The Genesis of Grindelwald Ski Club


Two elements conspired toward starting the Grindelwald Ski Club. One was Sutter Kunkel being Chair, Winter Sports Committee of the Jr. Chamber of Commerce and the other was Vandergrift's store in downtown LA evolving from a shoe store into one with sports equipment including ski merchandise and a store putting on ski trips.

Sutter had wanted the L. A. Chamber's Winter Sports Committee to promote more recreational skiing. At that time, up to WWII, the thrust was toward competition. Some 20,000 people would attend ski jumping at Big Pines in the Angeles Forest, driving four and six to a car on a narrow, 2 lane, winding road to get there and watch the athletes.

Sutter argued that jumping was not skiing. Because of his agitation Sutter was made the committee chairman and started formulating plans to get ordinary folks, not just competitors, into skiing. The Club's genesis is also a story of our club's founder.

In 1949 Kunkel was on a Vandergrift's sponsored train trip to Sun Valley. By the way, Schatzy Woods, the 15th female ski patroller, was working for Vandergrifts at the time and Vandergrift's wife, Ethyl, was a ski writer for the LA Times. On this trip Kunkel found himself in a train compartment with 3 other skiers, one of whom was Louie Buhler. Sut discussed his concerns and they talked about starting a ski club for just recreation. Louie kind of demurred at first, saying "What for? There are already 2 ski clubs" (San Gorgonio and Ski Line), but did go along with the idea.

The Switzerland Restaurant at that time was a popular meeting and eating place so Sutter had the February 1 st, 1949 meeting of his committee there on Sept. 1, 1949 which consisted of Bruce Campbell, Hal Nelson, Benton Shannon, Jack Hoesli and Ben Johnson and Louie Buhler. Sutter had by now written up by-laws already to go for the new ski club which still needed a name. Sutter wanted the name ULLR (the Norse god of skiing) and threw it into the hopper with the other suggested names, such as Arosa, Alpenrose, Romanche, Matterhorn, and Grindelwald. Several received 1 st place votes including Grindelwald which also received two 2nd place votes. Grindelwald, coming up three times, was decided on. They then all chipped in the $25 for the club to join the FWSA (officially accepted into Far West on Oct 17, 1949).

It was decided that the first meeting of the new Grindelwald Ski Club would be two weeks later, Sept. 15th. More than thirty people showed up, mainly through word of mouth, especially around the restaurant where many social workers and school teachers e.g. Edy and Addie (then Lindquist) gathered as friends. By the way Edy Lindquist Gregory is still a member as are Louie Buhler, Bruce Campbell and of course Sut.

The club got going right away electing Sut president, forming 7 working committees, perfecting his 72 pages of bylaws and voting to limit membership to 100. In two months time Sut completed and presented every member the perfected bylaws. What a task. The club was such an immediate success that the 100 spots were filled by the end of the year.

Now this genesis story will tell about how about the wonderful bond between Grindelwald Ski Club, USA and Ski Klub Grindelwald, Switzerland came to be.

Sutter always wanted to go to Switzerland and that October of 1949 he decided to do so. Paul Moser, who owned the Switzerland restaurant, had mentioned that there was a ski club in Grindelwald. Kunkel was so gung ho that he originally planned to take his 2 weeks 1949 vacation and 2 weeks 1950 vacation together, for a continuous month in the country over the New Year. However Sut had a convalescing Aunt who a Doctor recommended take a trip - and there was Sut! He decided to go with her and didn't make Switzerland until early March of 1950. Once there he wanted to follow up on Moser's information and check on Ski Klub Grindelwald. The people at his Murren hotel (a valley over from Grindelwald) took him to see Sir Arnold Lunn. Lunn arranged for Hans Schilt, the Swiss club's president and Kunkel to meet and by hand shake, for the two presidents to cement the bond that lasts to this day.

While there, this same Sir Arnold Lunn, of the world famous Kandahar Ski Club of Great Britain, personally sponsored Sut to Life Membership. The areas of Grindelwald, Wengen, Muren, etc. in the Bernese Oberland were originally developed for the English as a refuge from the hustle and bustle as well as from the traffic of their English cities. Note that these towns have few cars even today (none in Wengen/Murren).

Thus, the little village of Grindelwald, Switzerland and our immense Southland have been intertwined with visits, gifts and awards as well as with mutual support and solid friendship since Sutter's first call those many years ago.

From these beginnings came our club's long history of glorious skiing fun, both competition and recreation - the charter flights, ski swaps, bus, plane and train trips plus continuous summer/winter outings, socials, tours and parties as well as all the individual and collective charity work especially on behalf of skiing.

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