For Dave Hicks and Gary Lambert, every Sunday morning during ski season — for twenty consecutive years — was the same. In the cold dark of winter, the two friends met at Big Boy for Southern omelets. Then they headed to Hickory. Known by hundreds of racers as simply “Hicks and Lambert,” the men set courses and persnickety timing equipment for the Grand Traverse Ski Club’s Sunday races.
Lugging spooled wire, Hicks and Lambert trudged up each face. Once there, they staked the starting area and then backed down the hill, unwinding and burying wire until they reached the finish gate. They set up each start gate and wired telephones for every course — a true labor of love. “It usually got down to crunch time, but we always managed,” Hicks remembers. “Kids depended on it, and we never wanted to let them down.”
By the time crowds arrived, the duo had clocked nearly five hours and consumed as many cups of coffee. They chatted while watching racers navigate their courses but always remained focused on potential equipment glitches. “All perfection,” remembers Judy Hicks of her husband’s demeanor those Sundays. “If there was a problem, he would devote himself to it until it got solved. He took it very seriously.”
Hicks adds, “If the equipment didn’t break down, we considered it a terribly successful Sunday. It was fun. It was a good challenge for us.”
Hicks and Lambert would then gather and store all the equipment before heading home — sometimes a full two hours after Hickory had gone quiet. A common sight was Hicks slipping away with several broken telephones under his arm, returning the next Sunday with working ones.
Hicks, an engineer, became involved when his three children started racing in the early 1970s. Lambert jumped in just a few years later as his three sons began to race. Hicks and Lambert loved working together as much as the work itself, and the duo’s dedication outgrew their children. “It was always understood that we’d be back next year,” Hicks recalls. “We kept it up because we were working together. We had so much fun. Gary was a fabulous guy. He’d do anything you asked of him with a smile on his face.”
In 2000, a year after Lambert’s death, Grand Traverse Ski Club President Matt Madion informed Hicks of a newly established annual award, the Hicks-Lambert Award, honoring the pair’s years of volunteer service to the ski club. When asked how best to use the award, Hicks was clear: “Sportsmanship. When you think of an award, ability and being a champion come to mind. That’s certainly important, but it was the sportsmanship of the skiers that amazed me. I saw the Grand Traverse Ski Club kids cheering for their competition. I thought that was pretty neat.”
Awarded at the close of each ski season to one male and one female club racer elected by their coaches for sportsmanship, the Hicks-Lambert Award is a true honor. Hicks tries to attend each ceremony so he can present the award personally and congratulate recipients: “I tell them this is a very meaningful award and that it shows me a lot about their character. I know Gary would say the same thing.”