by Nathan Boddy
Anyone who skis is familiar with the red and black jackets worn by Ski Patrol. These standard colors, along with the white cross, indicate the wearer’s affiliation with a local Ski Patrol, as well as a national and international network of individuals whose goal is safety and assistance to the skiing public. Stephanie Mapelli, Assistant Patrol Representative and Treasurer, describes the Lost Trail Ski Patrol this way: “This patrol is part of a large family.”
Mapelli has been with the Lost Trail Ski Patrol (LTSP) for eight years, but has been skiing since she was 5, something that she describes as, “the best gift my mother ever gave me.” After a carer in non-profit work, however, she and her husband Micheal were adamant that working as Patrollers would be a part of their retirement. Says Mapelli, “It’s another way to give back to a sport that has given me so much.”
Although associated with, and critical to, the success of the Bitterroot Valley’s favorite ski area, the LSTP is essentially a stand alone entity. It is comprised of 64 individuals who are 100% volunteer, yet require yearly trainings, refreshers, and of course, time commitments ‘on the hill.’ Funds for their supplies and the training are obtained through two annual fundraisers, donations and a smattering of merchandise available at Lost Trail and through their website. One of those fundraisers, the Lost Trail Ski Patrol Steak Fry, is back this year after a two year hiatus, caused by Covid.
“We are so happy to be back this year,” says Mapelli, describing the the nature of the fundraiser. “And you want to talk about a community event!”
Mapelli points out that there are many folks who have never once missed the LTSP Steak Fry in its 37 years of operation, and that even last year the Patrol was able to raise money by selling their steaks in the snow covered parking lot at Lost Trail. The in-person event promises to be a lot more fun, however, and will include live music by Dan Dubuque and the traditional Torchlight Parade down South Face (albeit with LED lights rather than torches.)
As always, the prime graded sirloin will come from the Hamilton Packing Company, which Mapelli says, “is such an important part of our success.” She questions, “where else can a person get a steak, salad, homemade desert and a drink for 20 bucks?”
For those in the LTSP, like Patroller, Joe Rogish who has spent over forty days on the hill already this season, the hours spent are, “like being with family. You know the people, you enjoy being around them.” That team atmosphere is an important one for the function of a group that can be called upon to deal with hard circumstances. Earlier this year, LTSP was one of several groups involved in the search for a missing skier, whose body was ultimately found outside of the ski area boundary.
“There isn’t a person at Lost Trail, from the lifties, to the people in the shop, to the patrollers, who were not affected by that incident.” says Mapelli adding that, “When the call when out for assistance, everybody said ‘yes.’”
Despite the unfortunate outcome of the incident, Patrollers like Mapelli and Rogish love the work they do at Lost Trail. “Patrollers are first on, last off. Always. We see some of the most beautiful parts of the day, and some of the quietest parts of the day. We are ambassadors for Lost Trail, and we are ambassadors for the National Ski Patrol.”
Mapelli points to several dozen kids from Florence-Carlton School District who were enjoying a ‘ski day’ and learning the basics on the slope near the Patrol Shack. She adds with a smile, “We are in guest relations 100% of the time.”
The Lost Trail Ski Patrol Steak Fry will take place on Saturday, February 26th from 4:30 to 7:30. Tickets are available online or at Lost Trail Powder Mountain.