The Mt Hood Ski Patrol
A true Mount Hood institution
In many ways the Mt Hood Ski Patrol is an inspiration for a pattern set and accepted worldwide when it comes to skiing safety and rescue organizations and practices.
The Mt Hood Ski Patrol traces its roots back to 1937, the year that Timberline Lodge was completed. At the times there were ski clubs and climbing clubs on Mount Hood that were formed more for camaraderie than for the expressed purpose of safety and rescue. This was to change with increased access and use of Mount Hood’s slopes.
Prior to the construction of Timberline Lodge and its access road, skiers and climbers hiked from Government Camp to small warming huts, or cabins, built in the same general area that Timberline Lodge sits today. The two primary organizations at the time that maintained cabins were The Wy’east Climbers and the Nile River Yacht Club, a ski club that had nothing to do with The Nile River or any yacht that plied its waters.
After recognizing the need for a safety patrol, Wy’East president Everett Darr and Nile River captain Barney McNabb approached the Forest Service with a plan to create a safety patrol on Mount Hood. A.O. Waha, Mt Hood National Forest Supervisor at the time told them that there was no money for such a patrol and furthermore, only one person within the service knew how ski. To which Darr and McNabb told him that Wy’Easter Henry “Hank” Lewis would be perfect for the job. Hank had already performed rescues on the slopes informally and because he worked evenings in Portland at a gas station would be available on weekends; Hank was usually on Mount Hood weekends anyhow.
Waha determined that it would be feasible to have Hank work weekends on the slopes and allotted a wage of $10 per weekend. At that point Hank took the job and proceeded to create his own rescue gear, including an old rolled front wooden toboggan. Through Hanks work and recruitment of others involvement, the Mt Hood Ski Patrol was formed. In March of 1938 a committee was formed and the Mt Hood Ski Patrol became a formal organization.
It is said the original organizers of the National Ski Patrol, Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole and Roger F. Langley came to Mount Hood to learn what the Mt Hood Ski Patrol was doing, and subsequently incorporated many of the established practices in the organization of The National Ski Patrol.
During WW-II many of the patrollers went off to war, and created a legacy within the 10th Mountain Division. After the war the Oregon boys came back to Mount Hood. The post World War Two era brought a renewed surge in skiing activities on Mount Hood, and a renewed purpose for the Mt Hood Ski Patrol. The ski patrol grew and became more organized.
Today, the Mt Hood Ski Patrol is an integral part of the skiing activity on Mount Hood, adhering closely to their purpose as stated in their Mission Statement. “The Mt. Hood Ski Patrol is a member-driven organization dedicated to rescue, emergency care and public safety for the Mt. Hood recreational community”. They serve skiers and snowboarders at Timberline Lodge, Mt Hood Ski Bowl, Summit Ski Area and Mt Hood Meadows.
When you see a patroller on Mount Hood, in their easily recognizable red jackets, give them a tip of the hat and thanks for their dedication and public service.
By Gary Randall