Addison Brooks perfects her technique.
Addison Brooks perfects her technique.
It was a dream come true. Last Saturday, 19 members of the Pershing County 4-H Ski Club traveled to Sky Tavern for the Junior Ski Program’s opening day. 

They’ll return every Saturday for the next eight weeks to learn from trained instructors.

Located on Mount Rose Highway, 30 minutes from Reno, Sky Tavern is America’s oldest nonprofit ski and snowboard training facility. 

It dates back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Baseball legend Joe DiMaggio visited often. So did movie stars Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman.

In 1948, a local preschool teacher named Marce Herz talked the owners into lowering the lift prices for children. She believed in the transformative power of sports and wanted more kids to learn to ski and snowboard, her passions. 

Herz’s first class consisted of six students. Since then, over 100,000 have learned the winter sports.

“We couldn’t have asked for better weather,” said Colby Burke about the sunny day. As 4-H coordinator, Burke has jumpstarted the Pershing County program by introducing dozens of new activities.

She has also brought back oldies but goodies like the community clubs in Imlay and Lovelock.

Terasa Elerick, a 4-H volunteer, started the ski club last fall. For a while, its future looked iffy amid concerns about the coronavirus, but Sky Tavern’s opening delighted the membership.

Colby’s son, Jacob Burke, descended the slope with Rich Wagner. “You have to have an adult or ski instructor until you reach a certain level,” she explained.

“Both Taylor and Khloe went to the slopes,” said their mom, Chelsea Montes. “Ali came along with me from the bunny hill and tried the big slope. She did great.” 

The skiers wore masks at all times. “They kind of kept us warm though,” said Montes.

The day was all about family interaction. Elerick explained that the kids took their lessons in the morning and free skied the rest of the day. 

During the free ski time, parents skied and snowboarded with their children.

The ski parents also volunteered in the parking lot and at the front desk. They organized classes and ran the carpet and lift lines. Sky Tavern operates like a co-op, with adults pitching in with time and energy to keep the costs low. There is no staff.

“There is a cost for lift tickets and rentals,” said Elerick. Parents arrange their own transportation. Many had shopped at a two-day ski swap for new and used skis, boots and other equipment. 

Keep an eye on the Pershing County 4-H’s Facebook page. The ski club plans to begin raising funds for next year. Like Herz, Elerick wants to open the sport to all children.

The Montes family arrived at 8 a.m. and put in a full day of skiing, heading home before sunset. “Khloe, Ali and Taylor just wanted to keep going,” said Chelsea Montes. “They already told me they can’t wait for next weekend.”