Soul Patrol: The Backcounty’s Original Rescue Squad

Each spring, a 20-person volunteer crew works alongside New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington Avalanche Center to educate Tuckerman Ravine skiers and provide rescue assistance. The group is officially known as the Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol (MWVSP), and John Kneiriem, a 25-year Tucks patroller, leads the force. Here’s his perspective on patrolling The Rock Pile.


The Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol’s domain. [Photo] Steve Bennett

Backcountry: What keeps somebody working there for so long?

John Kneiriem: The beauty of the place. It’s a mystic place, and the people who come to ski it are great. And then, of course, the service we provide.

BCM: How did the concept for MWVSP come about?

JK: In the late ’30s, there was a guy who came up all the time to ski, a first aider called Swampy Paris. Joe Dodge, who worked with the Appalachian Mountain Club in their formative years, talked Swampy into forming a safety patrol. In 1939, they officially called it the Mt. Washington Volunteer Ski Patrol.

BCM: What’s the traffic at Tuckerman Ravine been like recently?

JK: The volume is off, and we don’t know why. We used to routinely have crowds of 3-4,000, and now, getting a crowd of 3,000 is a rarity.

BCM: How has the role of MWVSP changed over the last decade or so?

JK: It’s interesting to note that our accident rate has gone down. We try to talk to everybody who comes into Hermit Lake to reinforce the conditions. Still, this is wilderness and natural terrain, and as equipment becomes better and better, people are becoming more adventurous.

This story was first published in the December 2013 issue of Backcountry Magazine.

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