It is a classic of go-getiveness. Sam Mantis saw a need and filled it, and this ski club racing circuit for the Washington region.
Mantis, a 43-year-old amateur racer from Kensington who has never won a race, started the Southern Ski Series Inter-Club Racing Championship with a passel of phone calls and a lot of moxie.
"I just called the ski areas and asked them if we could have races there, and they said they would let us race." Mantis said in a telephone interview.
The "we" Mantis referred to was pretty much illusionary when he started. Although he is a member of the Fagowees Ski Club, he did not have the sanction of his or any other organization. He just put together a race schedule and notified all area clubs about it.
The races are not limited to ski clubs - individuals can race too - but there will be both individuals and club trophies at the end of the season at the Ski Washington Challenge Cup invitation meet.
Racers qualify by being bona fide amateurs - no ski instructors, patrollers, former college racers, ski shop employees or other "professional" amateurs allowed.
"I thought interclub competition would be a good way for people in different clubs to meet each other," Mantis said.
He admitted the circuit was as much a social as a skiing attraction.
"If you enter the citizen races you have to drive all the way to New England most of the time, and then you meet someone from New Jersey or New Hampshire you never see again," he said.
Mantis told the ski areas he did not want them to go out of their way, that his race on whatever course was set up that particular Sunday, whether it was a NASTAR or a local race or whatever.
"We sill take a chance on the course conditions," Mantis said.
One ski area scheduled the Washington Challenge Cup race on its NASTAR course, and said, "You just fall in behind and do your thing."
The ski areas are providing numbered bibs and whatever timing equipment they usually use. Mantis will handle all registration the day of the race from 9 a.m. until noon. Racers must pay $1 to race. The money goes to buy trophies.
Mantis does not know how many racers will want to participate. "We might have anywhere from five to 40 people in a race," he said.
Everyone will race the same course, but judging will be by class based on age and sex. Ski clubs will get points for their top three men and one woman racer.
"I had to do it that way because usually the girls don't race." Mantis said, "If we get three girls all day it is a lot."
Clubs must have racers in at least four races and can count the best four out of the nine races as their score. Clubs can enter as many racers as they want, but they must all be members of the clubs.
"I guess there are at least eight clubs interested, but I didn't get any feedback from them," Mantis said. "I just told them what I was doing and they thought it was a good idea."
Mantis, who has been skiing for about seven seasons, started ski racing two years ago. He tried the Citizens Race circuit, but he found most of the races were in New England.
NASTAR races did not provide the excitement of a circuit where he would make friends and ski with the same people.
"Racing teaches you to ski better," he said. When the pole is there you must make a turn. It's not like skiing downhill and wandering all over making a turn any place you want. Your technique gets better when you race."
Mantis does not know if he will get time to race in the Ski Washington Challenge Cup circuit, because he will be so busy with the administration details. but he will get to meet a lot of people.
THe schedule for the races: Jan. 8, Jack Frost, Pa.; Jan. 15, Seven Springs, Pa.; Jan. 22, Blue Knob, Pa.; Jan . 20, Snowshoe, W. Va.; Feb. 5, Bryce, Va.; Feb. 12, Blue Knob, Pa.; Feb. 26. Massanutten, Va.; March 5, Blue Knob, Pa.; March 12, Wintergreen, Va.; March 19, SWCC Invitation Meet, Snowshoe, W.Va.
For more information contact Mantis at SSS Challenge Cup, 4220 McCain Ct., Kensington, Md, 20105.