Hitting the Slopes with the SOF
By Jennifer O'Sullivan
They congregate before dawn near the sculpture Flame
of Knowledge on the campus of The Scripps Research Institute
(TSRI). Forty-seven TSRI postdocs, grad students, employees,
and friends wait to board a bus for the San Bernadino mountains
on the annual Society of Fellows (SOF) ski trip.
As instructed, participants have arrived by 5 AM. They yawn,
check equipment, and make weather predictions. With at least
a three-hour bus trip ahead, the most immediate thoughts are
of going back to sleepone of the luxuries of chartered
Kenneth Ritchie, research associate in the Department of
Molecular and Experimental Medicine, stands under a streetlight
with his wife, Varinia. They don't have any equipment with
them, opting instead for a beginner package offered by the
Bear Mountain ski resort near Big Bear Lake. Their $55 per
person package includes skis, boots, and poles (snowboard
equipment is also available), a lower mountain lift ticket,
and a two-hour morning lesson, after which skiers are set
free on the slopes. The Ritchies were even able to rent snow
pants at the mountain. "We thought, 'why not?'" Kenneth recalls
of their decision to give the sport a go.
The SOF sponsors three types of eventseducational,
professional, and socialand the ski trip definitely
falls into the latter category. In the past, the SOF policy
was to charge a membership fee, which needed to be paid in
order to participate in any of the events. Last year the policy
was changed, and now everyone at TSRI is automatically a SOF
member. According to Program Chair Avi Spier, attendance at
SOF events is generally about 70 percent postdocs, 20 percent
grad students, and 10 percent technical staff.
The ski trip, which the SOF has been organizing for at least
seven years, is one of the most popular social events and
attracts all groups.
"It sells out within two days of the [e-mail] announcement,"
says trip organizer and SOF member Gabriela Perez-Alvarado.
Spots for the trip are reserved on a first-paid, first-served
basis; the only way to reserve a spot for the trip is to send
a check by internal mail. For those who don't have their own
ski or snowboard equipment, Gabriela provides a list of rental
shops in San Diego and advises participants of their options
for renting at Bear Mountain. "The only drawback of this alternative,"
writes Gabriela, "is that you may have to wait in line, losing
valuable slope time."
As participants return to the bus for the trip home, the
tired smiles on sun-kissed faces suggest that everyone did
get valuable slope time. Graduate student Jason Schnell, who
grew up skiing in Wisconsin, says the snow on the West Coast
is superior. He even tried some of the jumps in what the resort
calls the "freestyle" area. "[The jumps] are not just for
snowboarders," Jason says.
Kenneth and Varinia are seated at the front of the bus,
their own tired grins erasing any need to ask if they enjoyed
the skiing. Another question follows. "Yes," they both reply.
"We will definitely do it again."
Skiers and snow boarders
descend the Geronimo run at Bear Mountain under clear skies.
Photo by Jennifer O'Sullivan.
The view from the Silver Mountain chair lift reveals Big Bear
Lake in the distance. Photo by