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Ski school going strong as 50-year mark nears

No one expected such a large turnout. More than 3,000 people walked the short distance, skis in hand, from the highway to an area near the No. 1 green on Bonneville Golf Course.

They were there to take a free ski lesson on the slopes of the snow-covered golf course. Most had never skied. Some were missing key items, such as ski boots and ski poles. They strapped skis to any suitable footwear they had.That was 50 years ago and it was the first class in the Deseret News Ski School.

This November, the Deseret News will officially recognize the 50th anniversary of the ski school.

In one respect, this year's school with be very different. The man who directed ski lessons for 49 of those years, Alf Engen, passed away in July.

His lifelong passion for ski teaching, however, will live on.

Students will, as they have for 49 previous sessions, line up in front of an instructor and be taught the first step towards learning to ski.

The first class will be Nov. 15 in Sugarhouse Park. The three remaining classes will be at Alta. There will be no class over the Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 29.

The school will be limited to the first 1,000 people who register. Cost will be $15 per student.

Each student this year will receive a commemorative pin and T-shirt. The pins were made as part of the recognition for the longest, continuously running ski program in the country.

The school is designed around the beginning skier, ages 8 and older. Classes will be taught in downhill and cross country skiing.

Skiers will need their own equipment. For those without equipment, or equipment that is old and unsafe, Canyon Sports will make equipment available to Deseret News students at a special rate. For $27, skiers can pickup skis, bindings, boots and poles prior to the first class and return it five weeks later, after the last class.

Rental locations are 1844 E. 7000 South and 517 S. 200 West.

Along with registering by mail or at the Deseret News, 30 E. 1st South, students can also register at the two Canyon Sports locations.

The Deseret News is also inviting all past ski instructors in the Deseret News program to return to the first class on Nov. 14 for a special reunion.

There is also an invitation for all those with old ski equipment - 1940s and earlier - to make an official donation of the equipment to the Alf Engen Museum. Those contributing what is judged the oldest or most unique in several categories, will be awarded prizes, which will include new skis, bindings and ski boots.

On Oct. 23, the Deseret News will be recognized by the University of Utah Marriott Library's Ski Archives Program for its contribution to the ski industry of Utah over the past 50 years.

Wilby Durham, a former employee and ski writer for the Deseret News, will also be honored for his contributions to the ski industry. For information on the ski school, call 237-2135 or 942-3100.