The earliest known recordings of skiing in Europe date back at least 4000 years to the
Rødøy rock carvings in the Nordland of Norway.
This legacy is proudly represented on its home turf on behalf of the National Ski Patrol System through the European Division.
History of the European Division
Original accounts provided by
Chuck Vernier (1950-1960)
Maureen Marks 1961-1989)
Mike Staszewski (1990-Present)
Post World War II, 1946 and the 1950’s…
Following World War II, the United States Army acquired control of several hotels in the areas of Berchtesgaden and Garmisch, Germany. These cities are located in southern Germany in the immediate vicinity of the world- famous Alps. From 1946, when the Armed Forces took over the recreation centers, until 1951, people who were hurt skiing in these areas had to rely entirely upon fellow skiers for aid.
In 1951, Mr. Ervin Boswell, the Safety Director in the G1 section of Southern Area Command Headquarters, located in Munich, Germany became aware of a problem. Not only were a large number of the members of the Armed Forces being injured on the ski slopes, but those who were, faced the problem of being unable to communicate with the German patrols and had difficulties in explaining their injuries for proper aid. The Commanding General, Southern Area Command left the problem with Mr. Boswell, who was among other things, a ski enthusiast. Mr. Boswell asked German ski instructors to submit a list of names from the most qualified skiers they had observed that were members of the Armed Forces. From this list, Mr. Boswell, with approval from the National Ski Patrol System Headquarters in Denver, Colorado, organized a patrol entity, starting with 10 volunteer members. These members were placed on temporary duty from their military organizations to qualify for the patrol system.
In 1952, the European Division of the National Ski Patrol was established in Germany under the Directorship of U.S. Army Colonel Jim Kavins. It was formed from members of the famed 10th Mountain Division for the convenience and safety of American skiers using the existing US recreational areas in Garmisch and Berchtesgaden, West Germany.
In the mid-fifties the 10th Mountain Division was deactivated and the expertise to provide patrollers to the Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC) departed with the Division's members. During this period, Colonel Kavins moved from England to Germany and, under his leadership, the European Division took over the mission of training soldiers from other military units in Germany to function as Ski Patrollers at the AFRC ski areas in Garmisch, Berchtesgaden and later at Chiemsee. Soldier/patrollers existed until 1982 when the program gave way to AFRC paid professional patrollers.
In an interesting side note, and one that is important to the Division history dates to the 1968/69 time frame when the Association of American Ski Clubs in Europe approached Richard “Dick” Reppard, a member of NSP stationed in Germany, and requested NSP support for their clubs. Although not in a leadership position at that time, Dick approached the National Headquarters in Denver, received approval, and was instrumental in volunteer patrollers appearing on the scene to support American ski clubs. Because of his efforts, Colonel Kavins appointed Dick the German Region Director for NSP.
The period 1971 to 1973 was a transition period with the Division Directorship passing to Dick Starke in England. It was during this period that NSP accreditation of the 200 military ski patrollers was withdrawn, leaving the volunteer NSP patrollers as the sole NSP contingent in Europe. In January 1974, Dick Reppard was appointed Division Director by Harry Pollard, the National Director. With his appointment, the Division was renamed the International Division and the traditional NSP structure was completed to the Section and Patrol level. It was not until this appointment that the Division came into its own.
Dick and Leif Lundkvist , both of whom still live in Germany today, and Jim Fadden, of Midlothian, Virginia, breathed life and vigor into the Division. Membership numbers during the 1970s were between 400 and 500. In addition to the patrols in Germany, patrols were also formed in Spain, Italy, Israel, and Greece - wherever the American military and civilian support teams were stationed and skiing was available. Skiing in Europe was in its heyday in the 1970s, and the exploits and tales of those earlier days are many.
It was during the 1970s, for example, that International Division started working the Lauberhorn FIS World Cup race at Wengen, Switzerland with the Swiss Rescue Service. The very first year, 9 male and one female NSP members joined the Swiss at Wengen. She was the first and the last woman to work the race for a very long time. The Swiss were amazed to see a woman patroller, since they did not exist in those days – and still do not today in Switzerland. The International Division sent four Senior level patrollers every year to work this World Cup event with the Swiss (at Swiss expense and male only) until the mid 1990’s when Swiss support for our participation ceased.
During the early to late seventies, numerous NSP events were hosted in Europe by the International Division. Avalanche and mountaineering seminars and other ski patrol activities were very popular with the stateside visitors.
