Ed Morrone, for the Times
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I really wish I could combine my love for food and skiing?’” Well, now you can … just not at the same time, of course.
The Langhorne-based Bucks Mount Ski & Snowboard Club offers just that. Founded in the late 1960s for enthusiasts of the slopes, the club has evolved into something of a social club over the years, so much so that the motto for its bimonthly meetings is, “There is no meeting without eating.”
“In the beginning, we offered free pizza and beer at our first fall and winter meetings, and we saw how many people we would get,” said Maureen MacMath, the vice president of Bucks Mount who runs the club with her husband, Wayne. “If you feed them, they will come.”
Pizza and beer night morphed into other ventures that offered simple fare such as hoagie and stromboli nights, usually paid for by the club with the help of membership dues ($25 a year for a single, $40 for a family). But then members wanted to show off their own culinary skills, to the point where the club would host themed cuisine nights like Italian, Mexican, wine and appetizers, and a chili cookoff. Folks would bring their own dish, potluck style, to share with the rest of the group.
While the food element is certainly unique and appealing to attract and maintain members, the overall camaraderie seems to be the top selling point. The average age of a club member is on the older side, but Bucks Mount welcomes all ages and skill levels. You can learn the basics, or you can follow the experienced Wayne MacMath down the mountain trails through snow-covered evergreens as part of a two-day “death march,” in which members earn pins and wear them like badges of honors if they can keep up.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said member Irene Kravets, 49, of Richboro, who joined about five years ago with her husband, Paul. “We were just looking for some trips so we didn’t have to drive ourselves all the way up to Vermont or other places when we wanted to ski. But we’ve got out of it so much more than that. We’ve made friends who have invited us to their homes during the holidays.”
Ah, yes, the trips. Those are pretty special and well-attended, too. Destinations near and far change from year to year, as Bucks Mount has gone up and down the Northeast and places as far west as Oregon.
In 2017, the club is offering a day trip to Elk Mountain (north of Scranton) on Feb. 3, a weekend trip to Gore Mountain, New York the prior week and a week-long sojourn to Steamboat, Colorado in late February/early March. However, the crown jewel is an upcoming trip to Tignes Ski Resort in eastern France, from Jan. 20-29. Prices range from $100 for Elk Mountain to close to $3,000 for a single occupancy in France, and discounted group rates are available on most trips.
“It’s very family-oriented, well-organized and price-conscious,” said Karl Flesch, of Yardley, who has been with the club since the late 1990s and is the prime organizer of the trip to Tignes. “I’ve had more than 50 people come on the France trip, but we’ve also had wonderful trips out west and others right here in the Northeast. It’s been very continuous. At the same time, we’re an older group and younger members aren’t flocking to us as much as we hope they would.”
New and prospective members interested in joining should expect inclusion and welcoming by all. Maureen MacMath, who said she plays the role of trip organizer and planner, specifically looks to help bond and bring people together, especially for newer members who may have signed up alone and don’t know anybody else.
“I’d say that we attract sharp, interesting people,” Maureen said. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and there’s always humor. If people do start taking it too seriously, we’ll tease them a little until they relax. We just like good, fun people.”
The club is around 100 or so members now, but turnout is strong. A typical meeting will gather close to 80 people, while even the lower-attended ones still get around 40. Approximately 60 showed up for the Bucks Mount holiday party, so if one does decide to give it a shot, odds are that person will be walking away with a couple of dozen new friends.
“We’ve gotten to know a lot of the people over the years and they are just super nice,” Kravets said. “It’s just super well-organized. Maureen organizes the trips and coordinates with travel agents to make sure everything is taken care of once we arrive at the mountain; Wayne runs the meetings and he’s the ski leader on trips. He’s been around for awhile and knows the mountains, and he’ll watch you ski and helps you become better. It’s just a great opportunity for any level of skier; beginners can get introduced to new mountains and experienced skiers can be with those close to their own ability. And you can’t ignore the social aspect of it.”
“At the end of the day, people just hang out with each other,” Flesch added. “They’re all dedicated skiers and the camaraderie is great. It’s just a lot of fun.”
Both Maureen and Wayne MacMath are former teachers, so with them in charge new members will get the best of both worlds: meticulous organization and expert instruction. All members have to do is show up to meetings or on trips and have fun; the MacMaths are happy to take care of the rest.
“That first real run in really good snow, when you put on your boots and those hard metal skis lightly dust the snow that is so soft and silky … it’s just a freeing, amazing feeling,” Maureen said. “You’re on top of the mountain and looking down at the forest. You notice the ice crystals and the beautiful things happening in the trees. The people that join, they’re doers. They’re up for anything. Everybody enjoys that. Over time, it’s just become such a big part of our lives. The meetings are fun, and if you join up, you’re going to find a lot of people with like-minded interests.”
Meetings run through March and the club is always interested in new faces. Just make sure you’re hungry. ••
For information on Bucks Mount Ski & Snowboard Club, call 215.624.7751 or visit bucksmountskiclub.org.