History of the WISP Ski Patrol

History of the WISP Ski Patrol

When the Wisp Ski Area opened in the late 1950’s, ski clubs generally brought their own patrollers with them. As Wisp grew, the need for our own patrol was evident. George Kearns, Barney Dunbar, Bruce Anderson, and others worked with Helmuth Heise to establish the patrol.

A couple of years later, Bob Sincell, Harold Ashby, Sonny Winters, and Bill Savage joined the patrol, forming the nucleus for its leadership over the next several years. American Red Cross Advanced First Aid was required of all patrollers. Communication was done with hand signals, and the toboggans used were Sun Valley’s and double ended Akjas with a stokes litter that was nearly as heavy as the patient. The first aid room was a corner of the old ski hut that had no heat, and there was no ambulance service. At that time, with the use of “bear trap” bindings, lower leg fractures were common.

Meanwhile, outside of Baltimore, a patrol was established in 1963 by Jack Hawthorne at the Oregon Ridge Ski Area. Under Dick Guth, the patrol flourished but the ski area developed financial woes. When it closed in 1967, Ed Ziegenfuss coordinated moving the ORMSP up to the Wisp to help weekend coverage.

With the opening of Chair 1, the patrol had a new first aid room located on the East side of the A-frame at the base of Chair 1. The patrol acquired its first Cascade Toboggans and put in telephones on Beaver, Deer, and Possum. At this point, there were around 45 patrollers (10 Wisp, 35 ORMSP). There were approximately 70 reported ski injuries in 1970.

By the late 70’s, the ski patrol had grown to 70 members and hired paid patrollers to cover weekdays. The first aid room was moved to the other side of the A-frame where the general offices are now located. The yellow card for recertification was installed and the first radios were purchased.

Wisp was certified by the Eastern Division of the National Ski Patrol System as a senior test hill and the patrol developed comprehensive skiing and first aid training programs, copied by patrols in both Western Pennsylvania and the Southern Appalachian Region.

In 1987, the two patrols were merged into one patrol. Winter Emergency Care (now Outdoor Emergency Care) became the required first aid course for patrollers.