For the love of skiing; Mercer Island Ski bus celebrates 40 years

Riders on last year’s Mercer Island Ski Bus include: Mary O. Galloway, Terri Close, Rose Marie Bonjour, Naomi Mason, Sue Reichert and Monica Robbins. - Contributed photo
Riders on last year’s Mercer Island Ski Bus include: Mary O. Galloway, Terri Close, Rose Marie Bonjour, Naomi Mason, Sue Reichert and Monica Robbins.
— image credit: Contributed photo

The flakes are already falling at higher elevations this year. While the fluffy white stuff might be the source of headaches for travelers, it’s just what local skiing and snowboard enthusiasts love to see. With big snowfalls projected for this winter, Island residents are eagerly gearing up for the colder months when the sun shines less and rain in Seattle means snow in the mountains.

Starting at the beginning of the year, a group of Island residents will begin the weekly trips to Crystal Mountain and Stevens Pass on the self-titled Mercer Island Ski Bus. What makes this season special, besides the probability of a good snowfall, is the bus riders have been having fun skiing for 40 years. The bus trips started to Crystal Mountain in 1971 as an activity through the Mercer Island Beach Club, but as outside interest perpetuated the idea, the group branched out on its own.

“It’s so convenient and the people on the bus are so friendly,” said Naomi Mason, who has ridden the bus for the last six years. “They are a great bunch of skiers who love the sport.”

Monica Robbins, the current coordinator for the bus, said typically 40 to 50 riders go up each week, largely residents, friends and former Islanders from 30 all the way to over 80 years old.

This season the first trip, which is held weekly on Tuesdays in January and February, will be Jan. 4 to Cyrstal Mountain. Robbins said the group goes to Stevens twice a season, and Crystal Mountain six times. Riders pay $165 for a seat on the bus for the entire season, leaving the Island at 8 a.m. and returning close to 6 p.m.

“We are able to offer such a low price, about half the cost of commercial ventures, because we are a group of skiers who simply love to ski with friends and are not for profit with unpaid organizers,” said Robbins. She said they usually also offer a decent sized discount on lift tickets since they are purchased at the group rate.

For many years the bus was coordinated by Debbie Dowd, and prior to taking over, Dowd’s mother-in-law, Anne Dowd, had the responsibility. Robbins said she began skiing with the group in 1997, and since 2008 Mary Galloway has helped coordinate the group.

For those interested in a possible occasional seat on the bus, contact Robbins at (206) 232-5838 or e-mail her at Seats are $25 per ride.

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