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Ski patrol wore many hats on slopes

The volunteers on the Detroit Mountain ski patrol helped a lot of people on the slopes over the years - through good weather and bad - and often had a blast doing it.

Karen Selberg-Lavelle
Karen Selberg-Lavelle shows photos from the old days on the Detroit Mountain Ski Patrol. She was the first female to serve on the patrol. Nathan Bowe / Forum Communications Co.

The volunteers on the Detroit Mountain ski patrol helped a lot of people on the slopes over the years - through good weather and bad - and often had a blast doing it.

For a long time, the young Karen Selberg (now Selberg-Lavelle) was the only female on the Detroit Mountain ski patrol. It was considered unusual enough that The Forum did a story about her in the early 1970s.

But it made perfect sense to Selberg-Levelle - combining her love of skiing (she started skiing at age 2 and grew up on the slopes) with an almost innate need to help people in trouble.

Selberg-Lavelle, 58, lives in the Fargo area and says her father, Norm "Rat" Selberg, started the all-volunteer ski patrol at Detroit Mountain.

Selberg-Lavelle and her brother, Eric, were natural ski patrol members and spent the better part of the 1960s with the patrol on Detroit Mountain.


Eric died at age 19 after being hit by a car while on a highway bicycle tour.

Early ski patrol members had to be part emergency medical technician, part ski instructor, part cop and part big brother (or sister) to kids on the slopes.

They taught people how to ski on the bunny slope - even going so far as to ski backwards while holding the newcomer's ski points together to show how to do it.

They put homemade wooden splints on injured legs and brought the victims down the hill - first to the lodge, and in later years to the first-aid cabin - on wooden toboggans made for the purpose.

They didn't get paid, but they skied for free, and they had a great time together, on and off the slopes, Selberg-Lavelle said.

They held impromptu jam sessions and hot pepper eating contests, did tricks on skis and partied at the Broken Wheel supper club.

"It was like a family," she said.

While Selberg-Lavelle was on the ski patrol in its early days, others - including Joe Schatt­schneider and David Squires, both of Detroit Lakes, were


on the patrol in its later years. Both started with the unofficial local ski patrol but became

certified with the national ski patrol, also volunteer, which came to replace it.

"Some lawsuits ended up shooting the hill in the foot, and it went down," Schatt­schneider said. Several ski patrol members suspected that Detroit Mountain would not be operating much longer and changed the ski patrol to a cross-country skiing emphasis, headquartered at Maplelag Resort.

David "Sharkey" Squires of Detroit Lakes joined the ski patrol at Detroit Mountain in 1979 and continues to serve on the Nordic ski patrol at Maplelag.

The NorthWest Nordic Ski Patrol is down to three active members and is looking for recruits, Squires said.

One of their big jobs each year is to work event patrol at the prestigious American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race in Hayward, Wis., he said.

More than 11,000 participants are expected this year.

Part of the reason the remaining ski patrol members stay active is to be ready in case Detroit Mountain reopens, Squires said, since it will be easier to restart the downhill ski patrol with active volunteers.


"It's so nice to have a mountain there," he added. "Hopefully someday, we'll have it back."

Nathan Bowe is a writer for the Detroit Lakes Tribune

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