Ben Emerson, a member of the Swain (NY) Ski Patrol died on June 17, 2009 at his home in Rochester, NY after a courageous year-long battle with cancer. He was 59 years old.
Ben joined the Swain Ski Patrol in 1977 and patrolled for 32 years, serving with distinction in a number of important capacities as a patroller, Assistant Patrol Director, instructor in multiple disciplines, instructor trainer, and region administrator. He became a Senior Patroller in 1989 and received National Appointment Number 7661 in 1993. His history of accomplishments over those years qualified him for the National Ski Patrol Distinguished Service Award on the basis of both his dedicated service to the skiing public and significant leadership in the National Ski Patrol. He also received the David Hanning Commendation Award for his contributions as a patroller, instructor, and administrator at Swain over the course of his patrol career and was twice named the recipient of the Roland Stevens Award as Genesee Valley Region Patroller of the year.
Ben’s greatest contribution over the years was in the area of training, including his work in Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC), Mountain Travel and Rescue (MTR), and Avalanche. From 1980 he served as a “First Aid,” “Winter Emergency Care,” and “Outdoor Emergency Care” Instructor throughout the evolution of this program in its various stages. Ben always assumed a leadership role in the emergency care training of both the Swain Ski Patrol and Genesee Valley Region. He led the Swain effort as “Assistant Patrol Leader for First Aid” as it was called in those days from 1983 to 1989 and was in charge of running both the on-the-hill refresher and the training and testing of the patrol candidate class each year.
After the WEC program was established, the Genesee Valley Region recruited him as the region WEC administrator to administer the region refreshers, instructor certification, and the newly minted region candidate class that combined all the candidates from the seven patrols in the region into one class. When WEC morphed into OEC, he was chosen by the region leadership to become an Instructor Trainer (IT) and he assumed a crucial role in the training and supervision of the region OEC instructors.
When the new Instructor Development Program was first instituted, he was assigned the task of teaching the Global Phase 2 and OEC Phase 2 courses for the Genesee Valley Region and he faithfully performed this duty until the mentoring program replaced Phase 2. Once the mentoring program began, he was chosen many times to act as a mentor or as an IT evaluator for OEC instructor candidates. In 2007, Ben reprised his role at the local level when he was appointed Assistant Patrol Director for OEC at Swain again. In addition to his regular OEC duties, he also served since 1992 as a Senior OEC Trainer/Evaluator (TE) and then as a Senior Emergency Management TE when that program was revised.
The quality of the emergency care provided to the skiing public throughout the Genesee Valley Region and at the Swain Ski Center in particular is a direct reflection of the significant contributions that he made to the training and refreshing of both the OEC instructors and the patrollers in the region.
Ben was also an MTR and Avalanche instructor, beginning in 1994. He put in extra time and effort as “Instructor of Record” for both Avalanche and MTR region classes in various years and participated in significant continuing education at the Eastern Division Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) Seminars in Hanover, New Hampshire and Regional Emergency Medical Organization (REMO) instructor meetings in Albany, NY. In addition, he acted as a mentor to both Avalanche and MTR instructor trainees to prepare them for their IT evaluations to become instructors.
Although Ben was a patroller for 32 years, his service longevity never enticed him to relax his contributions to ski patrolling or the skiing public. With his long list of accomplishments, he set an example for younger patrol candidates as he worked closely with them during the training season and served as a gentlemanly role model to aspire to as they completed their training.
In addition to his patrol activities, Ben was an avid curler and was a long time member of the Rochester Curling Club. He was also an expert photographer who had a great love of the esoteric art of black and white photography and of the restoration of classic photographs from the deep past. He was truly a master of the art of imaging important human events.
Ben is survived by his wife Karen, daughters Adrienne and Meredith, and his sister Lowell. Ben was both a friend and colleague of many patrollers throughout his years on the slopes and his ready smile, sincere friendship, and easy going manner will be missed by all who knew him.
Written by Nick Schiavetti, Swain Ski Patrol Alumnus