Otter Ski Patrol
I'm a former active member of this storied organization. Unfortunately
these days I've had to stop active patrolling, and instead am a lifetime alumni member.
Here is the history of the Otter Ski Patrol:
OTTER SKI PATROL HISTORY
The origin of the Otter Ski Patrol was seated in an informal Rutland ski club that in 1935
built a rope tow on Shrewsbury Mountain. (second after Gilberts Hill in Woodstock) There
were three trails off Shrewsbury peak that included a shelter previously built by the CCC.
In 1936-37 Brad and Janet Mead leased a hill at the Framar Farm off the Cream Hill Road in
Mendon. The Rutland Ski Club along with the Shrewsbury rope tow relocated there primarily
because the Shrewsbury site became practically inaccessible after snow storms. It is
believed that the Otter Ski Club was formed at this time. The club skied there until the
opening of Pico the next year,1937-38. The true origin of the Otter Ski Patrol lies in
these early days when some rescue service was provided. For this reason the Otters
claim to have originated in 1936 one year prior to the opening of Pico. With the opening
of Pico in 1937-38, the founding members of the patrol,with the encouragement of Pico
owners Brad and Janet Mead, developed and trained a volunteer skier rescue organization to
be formally known as the Otter Ski Club Patrol. With the assistance of the local Red Cross
Chapter and the Otter Ski Club Patrol founders a ski patrol numbering 24 members took to
the mountain that season.
Although the Otter Ski Club Patrol thrived the Otter Ski Club faded out of existence
during the war years of 1943-44. It was succeeded by the Pico Ski Club in 1949. It is
unusual that a ski patrol has a name other than the mountain from which they operate. In
this case the Otter name comes from the fact that Otter Creek flows South to North through
Rutland, hence Otter Valley, hence Otter Ski Club, hence Otter Ski Club Patrol, hence
Otter Ski Patrol.
The early Otter uniform was a navy blue jacket with white crossed belts designed by Henry
Collin. The crossed belts were discontinued in the mid seventies during Phil Fowlers
tenure as Patrol Director. The switch to the National Ski Patrol rust and navy blue parka
with the yellow NSP back patch was made in the mid eighties when Tom Aicher was Patrol
Director. Charles "Minnie" Dole of New York organized the National Ski Patrol in
1938. Stowe was the first to join and the Otters were the second. Stowe no longer
registers with National so the Otters are now the oldest continuously registered patrol in
the National Ski Patrol. This is a heritage to be proud of and cherished and preserved,
knowing that we were there at the beginning and have persevered over time.
During World War II Minnie Dole was a driving force in convincing the U.S. government to
establish the 10th Mountain Division. The Division was specifically trained to fight in
mountainous terrain, in winter conditions, on skiis. Four notable Otters who fought with
the 10th Mountain Division were Clayt Smith (41 years as an Otter), Karl Acker (Pico's KA
named in honor of him), Joe Jones (one of the earliest Otters), and Bill Wright (a junior
in the early years) The Patrol recruited several others for the 10th Mountain
Over the ensuing years the Otters also provided the Ski Patrol at Killington when it
opened in 1958 and patrolled there into the mid sixties. The Otters provided Patrols at
the now defunct Birdseye area near West Rutland, and the High Pond area near Brandon and
for many years staffed the First Aid Station at the Vermont State Fair.
The Otter Ski Patrol has had 35 patrollers selected for National Appointments over the
years, with the first #314 going to Abe Porter. The Patrol has had thirteen Patrol Leaders
over the past 67 years. When Pico failed in 1997 it appeared the Otter Ski Patrol was
finally to be without a home and the future looked extremely bleak. The American Ski
Company purchased the area and opened it as part of Killington in 1997-98.
Late that same Summer the Otters were approached by Killington management because they
wanted the Patrol to become the volunteer patrol at Killington to work along side the paid
patrollers to provide rescue services. Killington recognized and respected the Otter Ski
Patrol professionalism and heritage and invited the Otters as an organization to retain
their name and become part of Killington. The Otters shed their traditional National Ski
Patrol parkas for Killingtons. Area management provided a distinctive Otter Ski Patrol
patch for Otter parkas. At the same time Killington recognized the benefits of having the
paid Patrol join the National Ski Patrol as a professional patrol. Otter volunteers
provided the staff to train a cadre of Killington supervisory staff in Outdoor Emergency
Care so they could take over their own training needs.
In 1998 the Otter Ski Patrol formally established an Otter Alumni organization and among
other activities holds an Alumni ski day and luncheon at Pico as well as an evening pasta
social with the active patrollers .
History will continue to be made when the Patrol celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2006.
George Wright, Patrol Historian
Sources: Otter Archives
Pico the first 50 Years - Linda Goodspeed
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