SOUTH EGREMONT -- The cadre of volunteer Ski Patrol members at the Catamount Ski Area has been named the Outstanding Large Patrol of the Year in the Eastern Division.

The award is based on the level of training and certifications of the patrol members. Each nominee is evaluated anonymously on years of service, offices and adviserships held, awards won, participation in National Ski Patrol meetings, participation in public service events, training and testing policies, individual credentials earned and commitment to safety.

Volunteer members of a ski patrol work at every ski area as first responders on the slopes, handling emergency first aid and evacuation. Collectively, members of the ski patrol aid thousands of injured skiers and snowboarders every year.

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"I have great admiration for all first responders and our ski patrol," said Tom Edwards, president of Catamount. "Almost no ski area will likely operate without ski patrol on duty to be present to help with an injury. The Ski Patrol at Catamount goes well beyond that, and that is obvious by the many letters they receive from guests."

He said the ski area is proud its Ski Patrol was chosen "for what we have always admired -- their extraordinary dedication and commitment to work that they perform so well "

Catamount will receive a plaque to commemorate the achievement in the main lodge at 9 a.m., Sunday.

Each ski area sent a letter describing its ski patrol's training and certifications, according to Bud Gardner, director of the Catamount Ski Patrol.


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The anonymous letters are evaluated and awarded with no knowledge of which ski area they came from.

The Eastern Division covers 160 ski patrols in the Northeastern and mid Atlantic regions of the United States, from Maine to West Virginia.

Gardner said his Ski Patrol members are especially well-versed in rescue and removal because many of them take the training refresher course in September every year, then teach those refresher courses every November to other volunteers in local Ski Patrols.

"If you're teaching several first aid topics, you're going to be ready when you roll up on an accident," Gardner said.

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According to information provided by the ski area, the Catamount Ski Patrol's 55 members have contributed more than 800 combined years of service to Catamount. A quarter of the patrol has served more than 25 years, with the average tenure being 19 years, with a 95 percent retention rate. There are seven patrollers with multiple family members on the patrol, with one family contributing more than 100 years of service. Almost 60 percent of the patrol has achieved the prestigious rank of "senior." And two Catamount patrollers have achieved the National Ski Patrol's highest ranking of "certified." All Catamount patrollers must undergo yearly re-training in the areas of first aid, CPR, and ski and toboggan skills.

Bob Doolittle, an awards adviser for the Catamount Ski Patrol, said the Neefus family has three generations on the patrol, for a combined 100 years of service.

"The reason we won is that we have a high level of participation in national instructions and training," he added. "It's quite an honor."

"Both the men and women on patrol are extremely dedicated and are committed to helping people," said Rich Edwards, vice president at Catamount. "This accomplishment is more about the people than the mountain."

The Catamount Ski Patrol was founded in 1939 and became a member of the National Ski Patrol in 1958. The Eastern Division is one of nine major divisions of the National Ski Patrol and is comprised of 16 regions and more than 160 patrols from Maine to West Virginia. According to the National Ski Patrol web site, the nonprofit organization provides education and accreditation to 28,000 members on 650 different local ski patrols in the United States.

To reach Scott Stafford:
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