HANCOCK - The Mont Ripley Ski Patrol has existed since 1936, and two past members of the rescue squad think its function is so important they started a Keweenaw Community Foundation endowment to help fund it.
Mike Rose and Dick Gray started the ski patrol endowment last year, and they're hoping to encourage more people to donate to it to get it to the point where it can permanently fund the needs of the volunteer group.
Rose said he was a Mont Ripley Ski Patrol member in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and Gray was a member in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The two later met and became friends, and would talk about their time on the hill.
"We really have similar experiences in the ... ski patrol," he said.
Rose said because his wife, Barbara, is the executive director of the KCF, he thought of starting an endowment for the ski patrol.
"Maybe if we can get some seed money, somebody can run with it," he said of the endowment.
Howard Hasselhuhn, Mont Ripley Ski Patrol assistant director, said all the members of the group are volunteers, and they have to supply all their own equipment.
Mont Ripley is owned by Michigan Technological University, and although the ski patrol receives some funding from the university, the amount fluctuates.
"It depends on the year," he said.
Some years, Tech will fund up to 50 percent of the money the ski patrol needs, some years it's more.
"This year we were very fortunate and they funded 100 percent," Hasselhuhn said.
However, Hasselhuhn said how much the ski patrol needs varies each year.
The number of ski patrol members varies each year, also, Hasselhuhn said.
It can range from the 20s to about 50, and members range in age from 18 to 75 years old. Some members are Tech students.
Hasselhuhn said ski patrol members look for hazards on the ski slopes on Mont Ripley. They also perform rescues of skiers, for which they have CPR and other emergency training. They transport injured skiers off the slopes with a rescue toboggan.
Ski patrol members have to pay $100 in dues each year, in addition to whatever equipment they need to buy.
Gray said he and Mike Rose will match donations to the fund through December.
"We consider that as we've got it started rolling," he said.
Barbara Rose said the KCF has 62 endowments, including the new one for Mont Ripley.
One large donation to the ski patrol endowment, Barbara Rose said, came from a couple from Wisconsin who made a donation in the name of their son.
Barbara Rose said Mike Rose and Gray receive a quarterly report about the fund, from which they make decisions about how much to provide to the Mont Ripley Ski Patrol.
Hasselhuhn said having the new endowment will be a great help to the ski patrol.
"We could have really bad years (financially) and not be able to function adequately," he said. "When we get (the endowment) where it needs to be, it's going to be a great thing for the patrol and the community."
To donate to the Mont Ripley Ski Patrol endowment, go online at k-c-f.org, or call the KCF at 906-483-2211.