Submitted by the Honorable Scribes of the Plumas Ski Club, Rob Russell and Lisa Kelly
Photos courtesy of Chris Coughlin and Lisa Kelly
Twas a day to remember at the Johnsville Historic Ski Bowl. The sun was shining, the skis were doped, the band was a playin’ and the snow was perfect for a fierce competition. There were 34 men and 8 women taking to the course, eager to win a coveted medal of brass and tin but even more zealous to secure the honor of bragging rights by being in the company of racing greats such as Johnny Redstreake, renown Longboard Champion and Miss Lottie Joy, “snow shoe pet of the St. Louis Diggings.”
The final race of the season, traditionally scheduled for the third Sunday in March, is the “World Championship.” This year was even more special as it was both the 30th anniversary of the Historic Longboard Revival Series and the 70th anniversary of the Plumas Ski Club whose members aim to serve as the proud descendants of the Lost Sierra ski pioneers.
Congratulations to the winners of the 30th Annual World Championship Longboard Revival Race:
1st Wendy Antibus Reno, Nevada
2nd Abby “Calamity” Marshall Portola, Ca
3rd Rachel “The Rascal” Bauer Quincy, CA
1st Greg “Slick Bottom” Hinds Graeagle, Ca
2nd Jackson “Jackpot” Webster Elizabethown, Ca
3rd Eric McGrath, Reno, Nv
Race onlookers were enamored by the “Yabber Jabber” 1850-1922 Longboard Ski Race history presented by World Champ and Honorable Keeper of the Records, Rob “Rats Race” Russell; besotted by “Big Bruce” Robbins who shared the role of the Clampers; delighted by Jim Babbitt on America’s first famed 1861 Longboard races in Onion Valley enchanted by Phil “Freight Train” Gallagher espousing the legend of Johnny Redstreake; and enraptured by Sue “Lightning” McCourt’s commentary on the Women of Longboard Racing.
The Daily Alta (San Francisco) California wrote this in the February 10, 1861 edition: “Snow Shoeing for a Belt. — Over at Onion Valley, Plumas County, says the Mountain Messenger, the boys are having gay sport in sliding down the long and steep hill sides on snow shoes. George Swain, the expressman, informs us that the Onion Valley folks have attained a perfection in snow shoeing that is astonishing. A club has been formed, and every Sunday the members assemble and have a lively contest of speed for a champion belt, valued at $25.”
Lightning Sue McCourt, a Women’s World Champion paid tribute to the Women of Longboard racing: “A champion racer named Miss Lottie Joy was dubbed the ‘snow shoe pet’ of the St. Louis Diggings in Sierra County. It was recorded that Lottie won because she dropped low, with the pole under her arm and just scooted down the track like an arrow to the mark, while the others carrying too much sail in their dresses, and with shoes wide, came through all standing, but too late to win.”
Competition among women was no less stiff, than that of their male counterparts, and it was reported that there was quite the battle going on between Lottie Joy and Mary Lloyd from Port Wine. During the 1867 season, Lottie was the first woman, in recorded history, to hold the speed skiing record on a 1,230-foot long course. Her speed was estimated to be 49 miles per hour. Lottie was the first to fight for women to start at the same place on the hill as the men and to compete for equal purses.
Rob “Rats Race” Russell then spoke about how in 1867, the Alturas Snowshoe Club was created to organize the lucrative, highly competitive, (sometimes contentious), whiskied up, multi-day race tournaments. The Alturas Snowshoe Club is represented today, by the famed “Star Shield” Logo, worn proudly by many racers today.
“Big” Bruce Robbins and Phil “Freight Train” Gallagher described the 1869 Plumas Boys/Snowshoe Thompson race controversy. Snowshoe was indeed an amazing, oak ski, true expert backcountry Expressman mail carrier! However, the Plumas County “Shoers” liked to point out that in the famed longboard competitions between Snowshoe and the Plumas Boys, Snowshoe Thompson lost every race! “The winds of race controversy blew” then, and perhaps still blow to this day. Our Clamper friends from the E Clampus Vitus (ECV) Snowshoe Chapter from Carson Valley claim that Snowshoe learned that fateful race day that Dope is King!
Moving onward in Longboard History Russell noted it is sometimes said that the world’s first ski lift may have been here on Eureka Peak. For the record, it appears the earliest “Fannicular,” ground level rail ore cart, likely carried skis up the slopes in 1877 between the Mohawk and Eureka mining “Stamp Mills,” with the first aerial ore tram reportedly hauling longboards in 1907. Remnants of the old tram tower are hidden in the brush near the restored stamp mill at the Plumas Eureka State Park.
Pioneer Longboarding continued in the Lost Sierra all the way from the 1860’s – 1911. As mining activity declined, many thought it would be the end of Longboard Ski Racing but not so fast. It would be famed racer and Express man Leonard Berg O’Rourke who would be responsible for the 1938, 1941, 1951 and 1952 Renaissance Revival Series. The 1952 Race was the first race ever sponsored by the newly created Plumas Ski Club.
What would a Longboard dissertation be without the legend of Plumas’s own Johnny Redstreake, proclaimed Phil “Freight Train” Gallagher. Johnny Redstreake was born in Johnsville in 1911, skied to Blairsden as a kid carrying gold for the mines, he was undefeated in all his racing! In 1941 he beat Hannes Schroll at Sugar Bowl doing 87 mph and Hannes was a US champion downhill racer. In 1964 at Mt. Rose, Johnny and Jerry Burelle raced Billy Kid who was just back from medaling at the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck. The Longboarders whooped him!
After this weekend’s race, “Rats Race and Freight Train” stopped by Johnny’s gravesite in Johnsville to pay homage to his amazing championship racing.
Between 1953 to 1992, longboarding ceased as the Plumas Ski Club was organized and efforts began to develop the Johnsville community ski area “Plumas Eureka Ski Bowl”. In 1993, the Historic Longboard Revival Series began through the tireless efforts of core “founders” of the Longboard Race Revival: Rob Russell (awarded the distinction as the Father of the 1990’s Longboard Revival Series), Scott Lawson, Jim Webster, Phil Gallagher, Chris Murray, Pete Bartels, and Ron Logan.
Cheers to today’s men and women Longboard “shoers” racers, racing on the historic Eureka Bowl Longboard track. As it was in 1861 and as it seems now, the secrets of winning races still holds:
1) have a fine crafted pair of longboards!
2) have lightnin’ fast authentic dope… on your skis!
3) push off the start line with great fast pole plants!
4) and probably, most importantly, be crazy to even attempt this “right honorable, right historic sport! “
Long Live Longboards and the Plumas Ski Club!
LONG LIVE LONGBOARDS!