The Mount Mansfield Ski Patrol traces its beginning back to 1934. Roland Palmedo made sure that the articles of incorporation for the Mount Mansfield Ski Club included a committee in charge of organizing a ski patrol for the 1934-35 season. The Mount Mansfield Ski Patrol is the oldest ski patrol in the United States and still going strong.
A couple weeks back the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum hosted a presentation and panel discussion about the MMSP as part of the Museum’s Red Bench series. Historian Brian Lindner organized the evening and provided a presentation on the history of the MMSP. Brian is a member of the patrol as was his father.
What made the evening very special was the panel Brian assembled for the discussion. There were three past patrol Directors as well as the current Director, Karen Wagner. The past Directors were Phil Tomlinson, Bill Westermann, and 97 years young Ed Billings! Through their anecdotes you could connect the links back through the years to the first patrol leaders, Charlie Lord and Craig Burt Sr. You could feel their pride in being part of an historic organization and carrying on the high standard of service that has been set. (Of course there were also the fun times including the legendary MMSP parties.)
The MMSP can claim many firsts over its long history. They were the first to require first aid certification for all their patrollers. They worked with medical professionals to invent new splints and traction devices for on-slope injuries. The MMSP was also one of the first patrols to welcome women members. However it wasn’t until 1976 that a woman passed the Mansfield toboggan test.
The toboggan test for a patroller on Mansfield is to bring a loaded toboggan down the National solo under the watchful eye of a tester. Complete four such runs in a day to the tester’s approval and you passed the test. Gayle Oberg was the first woman to pass the test. She became the first fulltime paid woman ski patroller in the MMSP.
So Gayle was the first woman paid patroller. Who was the first paid patroller on Mansfield? I did not receive any correct answers to that question. I know there were a lot of people at that Museum event who heard the answer to the question so maybe everyone was too busy doing their Christmas shopping! In 1940 the head of Vermont’s Department of Forests and Parks, Perry Merrill, became concerned that with the addition of the single chair, there was a need for a fulltime patrol. He arranged for the state to pay for this position. Austrian Fritz Kramer got the job and would spend the 1940-41 ski season living in the Stone Hut. Kramer would come down to town for supplies and a shower once a week.
Coming out of last season there were some concerns on whether the Mount Mansfield Ski Patrol would continue to be the Mount Mansfield Ski Patrol! For some of us that concern continued when the season opened, but the MMSP sign on the ski patrol building at the top of the quad was nowhere to be seen. I am told the sign will be back. I also asked if the Mansfield toboggan test will remain a requirement under the new Vail management. The answer to that was a little less confident so we’ll have to see.
I was a Stowe host for over twenty years and got to witness the Mount Mansfield Ski Patrol in action on many occasions. The medical attention they gave those who were injured was always professional and efficient. They always demonstrated an ability to work as a team based on what the situation required. They also were very customer friendly in non-injury situations. I often came across customers on trails beyond their ability and called the patrol to provide a rider sled. The customers’ moods ranged from embarrassed to angry to absolute panic! The patrol always handled the situation with the appropriate amount of empathy for whatever the customer was feeling.
The Mount Mansfield Ski Patrol is to be complimented on 84 years of outstanding service! Long live the Mount Mansfield Ski Patrol!