<<< In our last chapter, Minnie Dole was injured in a ski accident so severely that they thought he might never walk again, let alone ski.
While still on crutches and convalescing from his broken leg earned on the Toll Road in Stowe in 1936, Minnie Dole’s good friend and ski companion, Franklin Edson III, came to visit. Frank informed Minnie that The ASCNY had asked him to round out a race team to compete at an interclub meet that was to be held in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Races at this time were truly “downhill” races, with no speed control sections or gates, just a start and finish between a long segment of open trail.
Minnie protested and told Frank that he did not think that Frank was ready for this level of ski challenge as Dole felt he was only a fair skier, about at his same level. Frank, known for his adventuresome spirit, was not deterred. He insisted he would participate in the race. On March 8, 1936, Franklin Edson III started down the Ghost Trail hoping to help his team and club have a good showing. He did not finish the race.
The newspaper clipping reported that “While racing down the steep and slippery Ghost Trail, Mr. Edson lost his balance and hit a tree.” The impact broke his right arm and also fractured four ribs and punctured his lung. One day later, Franklin Edson III would die of his injuries at the Sisters of Mercy Hospital in Pittsfield.
Injuries while skiing were well known. Participants in the sport were viewed by non-skiers as daredevils and risk-takers. However, death related to skiing was unknown. Edson’s untimely death, caused while participating in their beloved sport, was so cataclysmic that it spurred the club to examine their sport and more specifically, ski safety.
The President of the ASCNY asked Dole, as Edson’s best friend, to chair a committee to study ski safety. Dole agreed. The first task of the committee would be to find out about ski accidents of all types. A questionnaire was compiled and sent out to all of the ski clubs requesting information on the types of injuries that were happening to club members and how those accidents were dealt with.
Dole later recalls that the responses were “less than satisfactory.” Many were not returned. And of those that were returned, many did not support the idea of skiing safety and accused the committee of being “sissies, spoilsports, and frighteners of mothers.”
Dole persevered. Much of the anti-safe skiing sentiment was centered in the Boston area clubs so Dole traveled to meet with them. He was able to convince them to participate and assist the ASCNY Safety Committee. The committee eventually published its findings related to ski safety.
They found that the cause of most accidents was the result of one of three main factors:
- The skier was skiing on terrain beyond their ability,
- The skier was skiing too fast for the conditions, or
- The skier was skiing when fatigued.
Most patrollers will recognize these same factors almost 100 years later. Another finding from the committee was that there should be improvement in trail design and offered several suggestions on ways to make trails safer.
One of the final ideas of ideas recommended by the committee was the formation of ski patrols. Clubs were encouraged to create groups within their clubs and trained in first aid to assist injured skiers. Clubs in Burlington, Vermont, and Pittsfield, Massachusetts were the first to do so.
Dole continued the study of ski safety and wrote articles for newspapers, club papers, and ski almanacs. He would later say that he believed that these articles were responsible for linking his name with the topic of ski safety. Within a year of Edson’s death, the first blocks of the foundation for a national ski patrol were being laid.
To Be Continued
Rick Hamlin is the NSP National Historian and he plans to contribute regularly to Trail Sweep. Please watch for our next chapter in future issues of Trail Sweep.
If you would like to learn more about the history of the National Ski Patrol and its founders and the early days of skiing, the following are excellent resources:
“Roland Palmedo, A Life of Adventure and Enterprise,” by Philip F. Palmedo, (2018), published by Peter E. Randall
“Adventures in Skiing,” by Minot (Minnie) Dole. (1965), published by J. Lowell Pratt and Company, Inc.
“The National Ski Patrol, Samaritans of the Snow”, by Gretchen R. Besser (1983), published by The Countryman Press.
“Skiing in the Americas”, by John Jay (1947), published by The MacMillan Company.
“Ski Sentinels, The story of the National Ski Patrol” (Video), A Rick Moulton Film produced by the New England Ski Museum.