Sep 1985 – The first edition Winter Emergency Care (WEC) course is introduced and field tested in the Division.
Dick Reppard remained Division Director until May 1988, when that position was taken over by Sam Marks, the previous German Region Director. In one of his first efforts as Division Director, Sam Marks and the BoD changed the Division name from “International” to back to “European”.
The lifeblood of the patrol in Europe has always been the military. There were approximately 500,000 Americans (servicemen, Department of Defense civilians, and their families) stationed in Germany. Over the years approximately three-fourths of the male and female members of the patrol have been military or associated with the military. The unfortunate price paid for this association is the turnover of members, since three or four years is the normal military tour of duty and five years the maximum for many civilians; hence, Europe's loss is the States' gain.
The large American presence in Germany meant many Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) teachers and support staffs were young and wanted to have a venue to impact the communities outside the school houses. They turned to their older students and formed many different clubs, including those for skiing. Many were ski instructors in their own right. Then, in the summer of 1986, a rising senior student transferring to Germany read an article in the “National Geographic World” about ski patrolling in Europe and authored by Division Director Dick Reppard. She sent Dick a letter showing her interest in becoming a patroller and he answered it. Thus, was born the Junior Patroller program in the European Division. At the time, her father couldn’t even spell Ski Patroller. Little did he know what was in store for him as that same Father would be elected to the Division Director position in Feb 2000.
The close relationship developed in the late sixties continues to exist between the American ski clubs in Germany and the National Ski Patrol. There are American ski clubs where US forces are stationed. Since the NSPS Patrols, with the exception of Garmisch, do not have their own ski areas, patrolling is done through the military community ski clubs, on weekend and week-long trips. Active volunteer patrols in the 1980’s… are in Frankfurt, Ramstein, Heidelberg, Stuttgart, Nürnberg, Garmisch, Munich, Bad Aibling Station, Wildflecken, Vicenza and Naples. In addition, members of the professional patrols at the AFRC areas of Berchtesgaden, Garmisch and Chiemsee have belonged to NSP and volunteer NSP patrollers are welcomed to patrol at Chiemsee and Berchtesgaden.
Division Director Sam Marks, his wife Maureen (Mo) and Germany Region Director Cecil Locklear orchestrate and star is a series of AFN infomercials on the subject of outdoor winter safety and protecting yourself in the outdoor elements. These series of infomercials would broadcast well into the mid 90s.
Feb 1990 - Al Howarth is formally elected Division Director replacing Sam Marks.
Jun 1992 – The European Division hosts the National Annual Meeting at AFRC Chiemsee, Germany. Marlen Guell passed the National Chairman torch to Jack Mason. Adam Cohen is formally elected Division Director replacing Al Howarth. The precision with which this event was orchestrated and carried out was talked about by the National staff for many years afterward. A surprise marriage proposal also took place at the National awards banquet.
Feb 1994 - Shirley Opperman is formally elected Division Director replacing Adam Cohen.
Jul 1995 – Mike Staszewski resigns as the Odenwald Section Chief to assume the remaining term of Shirley Opperman’s Division Director position due to returning back to the US.
Feb 1996 – Mike Staszewski is formally elected Division Director.
May 1997 - Mike Staszewski resigns as Division Director pending military retirement. John P. Shaffer is appointed as interim Division Director to fulfill the remainder of the term.
Feb 1998 – John Stauffer is formally elected as Division Director.
Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) transitions begin to take their toll on the membership. As the European population continues to shrink, so does the membership pool of potential recruiting opportunities. Creativity and persistence is needed to sustain the viability of the membership as a Division.
Feb 2000 – Terry Petze is formally elected as Division Director. Terry quickly appoints Mike Staszewski as the very first-ever Assistant Division Director.
Jun 2002 - The European Division hosts the National Annual Meeting at AFRC Garmisch, Germany. This would be the last time the National BoD Meeting is host by any Division as the BoD voted to conduct all future National Meetings within the area surrounding the Denver Colorado.
Jan 2005 – The Frankfurt Patrol (U005) membership is dwindling. Members are departing or moving to other locations. The last remaining members will be absorbed into Heidelberg (U007), Stuttgart (U008) and Ramstein (U011). The Frankfurt Patrol remains an active patrol on the National roster as does Oberbayern (U004) with no members and no PD assigned.
Jun 2005 – Jeff Hiatt approaches the European Division leadership to pursue establishing an NSP presence at Ski Dubai, UAE. This has proven to be a very positive step forward resulting in the opening of a whole new membership avenue.
