now known as "Old Gore". The probable beginnings can be traced to Ridings Restaurant, Farrell's Hotel and the American Tavern in North Creek, all of which were popular apr s ski watering holes at the time and attracted both skiers and local people. Familiar faces, over the weeks and years often created friendships.
One of these familiar faces (Ralph "Chubber" Montello), a regular skier a "Old Gore" - where it all started, began bringing a charcoal grill, hamburgers, hot dogs, relishes, etc. and set it all up near the end of the Hudson Trail at the bottom of the mountain. Many others brought their wine, beer, etc., to share and often ended up as an "Adirondack Luau !". Still no identity, just a bunch of friends.
The ski school at "Old Gore" was one of the first in the east whose instructors passed the rigorous US Eastern Ski Association (USEASE) instructor certification tests. These instructors were among the best.
Back in the 50's we had buses, too, which did not please the regular customers. Buses meant long lift lines, and they brought their own "bootleg" instructors.
One day, one of our friends started skiing down the Ridge Trail and she had to stop because one of the bus instructors had the trail blocked with his students. He was teaching them to snowplow, which should have been done on the lower slopes. One of his students had previously taken a lesson from the local ski school and informed him that his instructions were not the same as what she had been taught locally. In a contemptuous tone, he stated, "Don't pay any attention to them, they're a bunch of backwoodsmen.
We proudly and defiantly adopted the name, but we still had no visible identity as such.
One day, one of our friends (George "Lonesome George" Turton), who was a cabinet maker at Montgomery Ward in Menands showed up with a bunch of wooden hand lettered pins he had made and presented each of us with one of them. The pin bore the legendary title, "Backwoods Ski Club". From then, the "Backwoods Ski Club" had a tangible identity.
The Club remained loyal to "Old Gore" until the 1964-65 ski season, when a new manager was hired by the Gore Mountain Ski Lift Corporation, which operated the Ski Bowl. The new manager demonstrated by his words and actions that the Backwoods Ski Club would find a more hospitable reception at the recently opened state ski center. We thereupon, moved our activities to "Big Gore" where we have been for the last 31 years.
After all these years, The Backwoods Ski Club has evolved into a group of friends at Gore Mountain who ski together, enjoy lunch together, and party together.