Perisher Ski Patrol

Recovery and care for those injured skiing progressively developed into the highly trained, efficient and disciplined organisation that it is today.

Each ski area has its own special story to tell, Charlotte Pass, Guthega, Perisher Valley and Smiggin Holes each developed independently, later joining to be part of the Australian Ski Patrol Association (ASPA).  Over time ASPA has been a significant contributor to the consolidation of ski patrol organisations throughout the world.  George Freuden of the Thredbo Patrol is particular significant in this regard.



By Barrie Mitchell, First President.

If there are any mistakes in this, I will plead loss of memory but I do know that the Perisher Ski Patrol Association came into being in 1968 at my home in Blakehurst.

Prior to this in 1964, Brian Davidson moved from the Chalet at Charlotte’s Pass to Perisher.  Stan McGuinn was the operations manager for the commercial interests of K G Murray and employed Brian as the valley’s first Ski Patrol officer with a nursing sister to call on and control of the usual volunteers, one of whom I became during my many visits to Perisher.  In the same year (1964) Brian appointed Grant Turnbull as Perisher’s first professional patroller.

During the following two years, prior to his appointment to the Perisher Ski School in 1966, Grant was usually stationed at the base of the Mt. Perisher double chair where volunteers would turn up for patrol work, shovelling and slope marking.  To those of us who were reliable, capable of handling a sled and knew what we were doing, Grant would give a ski patrol “bib” which was made of red material with a white cross stitched on the front and back ( similar to the Swiss flag) .  In return for these duties, we were given free skiing for that day.

In 1966 after Grant’s appointment to the Perisher Ski School and with the accelerated growth in skiing numbers Stan McGuinn employed professional patrollers and this situation has continued to this day.

I skied in Europe in 1966 – 1967; it was during this trip that I became aware of the prevalence of ski patrollers and the duties they performed in the European ski fields.

The growth of skiing in Australia and the numbers of skiers on the slopes accelerated in the 60’s.  There existed a well run small volunteer ski patrol at Smiggin Holes, a very professional volunteer patrol at Thredbo and I felt that Perisher should have its own volunteer ski patrol.

Accordingly, I contacted the secretary of every Perisher ski club and asked that they notify their members that I intended to form a volunteer Perisher Ski Patrol and that I was holding a meeting at my home in Blakehurst (I think it was in March) in 1968.  The place was packed.  There must have been at least fifty skiers jammed in our lounge room.  The meeting elected me as President, Ron Pepper as Captain and Kav Reddan as Secretary.  I had the belief that our starting point had to be a patrol manual, which would communicate to the member the standards, practices, and operations of a voluntary ski patrol organization and that this manual be given to every member as soon as possible after joining.

I virtually gave up work for three weeks.  I wrote to the Canadian Ski Patrol Alliance for a copy of their manual and asked for permission to copy it.  As not all their ski lifts and sleds were the same as ours (for example we used the steel handled “akja” sled where they used sleds controlled by ropes) I consequently had to change some of the terminology but retained safety procedures.

Every page of the Canadian manual had to be re-typed on a special surface that could be attached to a steel barrel that would be then fitted to a “Gestetner” machine.  Once fitted and filled with a special ink the drum would be turned by a handle and a printed page could be produced every three seconds.  Ron Pepper, our captain, worked in Wollongong Hospital and had access to a “Gestetner”.  I would get a number of pages typed out in Sydney and drive to Wollongong in the evenings to get them printed on the “Gestetner”.  After a few weeks of this we finally had a manual but without a printed and bound cover.

I went to Mr.K.G.Murray’s office in Clarence Street, Sydney and told him that we had the basis of a volunteer Perisher Ski Patrol.  Its reply was ‘I suppose you need a donation?”.  He promptly wrote a cheque for $500!

We now had a membership and an official manual that enabled us to communicate to members the standards, obligations and requirements of membership.

Then all sorts of problems arose.  Perisher employed three professional patrollers to cover the entire area where I envisaged two volunteer patrollers for each lift.  Our communication with Perisher management was poor in that we could not agree on rosters or numbers.  I had the feeling that management did not take us too seriously and that the professionals did not really want us as they thought they might lose their jobs.

I was a representative of the AMP Society at the time that meant that I was really self-employed.  As I worked from home, I had no office facilities such as staff or office equipment to help with communications or the running of the patrol.  Furthermore, I was getting married in 1970, responsibilities were beginning to develop and business time was becoming more important than skiing time.  I felt that I had bitten off more than I could chew” so in 1970 I resigned from the operation and Bert Gardner was elected the new president.

Bert had a successful electrical contracting business at Production Avenue, Kogarah.  He was a born organiser and possessed real community spirit and turned my failures into success.

As I write this today in 2011, the Perisher Ski Patrol Association is a viable, successful and desirable organization that is the result of the dedication, enthusiasm and efforts of Bert Gardner in the 1970’s.

Barrie Mitchell – June 2011