Is There A Doctor In The House?

Published On October 22, 2018
Dr. Pedley’s (right) on-mountain x-ray machine was located on the bottom floor of the Basebox in the current kids lunch room. Howard Carr, Patrol Leader has the cross on his back.

Scott F. Pedley was Mad River Glen’s first doctor and is the honorary National Ski Patrol’s patrolman #1,

Dr. Pedley was born in Lyndonville, Vermont, on October 5, 1912. He graduated from the Lyndon Institute in 1931 and then from Dartmouth College in 1936. While at Dartmouth, he was a classmate of Dr. Edgar Hyde, Mad River Glen’s Honorary National Ski Patrolman #2. Scott went on to receive his medical degree from the New York University Medical School, after which he returned to Dartmouth to serve as the first resident of the Mary Hitchcock hospital (now the renowned Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center) in Hanover, New Hampshire.

During his undergraduate years at Dartmouth, Scott was very active in the outing and ski clubs. In 1935, he married Harriet Cowles, his wife of 68 years, who still lives in Northfield. They had four children: James (Jay), Polly, John and Mark.

Dr. Pedley gearing up to go skiing.

In 1945, the Pedley family moved to Northfield, where Scott and his college classmate, Dr. Edgar (Ed) Hyde, opened the Green Mountain Clinic, which was located on Main Street in Northfield. In addition to his practice at the clinic, Scott served as a general surgeon, obstetrician, and general practitioner at the Mayo Memorial Hospital, which once existed in Northfield.

Scott was an avid outdoorsman. He enjoyed fishing, hunting, boating and, especially, skiing. During one of his ski trips to Tuckerman’s Ravine in 1939 to watch the American Inferno Race, which ran from the top of Mt. Washington to Pinkham Notch, he saw Toni Matt, the newly-immigrated Austrian ski instructor, inadvertently make the most famous schuss in skiing history when, because of poor visibility, Matt missed the check-turn gate at the top of the headwall and, much to the horror and astonishment of spectators, schuss straight down the entire headwall. (The badly shaken Matt survived, easily set the all-time record for the Inferno Race, and later acknowledged that, once he realized what had happened and was inextricably committed to the schuss, he didn’t dare to even attempt a turn, which most likely would have lead to a catastrophe of some kind.)

Scott was the first doctor at Mad River Glen when the area opened in December of 1948. A pioneer in on-site medical treatment, he set up and equipped the original first aid room at Mad River Glen, which was located in the Basebox where the bar now exists. Toboggans were passed in and out of the room through a door in the backside of the Basebox. In 1950, he installed an x-ray machine and viewing screen so that broken bones (of which there were many in those years) could be x-rayed and cast within minutes of the accident, a procedure which lasted at Mad River Glen until about 1972, when more sophisticated medical facilities were established in The Valley and elsewhere. It was also about 1950 when Dr. Hyde, Scott’s long-time friend and partner at the Green Mountain Clinic came on board to work at Mad River Glen. By 1953, it was obvious that the first aid room needed to be expanded. Fortuitously, by then, the new, easterly, cathedral-ceilinged addition to the Basebox was completed, so the first aid room was moved into the basement of the addition, in the room where the ski school children now gather for lunches and other social events.

Patrol leader Howard Carr and Dr. Pedley a common ski injury of the day.

The first aid facilities at Mad River Glen were quite extraordinary for any ski area at the time, and for his innovative and comprehensive care of injured skiers at Mad River Glen, the first Honorary National Ski Patrolman award was bestowed on Dr. Pedley, in about 1951, by Roland Palmedo, who founded both Mad River Glen and the renowned National Ski Patrol System.

Soon after, Dr. Hyde, also a skier and medical practitioner at Mad River Glen, was awarded the second Honorary National Ski Patrolman badge. Perhaps no ski area in the country, at that time, had a more qualified first aid facility, staff, and ski patrol than did Mad River Glen.

In 1954, Dr. Pedley built a small cabin across the brook and to the north of the Basebox. It was called the Small Molecule, in deference to Roland’s little cabin, the Minuscule Molecule, which stood where the Cricket Club is today. Access to the Pedley cabin, where Scott and his family often spent Friday and Saturday nights, was by way of a footbridge over the Mill Brook, more or less where the present vehicular culvert exists today.

In 1956, the Pedley family carved and painted a large and very authentic looking totem pole. It stood at the westerly side of the cabin, supported by guy wires, for many years. Another interesting aspect of the cabin was that a branch line of the ski patrol first aid field telephone system, which had hand-cranked battery-powered telephones at strategic locations on the mountain and was used by skiers and patrolmen to report accidents, went directly to Scott’s cabin.

Thus, every time an accident was called in, the phone in Scott’s cabin would ring, alerting him (should he be in residence) of the accident so he could meet the toboggan when it arrived at the first aid room. Last, but not least, the cabin was the site of many a ski patrol après ski party, which were almost a regular weekend occurrence.

Dr. Pedley in a more relaxed moment.

In 1956, the year of the first Kandahar race at Mad River Glen, and two years after the Small Molecule was built, the Hutch complex was constructed. In 1959, when Scott left Mad River Glen and Vermont to start a medical research project at Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York, the cabin was sold. It has subsequently been physically incorporated as an addition to the unit at the westerly end of the Hutch. But it is still distinctly recognizable.

Scott and his family were all avid Mad River Glen skiers, especially son Jay, who learned the fine points of ski racing from race coach and mentor Warren Chivers while attending Vermont Academy in Saxton’s Falls.

Scott Pedley was, indeed, a dedicated and venerated member of the early Mad River Glen family. Dr. Pedley died peacefully at the Mayo Nursing Home in Northfield on November 8, 2003. He was 91.

Hail and farewell, old friend. We’ll miss you.
Bill Heinzerling, Fayston, VT

Bill Heinzerling, this essays author was once Mad River Glen’s Assistant GM, Patrol Director  and unofficial historian.