Writing the saga of Colorado’s ski patrollers (Hey, Spike! column)
June 2, 2017
Two guys from one of Colorado's oldest and smallest ski areas are tackling a big project — writing the history of the state's ski patrolling.
From their base at Monarch Mountain near Salida, Eric Miller and John Cameron have a contract to produce a book for Arcadia Publishing.
Monarch, which opened in 1939, is located just east off the pass with the same name.
Owned now by Monarch Investment Management, headed by Coloradan Bob Nicolls, the ski area is known for deep powder stashes and no snowmaking.
Hey, Spike! started skiing at Monarch in 1957. Today, son Miles V is the assistant patrol director there, working for director Zach Moore.
John and Eric are part of the team.
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The 51-year-old Eric is a nurse and a resident of Colorado Springs and has been a member of Monarch's volunteer medic program for 11 years.
Eric is a flight nurse with Med-Trans Corp., which operates a fleet of over 100 aircraft comprised predominantly of Bell 407s, H135s and H145s helicopters, with pressurized twin-engine fixed-wing planes available.
"I am currently deployed in the Middle East with the USAF as a flight nurse on Air Evac with the Cheyenne Air National Guard," he says.
John, 33, a patroller for five years, has been on the Monarch Ski Patrol for three. The father of two, he is a freelance writer and journalist, having honed his skills at the daily Salida Mountain Mail.
"The idea for the book came together over the winter in the Monarch Ski Patrol base clinic," says John.
"Eric has an overall vision for the book and asked me if I would be interested in gathering content, photos and writing the stories from ski patrolling in Colorado," says John. "We figured we could complement each other's skill sets to get a book done."
"When I had the idea for this book, I immediately thought of Arcadia Publishing, the leading publisher of niche history books in the world. Thankfully they said yes," writes Eric from his post in Qatar.
Arcadia publishes the familiar sepia-colored books of historic photos and others.
While their plan is not to visit every ski patrol or the 26 ski areas in Colorado, they'll focus on the ones that significantly impacted ski patrolling over the years.
"Areas like Aspen, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, and those in the Upper Arkansas Valley — Monarch and Ski Cooper — have played a major role in advancing ski patrolling as a profession in Colorado," John notes. "Other areas that have long since closed down have stories to tell as well."
John enjoys hearing about the lore of working long hours on the mountain, saying:
"Patrollers are often the first people out on the mountain in the morning, arriving before sunrise on the darkest winter days. They are also the last to leave at the end of the day. They are out in the harshest conditions in high Colorado mountains and those long days happen even if everything on the mountain goes right."
"We would love to hear from ski patrollers — old and new — with their stories and photos," adds John.
Ah, what a great segue for Spike! to list a whole bunch of regional ski patrollers:
Matt Krane, Rick Sramek, Nick Payne, Kevin Ahern, Nick Logan, Jason Kreiger, JB Besterfeldt, Neil Haglov, Tracy Ramiel, Scott Graham, Kyle Armstrong, Jim Goad, Charlie Post, Barbara "Babs" Ann Baker Swartz, Paul Anderson, Lizzy Kanetsky, Kyle Ahern, Dillon Horan, Duffy Wilson, Sam Parker, Danny Moroz, CT Tolten, Patti and Dan Burnett, Larry Schmidt, Bruce Cochran, Don Riggle, Kevin Keble, Paul Greco, Dave Balerude, Mark Sabatini, Mickey Johnston, CJ Julian, Gary Scholton, Bill Murphy, Joe Fassel, Bill Rode, Chuck Nichols, Phil Huff, Steve Skulski, Greg Pico, Gordie Reese, Andy Daly, Bill Sloatman, Lee Kirsch, Dave Repsher, Sally Francklyn, Nick Pollard, Hagen Lyle, Dan Wardrop, Jamie Merickel Hodge, Larry Stone, Tom Festa, Rob Moreno, Devon Haire, Cody St. John, Jeremiah Peck, John Clauson, Ned Stock, Frankie Blotz, Dusty Reed, Norman Lastovica, Caswell Rico-Silver, Evan Brady, Charlie McGrail, Mike Collette, Cheryl Cwelich, Kyle Juszczyk, Dan Nicolls, Joey Stinson, Julia Makowski, Andy Majeski, Rich Rogers, Katie Kowalski, Pete Volkmann, Mark Walker, Josh Copelan and John Seiner.
As is ski patrol custom, when a patroller's name makes the news, he/she has to buy beer. That's lotsa suds.
To contribute to the book, contact John at email@example.com or on Twitter @coskipatrol and Instagram at @coloradoskipatrol.
Miles F. Porter IV, nicknamed "Spike," a Coloradan since 1949, is an Army veteran, former hardrock miner, graduate of Adams State College, and a local since 1982. An award-winning investigative reporter, he and wife Mary E. Staby owned newspapers here for 20 years. Email your social info to firstname.lastname@example.org.