Cut down to the core of it and skiing and snowboarding are essentially individual activities. It's simply you and your boards taking on whatever the mountain throws at you. You go it alone on the bump runs, in the terrain park, busting powder in the trees or simply arcing sinuous turns in the corduroy on a bluebird day. There's more than a kernel of truth in the old adage of there are no friends on a powder day.

But humans are, by nature, social animals. They like to do things in groups and interact with like-minded citizens. People like to congregate and socialize; they feel the need to fit in and hang out with their peers. Skiers and snowboarders aren't any different. When was the last time you saw a single chair? It's with this very thought in mind that ski clubs were founded.

The attractions of joining a ski club are manifold. According to they include:

* A great opportunity for making new friends and networking with people who have common interests.

* The convenience of having a trip leader make all the arrangements for you.

* An economical way to travel because the large number of participants on each trip reduces the costs for lodging, lift tickets, and air fare.

* Parties, apres ski and some meals that are usually included in the price of the trip.

* Resorts bidding on the opportunity to host a "Club or Council Ski Week" thereby making trips to premier destinations more easily accessible and much more cost efficient.

* Year-round activities - tennis, golf, dive trips, softball, etc. - are a usually part of most clubs' agendas.

Other benefits include reduced lift-ticket prices and discounts on gear and soft goods. Also, many clubs have their lodges or houses near mountain resorts.

Although every ski/snowboard club has one thing in common - members who love to spend their time frolicking in the snow - not every club is alike. Some are clubs geared toward families, while others accept only singles. Some clubs were put together to with racing in mind, while some are strictly for the partying types. Some clubs were formed along ethnic or racial lines, and some were formed with sexual identity in mind. There are clubs for seniors, and there are clubs for the disabled. There are even clubs whose members all work in the same industry or for the same corporation.

More than 50 clubs of like-minded citizens get together on a regular basis in the Pacific Northwest, from Ashland, Oregon, to Fairbanks, Alaska.

A great way to start is to check out the Portland-based Northwest Ski Club Council, an umbrella organization that provides information on and access to the various ski and snowboard clubs in Oregon and Washington. There are large clubs with as many as 2,000 members and smaller clubs of 10 to 350 members offering year round activities.

The choices are relatively few in Alaska, with one major Alpine organization - the Girdwood-based Alyeska Ski Club - and a handful of Nordic or cross-country skiing groups.

Check them out and you'll never have to go it alone.