When America entered World War II, 4,000 ski patrolmen were dispensing first aid and helping injured skiers off the mountain. The all-volunteer patrol had been the idea of New York insurance broker C. Minot “Minnie” Dole, who witnessed a friend hit a tree and die because no one with medical skill or a proper sled was there to rescue him. Working with the Red Cross and the National Ski Association in the late 1930s, he recruited and trained ski patrols across the nation.
During the buildup to WWII, Dole believed the U.S. needed ski troops who could fight in the mountains. His newly organized ski patrol members could serve in such an elite Army corps. After repeated visits to Washington, he sold his idea to Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, who authorized Dole’s ski patrol to recruit mountain troops.
Thanks to Dole’s efforts, thousands joined the 10th Mountain Division, which fought in Alaska and defeated Hitler’s army in Italy—though never on skis. After the war, these troops founded ski areas, ran ski shops and taught skiing. Dole’s second legacy—the National Ski Patrol— currently has 26,000 members. —J.F.