Shortly after Mount Washington Ski Resort opened in 1979, the volunteer ski patrol was created under the leadership of Mike Fournier.
Mike and a number of other patrollers left Forbidden Plateau Ski Area (in search of better skiing and autonomy) and formed the new Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol, which worked in partnership with a small paid patrol under the supervision of Dave Cronmiller. The patrol was divided into two weekend teams, each under the direction of a Team Leader while additional patrollers were assigned to mid-week duties.
During the first year steps were taken to make the patrol into a non-profit association under the BC Societies Act. Logan Stewart developed the original constitution and bylaws for the patrol that were adopted during the Patrol's first AGM in Oct 1980. This made the patrol into an independent organization with a separate identity from the ski resort. At that meeting the first executive was also elected, with Ron Harris as President. The new executive immediately set out to govern the patrol within the guidelines of the constitution and bylaws.
In 1979 the first aid requirements consisted of CPR C and a St. John Standard First Aid Certificate. In the early 1980s the mandatory October training weekend was instituted, and on-hill training was implemented to improve the First Aid skills of the patrol.
Since that time the patrol has continued to increase its entry level for First Aid and has developed a strong training program to prepare patrollers for the various situations they will encounter. We now have a fairly sophisticated system thanks to the efforts of John Pollock and other patrollers who have developed a well laid out plan that includes training and a checklist system for recording each patroller's progress.
In addition the patrol has developed a core of OEC instructors to train and re-certify patrollers on an annual basis to OEC standards.
When the Resort first opened, the mountain was serviced by just three lifts - the Red, the Green and the Blue. Patrollers had a fairly easy job of covering the various runs. The introduction of the Whiskey Jack Chair did not really place many new demands on the patrol, but with the opening of the Sunrise Quad in 1992 created some additional challenges. We had a much larger area to patrol that included a number of new black diamond runs and required staffing of two bumps. In response to these new demands the patrol increased the number of patrollers and improved our communication systems. The opening of the new Eagle Express high speed quad again placed more demands on the patrol (mainly on the patrollers’ quads), but the patrol adjusted to meet these challenges.
The first year the mountain opened the patrol had to use a small A-frame as the Blue Bump cabin. While this structure was totally inadequate for its purpose it did provide for a cosy bonding environment in which patrollers got to know each other on a rather intimate basis.
The following year the patrol built a far more suitable cabin that was heated by wood. After many years of faithful service this cabin was replaced with the present trailer to house the growing needs of the resort and the patrols.
For the first few years the first aid and patrol facilities were in the main lodge where the ski shop is now located. When the first aid room was moved to its current location, the volunteer patrol moved into the nearby trailer that is now the locker room for the paid patrol. Around this time, the patrol began investigating ways to obtain its own building to meet growing needs.
After many meetings the patrol decided to build a chalet. The mountain leased the patrol a piece of land, Neil Michaluk’s employer drew up the architectural plans for the chalet and Alex Toutant and other patrollers went looking for donations to help build it.
The chalet was built over two years in 1994/95, using patrol labour for the most part. Comox Builders’ Supply provided most of the building materials, in return for a ten year agreement that the patrol would promote them through signage on the bump shacks and the chalet (Comox Builders Ltd. and Mount Washington Ski Patrol Association - Partners in Safety).
As well, the patrol hosts an annual Comox Builders’ Appreciation Day with the assistance of the Resort. It should be noted that without the perseverance of Rory Morahan, John Pollock, Hugh Bryce and numerous other patrollers, we would not have this great chalet.
From the very beginning the patrol has maintained a serious approach towards training, skier safety, and the treatment of injured skiers. At the same time the Patrol has realized that being a patroller must also be fun! Each year we have a number of gatherings, contests and activities where patrollers and their friends get together and do whatever patrollers do.
These have included:
• Pancake Breakfasts • Theme Potlucks • Annual Banquets • Retirement Roasts • August Campout Weekend • Halloween Party
Since 1979 the Patrol has continued to move forward by meeting new demands and solving problems as they appeared. It has also developed a close working relationship with the Paid Patrol that has helped to facilitate training and make the daily operations of the patrol run more smoothly.
The success of the patrol has been due to many dedicated patrollers who took the extra time to make the Patrol what it is today. Some of these are still active patrollers while others have left for various reasons. Fortunately, they have been replaced by others who are equally dedicated to the success of the patrol. These are the patrollers who do the extras such as sitting on committees, showing up for work parties, or simply cleaning up in the chalet. Without the dedication of these patrollers, we would not be the excellent volunteer patrol that we are today.
(Thanks to Lynn Paterson, veteran MWSPA member, for this brief history)