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American ski club honours its late member in Whistler

The Joe Ski Club unveiled a bronze memorial during its annual ski trip Community
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The Joe Ski Club honoured a member who recently passed away with a bronze statue, hauled all the way to Whistler for the groupís annual trip.

Jerry Perlstein had been planning a ski trip to Whistler for 35 friends from across the U.S. when he learned he had a brain tumour.

Although he was in his 70s, the Arizona resident was fit and looked forward to the annual trips with a group of men who dubbed themselves The Joe Ski Club. But just three months after the diagnosis, Perlstein died.

"It was a shock to everybody," said John Surinak, one of the members of the club, which has been skiing Whistler Blackcomb on and off since 1998. "Until that time, he was very vigorous. He would ski Franz's Run from top to bottom at 70 years old."

Club members ó who range from their 30s to their 70s ó decided that Perlstein would've wanted them to forge ahead, so they decided to come to Whistler in late January. The trip would be in memory of their late friend, they decided.

An artist among the group, Virgil Villers, came up with another idea: he would sculpt a bronze statue of Perlstein on skis and haul the heavy piece to Whistler for an unveiling.†

"Everybody was saying that (the trip) was something Jerry would want," Surinak said. "It was emotional, but everyone felt good that we were doing this for Jerry. It was good to hear people speak about him and what he meant to the club. He lived a very dynamic life."

The large group took up most of the main room in Trattoria di Umberto when they gathered for the statue unveiling, but the few other diners in the room applauded as the statue appeared. "Everyone was very impressed with it," Surinak said. "It's a beautiful sculpture. Now we're going to ship it to Arizona as a surprise for his widow."

Perlstein would've been happy with the camaraderie on the trip, he added.

The club started 39 years ago when two friends were out for a ski weekend and discovered that their hotel room had been cancelled. The town was fully booked that weekend, but a woman they met pointed the pair to a hotel room that might have extra beds. The men knocked on the door, case of beer in hand, and were greeted by another pair of men. The strangersí response? "If the beer is cold, come on in!"

They had such a fun weekend that they decided to meet the next year. The club grew each year ó with friends inviting friends ó and since then, they've met up annually at ski resorts around North America.

In recent years, though, they've narrowed down their visits to Whistler and Aspen. They plan to return to the corridor soon. "Whistler is our number one spot," Surinak said. "It's our favourite place to go to."

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