Snow is a rarity in the Augusta area, but for one area group who loves the outdoors, travel is part of the adventure.
During winter, the Augusta Ski and Outing Club travels the world in search of white-powdered mountains to conquer. Now that summer has arrived, the club is focusing on biking, camping, canoeing and other activities.
"Basically, it gives people who are sports-minded the opportunity to go out and have some good, wholesome fun," said John Rovansek, club president.
The club started about 30 years ago when Peggy Turner, then-owner of a local dive shop, started getting ski requests from students who were attending Augusta colleges. Turner decided to expand her shop, and Neptune Dive and Ski was born.
As the only ski shop in town, Neptune became popular, selling out all of its ski clothing the first year.
"I couldn't believe we'd sell that many wool sweaters in Augusta," Turner said.
She placed an ad in the newspaper for people interested in ski trips, and the fledgling ski club started meeting at a library. Trips took place almost every Friday.
"We kept in touch with all the ski slopes ... we were like headquarters," she said.
Today, Neptune is under new ownership and the club still has a relationship with the shop, but club officers plan trips instead of the store. Many members attend Neptune's annual ski-gear fashion show.
The group meets monthly at The Cotton Patch restaurant at River Watch and has monthly dinner socials.
"Our membership varies. We have nurses; we have attorneys; we're single; we have married people; we have young kids," Rovansek said.
As an affiliate of the Crescent Ski Council, which links more than 20 ski clubs in the southeast, the Augusta club competes in ski races and joins the long-distance trips of other council clubs. People must become members of the club to go on trips.
Kerri Cast, the club's membership coordinator and North Augusta resident, joined the club so she could go on the Switzerland trip in March 1999. She said her membership fee was definitely worth the opportunity to ski in Europe.
Rovansek said the ski trip held special meaning for some members because of the side trip to the beaches of Normandy in France.
"Some of the people who went on that were really touched by it," he said.
The club's big summer activity happens when it reserves an island on Thurmond Lake in what is becoming its annual weekend party. Members camp out and bike in the area. This year's lake party will begin June 28.
"That lake is a real treasure for Augusta," Rovansek said.
The club also has a luau-themed pool party and numerous mountain biking trips during the summer. Late summer is the time for white-water rafting. The club also will join another ski club in Charleston for a boat cruise, said Charles Crawford, who is in charge of summer activities.
Early summer also brings Crescent's biannual gathering, which is held in Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach.
"It's sort of a combo: a summer trip to start off the beach season and a business thing where all the vendors come in to get people to sign up for trips for the next winter season," Crawford said.
The club also has an annual race camp in December, when members travel to Steamboat, Colo., to learn about ski racing and practice for Crescent competitions.
One year, a 5-months-pregnant woman was the winner of the race camp trials with the fastest time, Rovansek said. "We thought it would slow her down, but it just made her more aggressive."
For more information on the club, visit its Web site at www.ifx.net/asoc or call Cast at (803) 279-6186.
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