KILLINGTON—Joe Jones was a 17-year-old kid from Rutland when he joined the volunteer Otter Ski Patrol organization in 1937 to help keep people safe on the slopes of Pico Mountain.
On Sept. 20, the now 92-year-old Jones just might be the star attraction at a party at the Summit Lodge to celebrate the end of the oldest continuously registered ski patrol in the National Ski Patrol System. The patrol was formed one year before the national system was created. But unfortunately, according to longtime Otter patroller George Wright, organizers of the party are having a tough time locating former members to join Jones.
Wright, 88, said he and fellow organizers Joe Lafrancois and Larry Gold sent out more than 200 emails and 100 snail mail letters trying to locate as many of the estimated 600 former patrollers as possible, dating back to 1937.
“I got 51 of those letters back because the addresses were no good,” Wright said. “So far we’ve had only 37 respond out of those 200 emails.”
Wright said he was initially worried that the Summit Lodge’s occupancy limit of 200 was in jeopardy when he agreed to help organize the party. Now he’s a “little discouraged” that he’s yet to hit 100, even when spouses are included.
But there have been glimpses of hope in the endeavor. The 92-year-old Jones agreed to come, as did one former patroller from Florida, along with his brother from Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Wright said he felt the party needed to be held and that the media needed to get on board to honor a volunteer organization that did a lot of good over eight decades. He said Otter Ski Club volunteers each weekend flocked to Pico and other long-gone area mountains like Birdseye and High Pond, fueled by a love of both skiing and helping people.
In recent years, as the older patrollers slowed down or stopped, fewer young patrollers wanted in—in part, he guessed, because of increased training requirements that approach those required of EMTs. “We wanted to get more young people, but that [the requirements]hurt us,” he said.
Wright hopes that with some publicity, more former members will “come out of the woodwork” to join the party, reminisce and celebrate its accomplishments.
“And we just think people should know about this volunteer organization,” he said. “We think 76 years is a pretty good record.”
For more information contact George Wright at 802-775-3958 or Joe Lefrancois at 802-775-0228.