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Club de Skinautique: 60 seasons on Lake Metigoshe

Posted by By Kylie Blanchard, Co-Editor 6/19/2017

This summer marks the Club de Skinautique water ski club’s 60th season performing on Lake Metigoshe. What started with a single performance by a group of young skiers has now grown to a club spanning generations with annual performances attended by hundreds of spectators.



The Club de Skinautique dates back to the late 1950s, says Neil Albright, Club president. “The Lake Metigoshe Improvement Association approached some of the kids in 1958 and asked them to provide water ski entertainment for its annual meeting that summer,” he notes.

While only a few people attended the meeting, several hundred people watched the show on a nearby hillside. “The first show was very informal,” says Jerilyn Parks Bookless, a charter member of the Club who joined when she was 10 years old. Her father, O.A. Parks, was a member of the Improvement Association and helped spearhead the first waterski show, which included all of his children. “The next summer we did another show and then formed the Club at Christmas time in 1959.”

In 1961, Club de Skinautique became a nonprofit corporation, and Albright notes, the Club’s name was chosen from the French words meaning “club of waterskiing.” Bookless says her entire family was a part of the Club and she skied for 10 years from 1958-1968. She notes her father was also skiing with the Club and doing headstands on a saucer well into his 50s. “It was the best thing my folks ever did for us growing up. We had something to practice and strive for,” she notes. Today, Bookless remains an active alumni of the Club and a resident of Lake Metigoshe, living in the cabin her family built in 1955.

The Lake Metigoshe Improvement Association eventually bought the hillside property where spectators watched the first ski show, and it is now referred to as Skinautique Hill, where the Club still holds practices and shows today.

Albright joined the Club in 1979 and was initially a member for five years. He again joined in 2013, wanting to bring generations back together on the water. “There are many amateur clubs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa, and they have grown to super clubs with hundreds of members across generations,” he says. “I wanted to start some re-involvement in the Club to get it more generational.”

He says the Club, while focused on skiing, has also fostered many lasting friendships. “Some of my teammates have become life-long friends.”

“We were like a big family,” adds Bookless. “My ski club friends, to this day, are a different kind of friend. We have a close relationship because we were just having fun together.”


Club Membership

With more than 800 cabins and homes on Lake Metigoshe today, Albright says the Club has experienced a resurgence in membership. “Fifteen years ago, the Club was down to around 10 members. We are now at around 28 members and expecting new members this summer,” he says.

Lake Metigoshe is nestled in the Turtle Mountains on the North Dakota and Canada border, and Albright says nearly half of the team’s members are from Canada. In addition, many of the lake’s cabins and homes have been passed through generations, drawing individuals from across North Dakota, the United States and Canada. In addition to the Lake Metigoshe area, members hail from Bismarck, Minot and Fargo, N.D.; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Calgary and Toronto, Ontario.

Members range in age from under 10 to over 60 years old and, with no age limit for membership, the only requirement is that members can water ski. An annual membership is also paid each year of $35 per person or $50 per family.

“I started skiing when I was 10 years old,” says Madison Gapp, 18. “After I watched one of the ski shows, my family talked to the Club, and when they heard I had never skied, they immediately brought me along on one of their team skis.”

Gapp says she enjoys the fun atmosphere of the Club and the learning experiences it offers. “It is especially great to have the resources to try to improve my skiing abilities as well as learn new tricks,” she says. “It is an awesome way to make friends, and the Club is a beneficial way to improve my leadership skills.”

The Club begins practicing Memorial Day weekend and practices every Friday evening at 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday mornings at    9 a.m. through Labor Day weekend. “We are always looking for new members, and people can just show up at Skinautique Hill on Memorial Day weekend or contact me to join,” says Albright.

“Club de Skinautique is a great experience for all ages. There are various acts that we do, all ranging in difficulty,” says Gapp. “The great thing about this is, it gives you something to strive for. If you want to have a certain act under your belt, you have to work for it.”

“Everyone on the Club is very welcoming,” she adds. “We get new members every year, and they all quickly fit in.”


On the Water

Club de Skinautique performs three shows each season on Lake Metigoshe. The first two shows are always scheduled near the Fourth of July, says Albright, and this summer will take place on July 1 and 3 at Skinautique Hill. The July 3 show is held in conjunction with the Lake Metigoshe Improvement Association’s annual fireworks show and is the Club’s largest show of the season.

To celebrate the Club’s 60th season, a reunion will also be held on July 2. Albright says he hopes alumni will also participate in the Club’s shows in July. The final show of the season on Lake Metigoshe is held the second week in August and is scheduled for Aug. 12 this year.

The Club also performs traveling shows and will perform at Fort Stevenson State Park on Lake Sakakawea on Aug. 5. All shows start at 7 p.m. and run approximately one and a half hours. “Many people make it a tradition to come to our shows every year,” says Gapp. “The Club is genuinely just a group of people that want to get together to have some fun.

Club de Skinautique also performs mini-shows and demonstrations at special request. Albright says the Club’s officers each have a role in developing a different aspect of the shows from the performers’ tricks to the costumes worn. “It is really about trying to figure out the acts with the personnel you have,” he says. “We work on land quite a bit of the time.”

He notes the safety of Club members is paramount. “We are trying to push the envelope a little bit, but we want to make sure safety is a top priority.” All participants are required to wear floatation devices.

Skier pyramids are always a crowd favorite of the tricks performed in the show, says Albright, with the Club consistently doing two and three-tiered pyramids on skis. He notes Club members are also working on bringing a four-tiered pyramid on the water. “We’ve also tried to incorporate more into the costumes to make it more picturesque,” he says.

Also highlighted in the show is ski jumping. “That is always a favorite too because not a lot of places have jumps,” says Albright, adding barefoot skiing also garners the crowds attention with boats and skiers reaching speeds of up to 40 mph.

Albright says one of his favorite parts of the show is the ballet line. “It is 12 girls in a line on the water with the same arm and leg movements,” he notes. “It is just peaceful to watch.”

Gapp says as North Dakota’s only water ski club, the tricks done by the skiers are not something people see everyday. “It is simply exciting to watch people do crazy stunts. Our shows have been more interactive with our audience, which helps make it a fun and memorable experience.”


Once a Skinautique, Always a Skinautique

“This all takes quite a bit of volunteer work,” says Albright. “The people who are involved want to be on the water and want to be involved in skiing.”

The Club adds a sense of excitement and pride to Metigoshe, says Gapp. “Alumni, parents and other cabin owners in general love the atmosphere the Club creates.”

Albright says it is amazing the Club has been on the water for 60 seasons. “I want to thank the Lake Metigoshe Improvement Association for having the foresight to have something like this on the lake.”

Bookless says the Club is part of Lake Metigoshe. “People still come to the shows every year. It’s been a unifying organization, and it has provided an outlet for kids,” she says. “We often say ‘once a Skinautique, always a Skinautique,’ and that is very true.”

“This is a great organization that is truly about friendships,” Albright adds. “It’s just good, wholesome fun.”


For more information on Club de Skinautique visit or contact Albright at 701-228-4526 or

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