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Charles Minot Dole

Hall of Fame Class of 1958

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Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole is best known as the founder of the National ski patrol in 1938 and of the Tenth Mountain Division of ski troopers which gained fame during World War Two.

Born in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts on April 18, 1899, Charles “Minnie” dole was educated at Phillips Academy and Yale, class of 1923. After marrying Jane Ely and settling in her hometown of Greenwich, CT he went into the insurance business in New York City, NY. An outdoors enthusiast since his youth, he was a member of the prestigious New York amateur Ski Club headed up by Ronald Palmedo.

The Doles and their friends, Frank Edson and his wife, were skiing on the Toll Road at Mt. Mansfield over New Year’s in 1936 when Minnie fell, breaking an ankle. In those early days of skiing there were few skiers and little organized help, if any. Minnie endured a ride down the mountain on a piece of corrugated roofing, getting to a doctor two and a half hours later. In February, Frank Edson was killed in a race on the Ghost Trail at Pittsfield, MA when he hit a tree. This fatal accident shook up the skiing fraternity of the day. Having been impressed by the Parsenn Ski Patrol in Davos, Switzerland, Ronald Palmedo asked Minnie to head up a ski safety committee to study the causes and prevention of ski accidents. The subsequent ski safety report that Dole published in the 1936 American Ski Annual made recommendations for ski instruction, trail construction, physical conditioning, first aid and skiing control. National Ski Association president, Roger Langley was so impressed by the ski patrol in place for the 1938 National Championships on Mount Mansfield’s Nose Dive Trail that he asked Dole to organize such a ski patrol nationally. March, 1938 marked the founding of the National Ski Patrol system. Thus was born the National ski Patrol which remained a sub-committee of the NSA until 1958.

In 1939 soviet troops were overrunning Finland. The success of Finnish hit-and-run tactics on skis against superior Russian troops piqued the interest of Dole and his friends. Convinced of the United States’ need mountain troops, Dole immersed himself in a thorough study of winter training and military tactics abroad. Armed with a sheaf of facts, he approached Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall in September, 1940 with a proposal for training winter warfare troops. In response to Dole’s suggestion, six divisions were selected for experimental winter training during the winters of 1940-41. On November 15, 1941 the First Battalion of the 87th Infantry Mountain Regiment was activated at Fort Lewis, Washington. On July 15, 1943 a full complement of three regiments moved to Camp Hale, CO.

Tenth Mountain Division was officially designated on November 7, 1944. It was composed of volunteers, primarily of mountain climbers, ski patrollers and many other outdoorsmen. 11,000 of these were recruited through and had their applications processed by the NSP, the only civilian agency authorized by the War Department to recruit specialized personnel. Dole was so popular among the men that they named their bellwether mule ‘Minnie”. The Tenth faced its first serious combat in Italy in February, 1945, capturing the impregnable River Ridge and Mount Belvedere which spearheaded the Allied drive through the Po Valley. In 114 days of brutal fighting the Division lost almost 1,000 men.

Director of the National Ski Patrol from its inception until 1949, Dole was responsible for its expansion throughout the United States and received delegations from abroad which wanted to study the NSP model. Eventually Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan used the NSP example in setting up similar organizations.

Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole is a legend in the annals of skiing. “Minnie’s Mile” at Vail is named for him. As a founding father of both the National Ski Patrol System and the fabled 10th Mountain Division, Charles “Minnie” Dole was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1958.

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