Florence ‘Floss’ Kirkner

Florence A. Kirkner of Orchard Park, NY, passed away on May 1, 2024, at the age of 99. We all knew her as an inveterate volunteer, not just for NSP but on multiple levels as is shown by the awards she received from numerous organizations.

Floss joined the ski patrol in 1949 in the Far West Division where she served for 10 years. She was the co-patrol leader at Donner Ski Ranch, Soda Springs, CA from 1956-1960 and served as the first aid chair in the North Bay Region from 1950-1960. She was one of the first women in the NSP to take Monty Atwater’s Avalanche Patch course earning Patch #82. She felt the information contained in the Atwater Avalanche Patch course was so important that she began to teach other patrollers the basics of avalanche rescue at fall freshers.

She was a schoolteacher with curriculum development skills and along with other Atwater trained patrollers, began the development of a basic avalanche course to extend to all NSP patrollers. The basic course would become the NSP Circle A course and would be a steppingstone to the Atwater Avalanche Patch course which was more advanced and dangerous.

In around 1964 Floss took the Avalanche Instructor Course becoming National Avalanche Instructor #224. Having moved east she immediately became the Western New York Avalanche Advisor. For the next 36 years she maintained her certification teaching Circle A, Basic Avalanche, and Level 1 Avalanche. From 1999 through 2005 she was an Avalanche Instructor Trainer.

Floss tirelessly planned and conducted courses on ski slopes in New York State and on the Lake Erie sand dunes in Canada. Her innovation in using the dunes allowed courses to be taught at all times of year. The dunes proved remarkably well suited for probe lines and burial of simulated victims. She incorporated into her courses, dramatic films of various avalanche types, pre-course assignments, written training materials, and homework assignments. Probe lines were an integral part of her courses. In later years, she added transceiver work. Floss always included an optional overnight camping component for added learning and camaraderie among the patrollers taking the course who came from various patrols. Not only did this create a unity among the patrollers from the various ski areas but also a standardization of skills, such that these avalanche-trained patrollers could be called on to help if needed anywhere in a region or a division.

From 1976 through 1987, Florence Kirkner became involved with at the time a program called “Junior Patroller,” the program, now known as the “Young Alpine Patroller.” She understood that the future of the NSP was in recruitment of new members. A great source of new members could be found in the children of current members. The children would have most likely been at the ski area when their parent or parents were on duty, so why not create a program for these young people. As a schoolteacher it was only natural for her to get involved. She taught and helped develop 11 Division “Junior Seminars” and five National “Junior Seminars’ during her 11 years involved with the program.

Floss was very involved with her Town of Orchard Park, its YMCA, Girl Scouts of America, and the American Red Cross. She received a special award from the Canadian Ski Patrol, a Girl Scout Green Angel Award, a Volunteer of the Year from the YMCA, and a Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year from Orchard Park, NY.

Floss was the recipient of numerous awards from NSP including National Appointment #84, Distinguished Service and Meritorious Service Awards, three Yellow Merit Stars, a Purple Merit Star, and an Orange Merit Star for training military personnel. She was inducted into the NSP Hall of Fame and received proclamations from President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, United States Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Congressman Langworth, and NYS Governor Kathy Hochul.

Floss was the beloved wife of the late Bruce F. Kirkner; dearest mother of Nancy L. Kirkner and the late Robin D. Kirkner; grandmother of Jessica (Jeff) Meadors, Jacob (Jamie) Hill, Sara (James) McCarty, and Traci (Ty) Douthirt; great-grandmother of 16 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. A Memorial Service was held Saturday, May 11 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Orchard Park, NY. Memorials may be made to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Memorial Fund, 6595 East Quaker St., Orchard Park, NY 14127 or to Kissing Bridge Ski Patrol, Rte. 240, Glenwood, NY 14069.