Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dedication Made Mount Otsego Ski Patrol Something Special

By GEORGE M. EHRMANN


Joyce Ehrmann photo
Cooperstown Ski Patrol, Mount Otsego, circa 1962-63:  seated, from left, are Carol Ann Parshall, Fred Doolittle, Dr. Francis F. Harrison, George M. Ehrmann, Bill Leslie and Greg Hall; standing, from left, Dr. Alfred Jaretski and Bucko Clark


In the summer of 1938, Minot “Minnie” Dole of New York City and Greenwich, Conn., confided at great length with Roger Langley, who knew every name in skiing that was important. 
Minnie’s wife Jane and their family were at the Ely Camp on Upper St. Regis Lake in the Adirondacks.  It was here that Minnie Dole started forming the organizational requirements and regulations for a ski patrol. 
Minnie knew that the National Red Cross in Washington, D.C., was anxious to find a way in the winter sports field. The fledgling National Ski Patrol System (NSPS) would obviously be an ideal vehicle. 
A Red Cross member, Dr. C.M. Thompson, became the first NSPS medical director, and created the accident report cards to be filled out by a ski patrolman. 
He also wrote the original “Winter First Aid Manual,” copyrighted and published in 1938, which became the NSPS bible.
In any volunteer organization, incentive and reward for outstanding  and devoted service is essential.  Minnie Dole came up with the idea of two different types of ski patrolmen, local and national. 
A local patrolman would be eligible for promotion to national when he had proven qualities of leadership, devotion to patrol work, tact in handling problems with skiers, and proven efficiency in first aid.  
The 10th Mountain Division was formed because of this idea.  I might add, with a great deal of pride, that our son Eric is a lieutenant colonel with the 10th, and has been deployed to the war zone twice. Our other son Greg is a retired lieutenant colonel USMC. Joyce and I are very proud of both of them. 
In 1938, all existing Ski Clubs were asked to form their own ski patrols.  The National Ski Patrol was coming into national existence.
In November 1939, the Cooperstown Ski Club was organized with Dr. Francis F. Harrison as its first president and he and his wife, Carlotta, went to New York City to meet with Minnie Dole and learn how to form a local ski patrol, The Cooperstown Ski Patrol. I have a picture from 1941 showing Carlotta and Francis Harrison, Les Hanson, Ed Moakler and Lu Kio.
During World War II, Mount Otsego was closed.  As far as my research shows, it was started up again in the winter of 1946.  The Harrisons were in charge of the ski patrol with the help of their daughters, Barbara and Ann, their son Dirck, Les Hanson and Fred Doolittle 
Their daughter Barbara also helped teach skiing, and there are at least two or three other people involved, but I could not locate any records as to what their names were.
I do not have much information from the late ‘40s to the early ‘50s.  After this time frame though, the following people were on the ski patrol (as far as I can remember and my research shows): Ted Fuery, Nick Sterling, Dr. James Mithofer, Dr. John Mithofer, Dr. Alfred Jaretski and Fred Doolittle.
From the middle 1950’s until the area closed in the early 1980’s, participants included Dr. Harrison, Fred Doolittle, Dr. James Bordley IV, Bucko Clark, myself, Bill Leslie, Sheldon Hansel, Charley Michaels, Sam Hoskins, Dr. Douglas Barnes, Dr. Rod Carter, Ed Leslie, Greg Hall (former junior patroller) and Junior Patroller Carol Ann Parshall (for a few years).
Fred Doolittle was a national patroller and also served as section chief. Other national patrollers were Dr. Harrison, Bucko Clark, Harry Peplinski, Charlie Michaels and myself.
The Patrol was dedicated to helping the skiing public.  We tried to take excellent care of accident victims.  Skiing is a sport that is fraught with danger and you have to be careful, ski under control and know your limitations.
The Cooperstown Ski Patrol held refresher courses in winter first aid and CPR before each skiing season and during the season we would practice on the hill.  I even made a 8 mm movie on first aid in February 1968, 42 years ago, which I still have in my possession. We underwent training in what causes an avalanche and how to probe for possible victims.
The section we were in always had competitive first aid contests, and our ski patrol always did very well.
At the start of the day, patrollers would go up the T-bar and rope tow and make sure safety gates were working, so if a skier did not let go, he or she would hit the safety gate and the tow would stop.
At the end of a day’s skiing, we would do a sweep of all the trails to make sure that  all the skiers were down safely and not left on the hill.
Dr. Steve “Mike” Jas-tremski worked at the T-bar and at the end of the day he would ride down on his snow shovel, quite fast I might add. 
During the Cooperstown Winter Carnival, the patrol would sponsor a cross-country ski race from Mount Otsego to various places, such as the Hickory Grove Inn and Daring Dutchess (Dukes Oak).  We did this with alpine skis and it was quite a race.
We had cook-outs on the weekend and I would play accordion at noon time, for a rather European atmosphere.
Bucko Clark was a hang glider pilot, so sometimes when we were having a slow day we would fly hang gliders down the main slope with our skis on. 
The whole patrol was composed of a bunch of characters. The injured skier we took care of got the very best of care.  The patrol was made up of expert skiers who had skied the best that Europe had to offer and also out West here, in Vermont, and in New Hampshire at Tuckerman’s Ravine and Mount Washington.
Other people who helped us with  winter first aid were of course our wonderful physicians from Bassett Hospital, Paul Mullin (former section chief) and his assistant Dick Dunn from the Utica Ski Patrol, and Fran Combar (former section chief), Snow Ridge Ski Patrol (also one of the founders of the Otsego Sailing Club.)
In my article about Mount Otsego last year I forgot to mention that Jack Mitchell also helped to transport skiers.  Also Ed Gozigian, our local attorney, was a very gifted, stylish skier.
I have tried to make this history as complete as I can with the information that I have.  If I have left out anything important please call it to my attention.
The winter of 1981-82 was the last year of operation for Mount Otsego.  Poor winters had taken their toll.  Liability insurance quadrupled in just one year, competition from the larger  ski areas had increased, new equipment was considered, but in the end the financial burden was to high.  Mount Otsego closed.
It was a wonderful era that is long gone, but good memories will linger for many years.  As I have said before we had more fun than people should every be allowed to have.  Every member of the patrol was very devoted to serving the skiing public and Mount Otsego.

