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The case of the missing patrol scrapbooks

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

There are many mysteries that present themselves to the Snowmass ski patrol in any given winter.

Which snowboarder left a piece of their sweater on the rope they just ducked? Why did one avalanche-prone slope give way after being bombed but another did not? What were the real names of those three girls in the Mountain Dragon last night?

But one mystery this season has the patrollers positively stumped.

Two of the three scrapbooks the Snowmass patrol has been keeping since the ski area’s opening 1967-68 season have disappeared from the Elk Camp patrol shack.

The black, large-format scrapbooks were filled with photos and newspaper clippings that documented the on-mountain and off-mountain adventures and exploits of the patrollers.

They include annual end-of-season group photos, articles from 1972 on the first female patrollers, photos of the annual patrollers’ ball where the rookie-of-the-year and other awards are given out, and photos of patrollers on the mountain in winter, on the river in summer, and in the bar at night.

Each of the photos easily sparked colorful and classic tales about days, and friends, gone by. And the early “class” photos were handy to track which patrollers were still working after all these years, and which patrollers had gone on to become real estate brokers, businessmen, mountain managers or moms.

For the tight-knit patrol, which often functions much like a fraternal organization, the missing scrapbooks are a real loss.

Many patrollers at the Snowmass Ski Area have spent over 20 years on patrol. Snowmass is their winter home. The patrol is their social circle. And the scrapbooks are their illustrated history books.

On one afternoon last month, there were five patrollers in the Elk Camp patrol shack. They had logged either 28, 21, 34, 30 or 32 years on patrol. It was easy to see the value the missing scrapbooks have by huddling around the remaining book with the veteran patrollers.

Each page prompted a comment such as “Hey, there’s a picture of me with a flatter stomach,” or “Oh yeah, I remember those girls,” or “Hey, you know, both of these guys in this photo are dead now.”

“There is a lot of history in the books,” said Don Krumm, a patrol supervisor who has been at Snowmass since the 1968-69 season. “And there is a lot of emotion. A lot of the photographs in there are of friends that are no longer around, and there is a certain amount of reverence for your friends.”

The scrapbooks were often used to help educate rookie members of the patrol. And they had photos of the patrollers whose names are memorialized on trails at Snowmass such as Cookies, Gowdy’s, Willy’s, Cassady’s, Reidar’s and Roberto’s.

“There are photos in there that were taken before a number of our current patrollers were even born,” Krumm said.

One of the two missing scrapbooks covers the earliest days of the Snowmass patrol. The other one was still a work in progress and covered the last 10 years or so. The middle book, still in the patrol’s possession, covers the late 1970s and 1980s.

The books were carefully tended and added to by both Krumm and Susan “Mouse” Carollo, a patrol supervisor at Snowmass.

The three books were stacked up one day in early February on a desk in the corner of the patrol room. The next day, two of the scrapbooks were simply gone.

At first, the patrol members thought perhaps they had been borrowed by a Skico employee preparing for a party recognizing longtime employees. But that’s apparently not the case.

Then, they surmised, perhaps they had been taken off the mountain by a patroller who wanted to make some copies of some photos in the scrapbooks. But that didn’t pan out, either.

“I can’t imagine why or how or who,” said Daryl Pedersson, the patrol director at Snowmass. “Is it a joke? Is it malicious? It would be one thing if we found them out in the snow torn up in pieces or something. But we can’t find anything.”

The patrollers have looked in every nook and cranny of the Elk Camp patrol shack. And they even worked with the avalanche search dogs to see if they could sniff them out.

The Elk Camp shack and warming hut is left open during the evening, so it is possible that someone hiked or snowmobiled up and took the scrapbooks, perhaps as an act of revenge for getting their pass pulled by the patrol for poaching.

But no one knows for sure.

“It’s a blank,” said Tom Suzawith, who has been patrolling at Snowmass for over three decades. “That’s the stinging part. It doesn’t make any sense.”

[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is bgs@aspentimes.com]


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