Ben Reed (Garmisch Patrol) establishes the foundation with the Bichlbach, Austria ski lift folks to allow the Southern Region to host OTH training at their area replacing the Garmisch valley as the Region training venue. It is a very positive reception and we’re going full speed into Bichlbach with great anticipation.
Jan 2007 – In coordination with the Eastern Division Director, the National board realigns the West Point Ski Patrol under the European Division. The patrol is designated as U015 under the Northern Region Director.
April 2007 – An 11 member Ski Dubai paid patrol is officially certified by a 3 member Division level Instructor cadre. These members are placed under the oversight of the Heidelberg Patrol Director (U007).
Nov 2007 – A Memorandum Of Agreement (MOA) is signed by Division leadership and the Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC) at Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, Germany to implement Division provided Patroller coverage at the Hausberg Lodge “backyard’ on weekends, US holidays and selected week-long periods of high patronage. The backyard is viewed as the Division’s achievement to finally have an “area” for the membership to patrol.
Jan 2009 – The Ski Dubai paid patrol members currently registered under the Heidelberg Patrol Director (U007) are transferred to the Division Admin Patrol (014).
March 2009 – AFRC is approached to renew the MOA and answer the question of AFRC providing liability insurance for attending patrollers. In the coming months, the legal beagles get involved and AFRC terminates the MOA based on a “financial decision”. This leaves the Division without an “area” to patrol.
Our footprint of enduring installations is getting smaller.
Mar 2010 – Jack Smithback initiates a dialogue with Andre Sellinger, the Berwang Lead Patrol Supervisor, to approach the Division to form an alliance with the Austrian patrol system in the valley. The Division Legal Counsel is engaged to check patrolling requirements in a foreign country not associated with a US military community. This is viewed as a win-win situation for all concerned and there is great enthusiasm towards this effort.
Feb 2011 – Andre Sellinger is not assuming the Berwang Lead Patrol Supervisor position for another term. Another supervisor replaces Andre and so far has not been receptive to the NSP alliance Andre put into motion.
Jan 2012 – At the eleventh hour, for the first time in Division history, the Northern Region Director has to cancel the season’s first OTH training weekend in Lauterbruunen, Switzerland because of too much snow! All transportation/lift systems in the valley servicing our usual training venue were closed for the entire weekend. Got to hope this never happens again!
May 2012 – At the annual Division meeting in Garmisch, Germany, a European Division BoD decision approves the renaming of Frankfurt (U005) Patrol to create a Zurich Patrol (U005) in Zurich, Switzerland with Bernadette Haslam as the PD.
- Ben Reed reports to the BoD that the new Berwang Patrol management remains not receptive to furthering an NSP alliance. The BoD voted to abandon the Berwang effort.
Jul 2012 – Efforts to establish a patrol presence in Vicenza, Italy are very positive. Ten members are registered under the U014-Admin Patrol, Mike Staszewski, PD. When it is viewed that the Vicenza contingent can sustain itself, a proposal will be put to the Division BoD to establish a patrol there under the Southern Region Director. Mr Steve Funk is doing the heavy lifting to get this initiative off the ground.
Oct 2012 – An NSPS BoD decision realigns the West Point Patrol (U015) back under Eastern Division effective 1 Jan 2013.
May 2013 – At the Annual BoD meeting, the Heidelberg Patrol (U007) is renamed the “Hessen” Patrol and relocated from Heidelberg to Wiesbaden due to closure of the Heidelberg military community. Bavarian Patrol (U002) is renamed to “Bavaria” Patrol and absorbs the Garmisch Patrol (U012).
- As the military presence in Europe continues to reduce in size and alternate basing decisions are taken by the US government, the Division has taken on the challenge of helping patrollers relocate to remaining patrols in Europe or the US. Thus comes the Division’s opportunity to give back to these patrollers some of what they have given.
- The Naples (U013) patrol is renamed to Vicenza (U013). Effective with the 2014 NSPS registration cycle, Vicenza (U013) is a fully registered patrol with 13 members. Seems as one door closes, another opens.
Jan 2014 – Zurich (U005) acquires members by transferring Switzerland based patrollers from other existing patrols.
Feb 2015 – Ms. Micaela Saeftel is elected as the new Division Director. A grateful Division membership thanks Mr. Terry Petze as he steps down as one of two 14 Year serving Division Directors (Dick Reppard is the other, 1974-1988).