George Ehrmann, Richfield Springs, National Ski Patroller #3574, was a patrol leader for two terms at Mount Otsego, a certified winter first aid instructor & CPR.  In 2008, he was awarded a lifetime membership in the National Ski Patrol.

4 comments:

  1. What a nice history of Cooperstown's ski area. I learned to ski there as a kid and will always remember the fun and challenge. Now I ski Arapahoe Basin and Vail using the skills that I learned at Mt. Otsego in the eraly 60's.

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  2. Wow! It's a wonderful story. I was fortunate enough to know some of the ski patrol; and yes they were a spirited crew. When I bought the ski area in 1978, they came out to help in the necessary repairs and clearing of the hills. Unfortunately, the weather and the insurance were both detrimental to our success. We do have very fond memories of our time there and the wonderful people who supported our efforts.

    Ken and Gloria Shaw

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  3. I was searching for Carol Ann Parshall and came up with the site. I remember she was on the Junior Ski Patrol.
    Reading your story brought back so many memories of skiing on the rope tows Of Mt Otsego from 1953-1963. I remember so many ski patrollers, ski instructors. Many thanks to Nick Sterling who made it possible for us Cooperstown kids to learn to ski.
    Suzette Mead Kurfis

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  4. I just skied there Thursday in perfect spring corn. Nice to read a little history, especially the Ski Patrol facts, as I have spent many years in this profession. Thanks

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