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ASP Nordic Ski Patrol Director Mary MacQueen has been chosen as the “National Outstanding Nordic Patroller for 2018.” She will be recognized at a reception held in her honor, Jan. 26, when she will receive the official award.
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Carrying her backpack filled with emergency supplies, MacQueen is shown on the Art Rosco Ski Trail, near Summit, at Allegany State Park.

By Deb Everts

Mary MacQueen, patrol director and instructor for Allegany State Park’s (ASP) Nordic Ski Patrol, has been chosen by the National Ski Patrol to receive the “National Outstanding Nordic Patroller for 2018” award.

She will be presented with the award at a ceremony held in her recognition at Allegany State Park’s Red House Administration Building, Jan. 26. MacQueen will be honored at the reception and officially receive her award on behalf of the over 28,000 members of the National Ski Patrol System.

Among those expected to attend will be the 18 volunteer Nordic Ski Patrollers who serve under MacQueen’s leadership, Western New York Region Director Dan Meess, Allegany State Park Manager Tom Livak and John Snyder, Red House manager.

MacQueen said it’s a big honor to be chosen to receive this award from the National Ski Patrol, and she couldn’t imagine getting anything nicer. She said it’s a gift.

“It’s an honor, but it’s also funny because those of us who love the ski patrol — it’s in our blood,” she said. “Anytime there’s an event or a training going on in our division [Eastern Division of the National Ski Patrol], we go because it’s our friends who are there teaching. We don’t go because we have to; we go because we want to. These people are like family. It’s more of the camaraderie than anything else.

MacQueen liked the Mountain Travel and Rescue and Nordic aspects so much that, along with her husband, Butch MacQueen, who is a Nordic Master, she decided to start the first Nordic Patrol in Western New York at Allegany State Park in 2002.

She said four patrollers out of the original five still volunteer on the ski patrol. Besides herself, the other three are Butch MacQueen, Bill Westner and Gary Maslanka.

As the founder of Kinzua Search Dogs and involved in search and rescue teams in New York State since about 1995, MacQueen was accepted into the Nordic Master program. In April 2017, she became one of 11 Nordic Masters in the country, which is the highest level in the National Ski Patrol.

As a matter-of-fact, she is one of only two women in the nation who have earned the certification.

For more than four years, MacQueen worked on her Nordic Master certification. During that time, she trained mostly in the Eastern Division of the National Ski Patrol that encompasses 15 regions throughout the Northeastern United States.

MacQueen said being a Nordic Master enables her to better train the volunteers of the ASP Nordic Ski Patrol on the highest level. She said the status enables her to be a little more knowledgeable in the information that she disseminates to the people, as well as having more “tricks of the trade” up her sleeve, so to speak.

“One of the classes you must have to be a Nordic ski patroller, as opposed to Alpine, is called ‘Mountain Travel and Rescue,’” she said. “That class teaches you about navigation, shelters and travel in the outdoors, as well as hazards like avalanches and a higher level of first aid. The first aid skills are geared more toward long-term care of an injured person because it could be hours or days before help arrives. So, every year, we have to refresh on it.”

MacQueen said being a Nordic patroller is a lot more than giving first aid. There’s also a lot of public relations involved. She said when they get to the warming hut at Summit in the park and talk to people, a lot of times they want to know how the trail conditions are and where they can rent equipment.

“Typically, a lot of people who go cross country skiing have never done it before and don’t know how to do it, so when the patrollers are there and see somebody having difficulty on the trail, they’ll stop and give them a hand along with some ski tips to help them get interested in the sport and to make their trip out a little more enjoyable,” she said.

According to MacQueen, she keeps doing this service for Allegany State Park because it gives her the continued opportunity to do what she loves to do, which is being in the outdoors hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and helping the public.

She said the Nordic patrollers do it because they really love the outdoors, so the nice thing about this award is it’s recognizing her for loving the outdoors.

MacQueen is a Deputy Sheriff for the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department, and a licensed New York State Guide for hiking, camping and outdoor skills. She is also certified by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) as a wilderness searcher and crew boss.