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Gretchen R. Besser - The National Ski Patrol
See allen-2002-p39 for a summary of material in this book with updates covering more recent developments.

Chapter 1 - Before There Was A Ski Patrol

This chapter provides a good overview of early skiing history in Scandinavia, the Alps, and the United States. I believe that most of the sources for this chapter have been incorporated into this project directly.

Chapter 2 - How It All Began

In 1936, Minot Dole, an insurance broker, was injured in a skiing accident at Stowe, Vermont. He was evacuated painfully by his friends on a piece of corrugated tin roofing. Two months later, while Dole was still hobbling on crutches, his friend Frank Edson died in a ski race. Roland Palmedo asked Dole to head a safety committee to study the causes and prevention of ski accidents. The author discusses early ski patrols around the country and the organization of the National Ski Patrol System (NSPS) by Dole, Roger Langley and others. Many skiers refused to cooperate with Dole's investigations, fearing that any inquiry into ski accidents would label them as "sissies" and "spoilsports." Alex Bright, who had a reputation as a daring skier (but nonetheless became a model ski patroller), wrote his friend Dole in 1940:
"I go for your stuff about eighty per cent and the other twenty per cent, which has to do with putting all us bad children in the hothouse with geraniums and apron strings, it just won't ever take. Time and again during the last year, as I read nothing but petticoat ideas on skiing, I felt someone must break out and say a word for the Hell-for-Leather sport which skiing really is."

Chapter 3 - The National Ski Patrol Goes To War

This chapter describes the participation of the National Ski Patrol in civil defense during World War II and its role in lobbying and recruiting personnel for U.S. Army mountain troops. The history of the 10th Mountain Division, from its beginnings on Mt Rainier through training at Camp Hale, action in the Aleutians and Italy, and post-war contributions, is summarized. Most of this information can be found in other sources reviewed for this project.

p. 42: Sepp Ruschp once said: "A man who is able to climb a mountain with skis, carrying equipment for several days, and active for many hours a day, is more fit for the infantry than one who holds the world's record for a 100-yard swim."

p. 43: "'Wilderness Patrols' sprang up from California to New England, under the guidance of NSPS section chiefs and patrol leaders. The object was to become totally familiar with local conditions and terrain--abandoned campsites where evacuated personnel could bivouac, possible hideouts of enemy agents, radio sending sets, water conditions, wood supplies, etc."

p. 44: In mid-May 1943, a Navy bomber crashed in the Olympic mountains of Washington. Ome Daiber led a search party to recover personnel and equipment. The entire crew of the aircraft had perished, and Ome's team had the difficult and gruesome job of recovering their bodies. More dangerous still were the two live bombs in the aircraft. Ome refused to let anyone else handle the job, clambored into the plane, and defused the bombs himself.

p. 45: Operation Mayday coordinated twenty-four NSPS patrols along the west coast in search and rescue missions with the Fourth Air Force during World War II.

p. 53: "Colonel Stenersen of the Norwegian Army, observing the Tenth in training at Camp Hale, had called them 'the finest physical specimens in any army of the world today.'"

Chapter 4 - Growing Pains

p. 57: Before Minot Dole stepped down as NSPS Director in 1950, "he brought over the chief avalanche expert in the world, Andre Roch, to set up a system of avalanche training."

Chapter 5 - Snowy Outposts

p. 85: In the mid-1960s, Hugo Mach contacted patrol leaders at Alpental, Hyak, Ski Acres and Snoqualmie Pass to organize a Ski Patrol Rescue Team (SPART), which has functioned since 1966. Rescue groups in the Seattle area are combined in the King County Search and Rescue Association, which includes SPART, the Mountain Rescue Council, Explorer Scouts, the Civil Air Patrol, and other groups.

p. 87: The USSA began offering its Diamond mountaineering course to the public in the early 1950s (p. 84). In 1966, a group of NSPS experts including Kurt Beam of Seattle, Frank Post of California, and Al Auten of Colorado, together with Bob Heapes, Dick Holsten and avalanche specialist Dale Gallagher, mapped out a mountaineering program for NSPS use. The NSPS Ski Mountaineering course had two objectives: to teach ski patrollers techniques needed for personal survival and wildernsss rescue, and to educate the public about winter conditions, equipment, and safe travel. In 1972, out-of-area rescue by ski patrollers received the approval of the NSPS Board of Directors (p. 88). In 1980, Hans Roder of Denver wrote the NSPS Ski Mountaineering Manual.

p. 90: In 1968, the NSPS ran a pilot program for Nordic ski patrollers in the East, which had the greatest concentration of cross-country skiers at the time. The program, as developed by David Hodgdon of Massachusetts, proved successful and was adopted by the NSPS nationally during the 1974-75 season. A Patroller's Manual was published in 1982. Nordic ski patrollers perform three functions: they may patrol at commercial ski-touring centers or on government land; they may accompany organized groups on extended tours; and they may provide coverage at cross-country races and jumping events.

Chapter 6 - The Great White Menace

This chapter describes early avalanche research and control work by Monty Atwater, Ed LaChapelle and others. I believe most of this information is available in Atwater's book, The Avalanche Hunters.

p. 107: Survivors of the Yodelin avalanche near Stevens Pass on January 24, 1971 were rescued by a crew of ski patrollers headed by Lloyd Burki, John Petrie, Erv Vernon and Paul Williams of the Stevens Pass Ski Patrol.

p. 111: Whitney Borland became the first NSPS Avalanche Adviser (early 1960s?). After Borland, Bob Heapes was the combined NSPS Avalanche and Mountaineering Adviser until 1971, when the two areas of responsibility were separated. Bill Hotchkiss expanded the NSPS avalanche program through 1980 and helped compile the USDA Avalanche Handbook. The NSPS avalanche program is two-tiered. Patrollers completing the advanced course receive intensive instruction in meteorology, hazard evaluation, protection of highways and ski areas, and are sufficiently familiar with rescue technques to be capable of leading a rescue mission.

p. 116: Describes a January 19, 1980, avalanche incident in Commonwealth Basin in which two snowshoers were partially buried and later rescued by 31 members of the various Snoqualmie Pass ski patrols.

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Copyright © 2002 Lowell Skoog. All Rights Reserved.
Last Updated: Sat Oct 9 10:02:27 PST 2004