Ski Patrol alums launch endowment for Mont Ripley

HOUGHTON – A Keweenaw Community Foundation endowment created to bring financial stability to the Mont Ripley Ski Patrol has grown rapidly since its 2012 creation, and will likely offer the patrol a significant payout when annual funding becomes available in May.

The endowment is currently valued at about $14,000, nearly one-fourth of what could generate enough interest annually to pay for the patrol’s equipment, medical supplies and other needs, according to former Ski Patrol member and fund co-creator Mike Rose.

Much of the money so far has been put up by Rose and Dick Gray, both of whom served on the Ripley Ski Patrol at different times.

“Dick and I got it rolling, but we can’t do it all,” Rose said. “If I could have a perfect world, it would be one where someone would say ‘Wow, I want to be the champion for the next $16,000.'”

Ripley Ski Patrol Assistant Director Howard Haselhuhn said each volunteer Ski Patrol member pays about $100 annually in local, regional and national dues. In return, he or she gets to rescue skiers and snowboarders injured on the slopes, patrol in all sorts of weather, and police ski hill users acting dangerously.

He said the patrol has to spend from $2,000 to $3,000 per year on sleds for injured skiers, medical supplies and other equipment, and that some costs come out of the dues.

Most years recently, Michigan Tech, which owns the hill, has agreed to pay the lion’s share of the bills. But there’s no guarantee, and if the university turns them down, patrollers could be forced to dig deeper into their own pockets.

Haselhuhn said funds from the endowment would make the patrol more self-reliant – and that the effort itself is appreciated.

“It means a lot to us,” he said. “People like Dick and Mike tell us that we have a purpose here, that we’re doing good.”

Rose came up with the idea for the endowment after he and Gray met and began discussing their experiences in the ski patrol, Rose in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and Gray in the late ’70s and early ’80s. They never served together, but still shared memories of tight funding for an organization made up largely of students.

Rose’s wife, Barbara Rose, is executive director of the Community Foundation, so the idea for an endowment came naturally.

Mike Rose and Gray donated the first $4,000, then they agreed to match whatever the Ski Patrol could raise in 2013, up to another $4,000.

The patrol took advantage of that offer. Haselhuhn said they secured donations from the organizers of events where they offered first aid in the off season; Kimberly Clark, which has a program to reward volunteer efforts of its employees; and from the Stuart Mitkey Memorial Fund, in memory of a Mont Ripley Ski Patrol member who passed away suddenly at the age of 25 a couple of years ago.

KCF fund endowment recipients are not allowed to use the funds’ principal to cover costs, only the annual investment earnings from that principal. Rose said the Ski Patrol was deserving of whatever donations other members of the community were willing to make.

“They provide a valuable service to the community,” he said. “If you’re a skier or anyone who goes to that hill, you might break a leg, and you don’t have to consider how you’d get down that hill. … Most likely, you’ve never worried, just assumed the ski patrol is there.”

If you’d like to donate, call the Keweenaw Community Foundation at 482-9673.