Patty Tasker was just 18 when she moved to Burlington, Vermont from Brattleboro in the late 1930s to work for the government. Skiing was increasing in popularity at the time and two ski clubs near Stowe, the Mount Mansfield Ski Club and the Burlington Ski Club, were helping to attract a lot of young adults to Northern Vermont on the ski trains and via automobile on New England’s rapidly expanding highway network.
A girlfriend of Patty’s in 1937 kept telling her about this guy, Winston “Win” Morris, that she just had to meet. He lived in her friend’s apartment building and worked for the National Cash Register company (NCR) in Burlington. Win spent a lot of time at Stowe in the winter, and was affiliated with the mountain and the Mount Mansfield Ski Club. Win (and later Patty) was among the first ski patrollers of the Mount Mansfield Ski Club when it established one of the first US patrols around 1935, the organization that ultimately spawned the National Ski Patrol.
They first met accidentally on 31 March 1937, with their first real date on skis at Stowe in April of 1937. The photo to the right is Patty around that time. Patty doesn’t recall the exact date. Winston took it and sent it to his nephew, who had just moved from New Hampshire to Washington DC. He apparently knew then that he would spend the rest of his life with her.
Before Patty left for that first date her girlfriend warned her, if Win asks you to go skiing, you just say yes. But don’t be one of those girls that falls and makes him pick you up off the snow all the time. There was no worry of that. Her dad had bought Patty her first pair of skis when she was just 5 years old. As Patty put it, “I didn’t like to ever take them off.” After their ski date her friend asked Win if he had to spend a lot of time waiting around for her. Patty heard him reply, “Are your kidding, she wore me out!” Those were the days before Stowe was serviced by lifts, and it took two hours for most people to climb the Nose Dive trail.
Patty and Winston eventually married. But not before the NSP was launched and Patty and Winston were among Stowe’s first patrollers. Winston joined the army on D-day, 6 June 1944, working in medical records due to his experience at NCR. He was not affiliated with the 10th Mountain Division as Minnie Dole and other NSP patrollers were. He did his training at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, Win was injured like many young men that went off to serve in World War II. He made it through the battles of Omaha Beach and the Battle of the Bulge, but his legs were seriously injured in a Jeep collision at the beginning of his trip back from Germany, and was unable to downhill ski again.
According to Patty, the patrollers at Stowe in its earliest days were mostly men, but there were some women. So contrary to popular belief, women served as full NSP Patrollers right from the start. And they were all competent skiers trained in first aid. Medical supplies and “sleds” were stored in strategically located “cabinets” throughout the mountain. Even she was amazed at how quickly they could respond to accidents. But luckily, as Patty said, there weren’t many of those.
When asked about her first aid training, she had to think about it. Patty remembered that there was excellent first aid training even then. But she came into it with a little experience from the girl scouts, which was required for the first aid merit badge. While Patty may or may not have been the first female ski patroller in what became the NSP, she was likely its first young adult patroller at 19. Patty turns 93 next month. And she was still on skis just 10 years ago, at 82. That means that Patty skied for 77 years. How many men or women have done that?
Winston Morris was an avid photographer. His family has preserved its collection of photographs of the early days of the Ski Patrol and racing at Stowe, and other locations throughout New England, including Mount Washington’s Tuckerman’s Revine. Many of those will be featured on ski-patrol.net in the months ahead.
Updated 29 September 2012