The National Ski Patrol was founded in 1938 as a result of the explosion in the interest in the sport of skiing created by the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY.  During the winter of 1936, Charles "Minnie" Dole broke his ankle while skiing with friends.  It took hours and a piece of tin roofing to rescue him from the hill.  One of those same friends, Frank Edison, was killed in a ski-racing event just two months later. These events triggered Dole to begin planning the organization that would later become the National Ski Patrol.

In March, 1938, Dole organized a voluntary ski patrol to attend the national downhill races at Stowe, Vermont.  He went on to form the famed 10th Mountain Division of the US Army during the World War II years.  The NSP, the only civilian agency ever so authorized by the armed forces, recruited 7,000 volunteers.  By 1948, the NSP had grown to include 193 ski patrols and 4,500 members.  The following year, training programs expanded to include avalanche rescue training and winter search and rescue.

The latest geographic division, our Southern Division, was created in 1971 from the Southern Region of the Eastern Division.  Keith Argow was our first division director.  It has been followed only by the professional division in 1984.  The overall system now includes over 625 patrols and 25,000 members in the US, Asia, and Europe.

History of the Cataloochee Ski Patrol

The Cataloochee Ski Patrol was initially a loose knit group of friends who enjoyed skiing at the new Cataloochee Ski Hill, located directly behind the Cataloochee Ranch buildings.  The year was 1961 making Cataloochee the first ski area south of Pennsylvania.  Using skills and techniques brought from the Eastern Division, Bill and Margie Clinkscales and Karl and Shortie Lathrop organized the first "patrol" efforts rounding up a fiberglass "banana boat" for transportation of the injured, a few quick splints, a first-aid kit of band-aids and cravats and home made comforters.

The following year, the roster became larger and more formal.  Roger and Janie Bollinger, Jack Britt and Dick Heckman completed their American Red Cross standard first aid course and joined the others.  Keith Argow, officer of the Easter Division at the time, visited the group, provided some training in toboggan handling and assisted the group in registering with the NSP.  For years the Cataloochee Patrol served as the training ground and source for trained personnel and other ski areas emerging around the state.  Appalachian, Wolf Laurel, Ski Valley, and others have all benefited from the expertise developed at Cataloochee during those years.

In 1968, Cataloochee expanded, moved to its current location, and added a chair lift.  During the years following this move the patrol expanded to include over 50 members.  Today the patrol is a blend of paid and volunteer staff having a wide and diverse mix of useful and applicable skills in emergency care, snow riding, fund raising, teaching and safety.  Each year the patrol members renew their friendships, emergency care requirements, membership in the NSP (now totaling over 100 members), their love of the outdoors, the sport of snow riding, and their love of helping others.

Image Courtesy of Cataloochee Ski Area