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The Penguin Ski Club

North American’s first all women ski club*

Penguin Ski CLub Logo

It was 1932 – the Winter Olympics had just taken place at Lake Placid, N.Y. Although the skiing events did not include downhill racing until 1936, the event so close to home focused people on the potential of winter sports.

Betty Sherrard of Montreal, surveying the scene in 1932, was appalled by the dearth of women skiers and their general lack of skill compared to their male counterparts, mainly the Red Birds, a ski club founded in 1928 by three McGill University graduates. Betty set out to correct this situation. The well managed and ambitious club grew quickly in numbers and skill. They made sure that their young women members were properly lodged and chaperoned in St. Sauveur,a ski area north of Montreal; they got proper ski instruction from Duke Dimitri of Leuchtenberg, and even held their own competition (which Betty won). By 1935 they had joined the Canadian Amateur Ski Association and were able to enter regional competitions, which their members regularly won. Pat Paré, Canadian ski champion, was only one of their prestigious members. The Penguin Ski Club was the club to belong to.

By 1940 the twins had graduated from Trafalgar School for Girls and begun secretarial school. They were still active in both summer and winter sports. In swimming they competed for the MAAA (Montreal Amateur Athletic Association) and for skiing they chose the Penguins – but first had to find someone to invite them to be members. They were accepted as members in 1941 – a perfect match! They went on to bring glory to their club throughout North America.

Rhona and Rhoda have many fond memories of staying at the Penguin House in St. Sauveur, a house built for the club by John and Bert Molson in 1939. It housed 24 women and was completely equipped. During the war years it was used as a refuge for British children.

In 1957 the Penguins, always eager to promote skiing, started a club for school age girls, the Ski Jays, which was run by Rhoda. This was followed by a club for younger girls, the Ski Chicks, led by Rhona, both based in St. Sauveur, where, over twenty years, thousands of girls (and eventually boys too!) were introduced to skiing and encouraged to race

The ski club stopped functioning in 1992 but members continued to meet informally for a luncheon and for a cross-country ski day at the Laurentian Lodge in Provost (Shawbridge).

*Much of the above information is available on the site of the Canadian Ski Museum and Canadian Ski Hall of Fame

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