National Ski Races, Stove VIn our last chapter, the death of Dole’s friend Frank Edson inspires Dole to study ski safety.

Mount Mansfield in Stowe, Vermont was selected as the venue for the 1938 National Downhill and Slalom Races. More accurately called an international ski race, racers would come from the United States, Germany, Austria, and France. Frank Griffin, the President of the Mount Mansfield Ski Club, asked Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole if he would form and lead a special ski patrol to serve as the safety and rescue team for the races. With the Mansfield Patrol forming the nucleus and the Burlington and Pittsfield Patrols buttressing the ranks, Dole dove into the logistics of providing ski patrol services to such a high-profile event with this “super patrol.” The racing was to take place on the Nose Dive trail, a steep and challenging trail cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps under the supervision of Charles Lord, future NSP National Appointment #61.

The trail would be divided into segments with patrollers stationed within each segment. Each patroller station would have visual contact with the patrol stations above and below on the trail. Every station was supplied with a full complement of rescue equipment, including a rescue toboggan. The plan mapped out by Dole was that if a racer was injured and needed evacuation, the closest station would perform the rescue and evacuation. The recently vacated station would be infilled from the station below, with all stations below the accident moving up. Crowd control was another important safety consideration, so Dole prepared a document to hand out to spectators entitled “How to Behave While Watching A Race.” Only racers, race officials, and patrollers were allowed to have skis on the mountain. A new bar had been set for safety at ski races. His efforts did not go unnoticed.

Charles Minot "Minnie" Dole

Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole

Saturday, March 5, 1938, saw fierce racing on the Nose Dive. Dole was positioned at one of the seven turns at the top of the trail, a turn known as “Shambles Corner.” He was approached by Roger Langley, future NSP National Appointment #1, who was the head of the National Ski Association of America, the largest and most influential ski association in the United States. He commended Dole on the excellent organization and focus on event safety. Just before the first skier, Ted Hunter (who had previously won the Edson Trophy as first place amateur racer at the first annual race created as a memorial to Dole’s friend Franklin Edson III) sped by, Langley spoke to Dole. Dole would recall later that Langley was very complimentary of his efforts to organize the “super patrol” and that Langley felt that having more patrols to advance skier safety would be a great benefit to the skiing community. Langley then inquired if Dole would consider becoming the chair of a new committee, the National Ski Patrol Committee, as a part of the National Ski Association of America. Standing at Shambles Corner, Dole agreed to Langley’s request and the concept of a National Ski Patrol came to fruition.

A year later, in 1939, a biplane was flying up the valley, over the town of Stowe and headed for Mount Mansfield. Who were the occupants, and what was the change that would move the ski world on its axis? The pilot, Roland Palmedo, National Appointment #2 of the National Ski Patrol, and the head of the Amateur Ski Club of New York and his passenger, also a member of the ASCNY, Stuart Gillespie, National Appointment #13, were flying over the site of a proposed chairlift, being spearheaded by Palmedo. When completed, it would be the longest chairlift in the world. The sport of skiing was about start a period of explosive growth and the National Ski Patrol was preparing to meet the needs of this sport by providing service and safety to all skiers.

If you are reading this as a registered patroller, or as a candidate who aspires to join the ranks of one of the largest rescue organizations in the world, you too are a part of the NSP history. Each of us forms a thread that has been woven into a wonderful tapestry of history and service to the public. This tapestry continues to be woven every day that we display the cross on our backs, a symbol that has signified “Service and Safety” and high quality aid provided at no cost since our founding in 1938.

Rick Hamlin, National NSP Historian

Rick Hamlin, NSP Historian

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.