What Is National Ski Patrol?


Since it was founded in 1938, the National Ski Patrol (NSP) has evolved from a handful of ski patrollers into the world's largest winter rescue organization. For more than 50 years, NSP members have devoted a significant part of their lives to providing the skiing public with skier safety education and winter emergency care and rescue services. As a result, the lives of many skiers have been saved, thousands of injured skiers have received prompt, skillful emergency care, and skiing has become a safer sport.

Before 1932, skiing was relatively unknown in the United States. At that time, the sport was primarily the pastime of a few rural families and the descendants of Northern European immigrants. Most Americans got their first exposure to skiing through media coverage of the 1932 Olympics at Lake Placid, New, York. Inevitably, the sport took off.

In the 1930s, skiing was a hardy activity that required a long drive on roads that were poorly maintained to an area that had snow-covered hills or mountains. The only mode of uphill transportation was climbing, which required a couple of hours of huffing and puffing, all for a few minutes of a well-earned downhill thrill. The skier's cry, "Track! " originated at that time, and when skiers climbing uphill heard that shout, they did the best they could to give the right-of-way to the approaching downhillers. Since ski lessons were virtually nonexistent in those days, few skiers had learned to turn well and some could not turn at all, particularly with primitive equipment in unpacked snow. Accidents were common, and most skiers generally accepted them as the price to pay for participating in the sport.

Charles Minot "Minnie" Dole, an insurance broker from Greenwich, Connecticut, realized the need for emergency care and rescue services for skiers back in 1936. Dole was skiing at Stowe, Vermont, with his wife and their friends, Frank and Jean Edson, when he took a fall, heard a bone in his ankle snap, and lay helpless in the snow. Edson stayed with him while the women skied down the mountain for help. The first person they met was a local farmer who said that anyone foolish enough to ski deserved whatever fate offered, and went on his way. The women finally located two people who helped haul Dole off the mountain on a makeshift rescue toboggan improvised from a piece of corrugated tin roofing. X-rays showed a break so severe that Dole was told he might never walk again, let alone ski. But he was determined to recover, and he did.

That same determination compelled Dole to do something about ski safety when, two months later, Frank Edson was killed in a ski race. At the suggestion of Roland Palmedo, president of the Amateur Ski Club of New York, Dole was put in charge of a ski safety committee for the club. In March 1938, Dole organized a volunteer ski patrol for the National Downhill Races at Stowe. Roger Langley, president of the National Ski Association (NSA), now the United States Ski Association, was so impressed with the patrol that he asked Dole to organize a similar patrol on a national basis. Then and there, the National Ski Patrol came into being - originally as a subcommittee of the NSA.

A tremendous organizational effort took place under Dole's leadership during the next few years. The National Ski Patrol started out with five geographical divisions and a small core of patrollers that included several famous racers such as Bob Livermore, Dick Durrance, and Alex Bright, whose names lent prestige to the new organization. In 1941, the first National Ski Patrol Manual was published. The manual outlined the basic NSP organizational structure that still exists and listed the qualifications in emergency care and skiing ability that were required of NSP members; guidelines for organizing a local ski patrol; and a section on the NSP divisions.

Over the years, the NSP has acted as a nationwide conduit of the latest information on winter emergency care, rescue equipment, and lift evacuation procedures and has provided skier safety education for an ever-increasing skiing public. Individual members, many of whom belong to ambulance squads, mountain rescue councils, and other lifesaving groups, have been responsible for saving hundreds of lives by applying their skills wherever needed. The NSP contribution to every phase of skiing is evidenced by the significant number of patrollers who have been elected to the National Ski Hall of Fame.

Recognized worldwide for its various skier safety education programs and emergency care and rescue services, the National Ski Patrol is made up of dedicated, talented individuals who optimistically face the challenges of the present and future of skiing. The organization was endowed with the flexibility and dynamics to meet these challenges through the qualities of its founder, Minnie Dole, who closed an era in American skiing by his death on March 14,1976.

Excerpted from The Ski Patroller's Manual

Adapted For This Site By Jim Meloche

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