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Ski director retiring April 30

by Merrie Leininger

For years, Ed Atencio struggled to maintain the Douglas County Ski Club and provide the opportunity for Valley kids to play in the snow.

Now, he will be retiring as director and will look back on his 41 years with the organization at a dinner in his honor April 30.

Tom Hickey, who joined the club in its second year, when he was in the 8th grade, had nothing but praise for Atencio.

“He was the originator of the program and started it in 1958 with his basketball team when he was the junior high coach at what is the museum now. I came one year after the first year, I was probably the 10th member, and now there are 300 kids in the Sunday program,” Hickey said. “He started the whole thing and made it happen all these years. He’s a true champion of kids.”

Hickey is now the director of the club.

Atencio, 75, and his wife Bev have been the driving force behind the ski club, working to raise enough money and find chaperones, to transport the growing number of kids who wanted to ski or snowboard.

Atencio said they couldn’t have continued without the help of countless community-minded people.

“These buses were constantly breaking down and C.O.D., Ford Garage, and Chuck Meneley repaired our buses constantly,” he said. “We were always scraping by to pay our insurance for the buses, which was the biggest cost. One year, Bob Zephyr went to the county commissioners and got $5,000 for insurance.”

Now the commissioners pay for all the transportation costs, meaning the kids’ fees are only for lift tickets.

Bowing out of a lot of responsibility, Atencio said the club owes its trips to Willie and Nanny Huf and to the many club secretaries.

“Without them, the ski club wouldn’t have been able to go on as long every winter. They really stretched our money until the end of the winter,” Atencio said of the secretaries.

Atencio said his wife was also by his side throughout those years.

“If anybody I have to be grateful to, it is my wife. For 41 years, she got up at 5 a.m. and took the kids skiing and didn’t complain too much,” he said.

For Atencio, who taught science in Douglas County and in Coleville for 35 years, retiring from skiing is difficult, but necessary. He hurt his leg in a fall and hasn’t been the same.

Atencio said skiing has been a part of his life since he was 4 years old.

“I learned to ski when I was 4 at Big Bear, (Calif.). I don’t think I’ve missed a year since then, except for the four years I was in the service,” he said. “I just love it. I love to teach. I love to be with the kids.”

Willie Huf said his friend and ski buddy will be missed.

“It’s pretty rough, but this is part of life, you can’t ski the rest of your life. Everything comes to an end. He’s a very good-hearted person. In the beginning he always tried to get some underprivileged kids and the club would pay for them. We would collect boots and skis to give to the kids for free,” Huf said.

Sandy Cooke, who is now secretary and assistant director of the club, said that Atencio has been a wonderful teacher.

“My children grew up in (the ski club) and the last one is graduating this year. Ed had a lot of interest in teaching students the sport. His love of skiing just rolls off to everybody he’s around. His love kept the club going this long,” Cooke said.

“He’ll be missed, especially by us old-timers,” Hickey said.

A dinner will be held in Atencio’s honor Friday at Bently Science Park. A no-host bar will open at 5:30 p.m. and dinner and music will start at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 per person and must be bought in advance. For more information, call Tom Hickey at 782-2164 or Sandy Cooke at 782-5811.