The Spirit Mountain Ski Patrol was formed the fall of 1974 under the direction of Phil LeTourneau and Cliff Carlson. Planning and development of Spirit Mountain Recreation Area took place rather rapidly and a Patrol needed to be created for the opening of the new ski hill. Phil and Cliff recruited patrollers from existing patrols and on-going Red Cross first aid courses in Duluth.
After conclusion of a Red Cross course in Duluth November, 1974 Phil, Cliff, and Bill and Judy Marr from Giant's Ridge Ski Patrol conducted a transition course in ski patrol first aid skills and introduced new patrol candidates to one of the first CPR classes offered in Duluth. Only one on-the-hill training session was held prior to opening day. Candidate first aid and skiing/toboggan skills were tested during one long miserable day complete with snow, rain, drizzle and fog. Evaluators could barely see candidates running toboggans down the hill. One candidate said, "I don't want to be a patroller, I want to go home" -- he is still patrolling. On December 20, 1974 Spirit Mountain ski hill opened with a mix of experienced and new patrollers. Through the efforts of many dedicated people this large new Patrol was ready to begin serving the skiing public at the Region's newest ski area.
The first patrol room was quite small and was located in the "old chalet" on the Moosehead side of the current complex. The room served both as the first aid room and storage for patroller's equipment and lift evacuation bags. Subsequent patrol rooms have been located in the Bear Paw addition and now include a first aid room, locker room and break room. At one time we simply took over the summer pool changing rooms for the ski season.
When Spirit Mountain first opened there were only eight runs and the ski hill had to stop short as a rail line crossed near the bottom of the hill. After the rail line was abandoned in 1984 the quad "444" express lift was installed and city officials were lobbied to add "B" lift to open the "Gandy" side of the ski hill. Since then "A" lift has been installed to service additional runs on the north side of Spirit Mountain. The old "F" lift that serviced the beginner's area was moved to Chester Bowl ski area and "C" lift was extended past the chalet to the top of the hill. The Ski Patrol has evolved along with the growth of Spirit Mountain and now includes 120 members from all walks of life.
The Spirit Mountain Ski Patrol has had the leadership of dedicated patrol representatives and group leaders during its history and is divided into six groups providing coverage weekdays, evenings, weekends and at Chester Bowl. Many patrollers sign on for additional duty beyond their regularly scheduled time; this shows their great commitment to the sport of skiing. The Patrol enjoys excellent support from area management.
The ski patrol has hosted many Region events, including a Junior Jamboree, Region/Division Meetings and Senior Training and Testing sessions. The Patrol has contributed three Section Chiefs, Region Telecommunication, Legal, and Award Supervisors, Web Master, Region Director, and Division Telecommunication and Legal Supervisors.Spirit Mountain has been twice named Outstanding Large Alpine Patrol. From the beginning, Spirit Mountain patrollers have helped with training and testing of new Basic and Senior candidates both at the Section and Region level. Also, during its relatively short history the Patrol has accumulated many awards and produced a number of Senior patrollers, some with National Appointments. The Patrol is fortunate to have a large number of Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) and Outdoor Emergency Transport instructors providing excellent instruction to an annual candidate class.
The Patrol has an excellent working relationship with both St. Luke's and St. Mary's hospitals and Gold Cross Ambulance. St. Luke's provides classroom space for the annual OEC class held in conjunction with Mont du Lac Ski Area. Gold Cross Ambulance assigns a liaison to the Patrol and assists with protocol development, interface procedures and technical advice. In addition, the Patrol and Gold Cross have an equipment exchange program.
Whatever is in store for the future, the Spirit Mountain Ski Patrol and its EMS partners will be ready to implement new procedures and skills to provide the best possible care for the skiing public.