Mammoth Mountain to host first-ever Ski Patrol reunion May 5-7
“It’s the kind of job that other people just cannot relate to… and that’s part of the bond, the camaraderies. We could tell the stories for years,” says former ski patroller Ian Scott. Scott is one of the organizers of Mammoth Mountain’s first Ski Patrol reunion, which will take place from May 5-7 and bring together patrollers from the era of Dave McCoy’s rope tow on McGee Mountain to those still protecting skiers at Mammoth today.
It started as just a hint of an idea—a Mammoth Ski Patrol Facebook group where members shared memories, photos and war stories from their times at Mammoth.
“A couple of guys who worked on patrol for 20-some years said, ‘Hey, we should get together and celebrate those who have worked so hard to keep this mountain safe,’” said Steven McGrath, the media representative for the reunion. And so began the plans for the “three days of skiing, barbecueing, debauchery, and toboggan races,” to take place at Mammoth Mountain. “People are coming from all over the country to do this,” said McGrath.
Some don’t have to travel very far. Daryl “Animal” Aukee, 82, lives in Bishop, with his wife Mary Lou, whom he met when she gave him a haircut as per Dave McCoy’s wishes. Aukee was the head of Mammoth Ski Patrol from 1959-64. He was a surfer from La Jolla whose friend one day asked him if he wanted to learn to ski. Sure, he said. They took off for Aspen the next week, where they’d earn lift tickets by ski-and-boot packing for the resort (it was a tough life before lifts and snow cats).
After a winter of skiing, Aukee hitchhiked to Sun Valley, ID and then to Tahoe. He was headed back to La Jolla, “and on my way back to the beach I stopped in Mammoth. I was just sneaking around the lifts. Tony Milici, who ran the cafeteria, gave me a job.”
The next fall, he was offered a gig with ski patrol. Halfway through the season, his supervisor ran off with his gal, a nurse, and Aukee was offered his position.
The Sheet: So you learned to ski one winter and the next, you were head of ski patrol?
Aukee: “Well, I’d been a surfer, so someone just told me, ‘Instead of leaning back, you lean forward!’ I was pretty lucky, I had a lot of friends who were really good skiers, and they spent some time with me.”
The best part about the new job was the raise—Aukee now earned $250 a week, plus room and board. This was a windfall—most patrollers, according to Dick “Gremlin” Dahlgren (he started patrolling in 1959), earned only $125 a week. Luckily, Dahlgren said, beer only cost 25 cents a bottle at the Mammoth Tavern.
“We would go down to the Mammoth Tavern and just plop down our paychecks to pay off the beer that we drank the week before,” said
Dahlgren who, at almost eighty, sounds over the phone like he should still be out patrolling. Ever been down Gremlin’s? It’s an ode to Dahlgren’s favorite run to sweep.
“There weren’t a lot of people working there, but we all looked out for each other,” said Aukee, who estimates he oversaw about seven full-time patrollers a season. Others volunteered on holidays and weekends. “It was more like a family. We worked together and we all lived and played together too.”