Pure Sole: Looking down, looking up

I have seen a lot.


Not just in life.

Looking down from my perch on various chairlifts at Eaglecrest I have seen many things.

The sights are both breathtaking and at times seemingly uninteresting.

They are everyday and they are extraordinary.

Among the sights there is one constant.

The Juneau Ski Patrol working the ridge, fixing things that are broken on the mountain.

The patrol finding an avalanche here, fixing a padding there, finding and fixing an outdoor adventurer, a tourist and/or a careless skier.

Quieting a youth who has fallen out of a chair lift.

Helping a newbie reattach a ski on 45-degree faces.

Scolding a smoker, praising a first-run accomplishment, nodding at those they pass.

A thankless job unless it is you looking up as the lift passes by.

I never talked to Robert Janes or Ronald Dippold.

When I was born in 1959, the two already had more than 40 years of service.

And I guess that is a good thing for me as a skier, but it is a bad thing for me as a human being.

The two long-time ski patrol members were rich in history and kindness.

They loved the mountains; from the Douglas snow bowl near the end of Dan Moller trail to the wealth of Eaglecrest’s many runs, and adventures across the bridge as well.

Like so many who have come after them on the slopes, they had their own lives, thoughts and pleasures and many only got to know them when in trouble on the hills.

I, unfortunately, had not been in trouble when they were watching the mountain.

The two passed this year, Robert C. Janes (Bob or Pop) on March 1 at age 92 and Ronald Matthew Dippold (Ron) on Feb. 17 at age 78.

Janes had just fewer than 50 patrol years and Dippold over 50 seasons patrolling.

Janes was a ranger with the U.S. Forest Service, a snow ranger for the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, worked on the rope tow and snow cat at 3rd Cabin, was a District governor for the Juneau Lions Club, developed the handicap ski program here and loved to hike and ski.

Dippold was once a Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy, joined the U.S. Forest Service, served as the Southeast regional director for the Alaska Division of the Red Cross and held every CPR and first aid instructor certificate available.

They will be honored on Sunday at 3 p.m. on Easy Bowl at the Eaglecrest Ski Area.

Clad in new and old ski patrol jackets, a long procession of patrol mourners will tow two empty sleds in their honor.

Snaking down the turns and gently rolling bumps, carrying winter from the mountain safely once again.

Looking down from the lifts or up from the lower mountains it will be a sight.

The most brilliant sight to behold, however, is yet to come. But I am in no hurry to see it.

Me, laying on my back, a ski here, and the other on a singular journey in no particular direction except one that is dictated by gravity ...

A pole stuck here, another buried in a location that Spring will find ...

My goggles around my neck ...

My helmet cushioning my wailing cries ...

That will be interesting ...

Looking up into the faces of the Eaglecrest Ski Patrol.

In their eyes and voices I may see the ghosts of Robert Janes and Ron Dippold looking down at me.

And I will be safe again.


  • Switchboard: 907-586-3740
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-586-3740
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Business Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-523-2230
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback