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Why should I want to become a Ski Patroller?

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 
I was up at my local hill this past weekend, and I started a conversation on the lift with a volunteer patroller. I asked him what it takes to become such, what the obligations were to the mountain, and other related topics. He seemed very excited that I was interested and wanted me to meet with the lead patroller to discuss my interest further. It does sound appealing, but what is the real deal? Why should I want to be a patroller? With season pass prices so low, and with hook ups in the industry, the benefits seem limited. I realize that this is a very "me" centered approach, but with the limited amount of time that I get to ski these days, why would I want to spend my time skiing dealing with injuries and all the rest? Anyone presonal insight would be greatly appreciated!!

p.s. I did 8-years as a shop tech, so I feel that I have already given enough of myself to the industry. I need a bigger reason than that.
post #2 of 45
I was/still am considering it. Benefits: training (medical/outdoor rescue) and season passes for the family and "doing good" part of course. When my son is old enough to go skiing even with low prices, times three is still steep. I would like to do it out West though, skiing the same groomer back and forth at home may get boring. I would talk to people about how patrollers are getting treated where you plan to become one, I have heard horror stories about having to shovel parking spaces most of the day.
post #3 of 45
As far as I can see all the previous comments are correct. Patrolling varies from Mtn. to Mtn. It is not cheap. You may get blinded by the savings of Passes, but there are many hidden expenses (once again depending on where you "volenteer".)

The first aid part requires you to successfully pass a minimun 120 hour emergancy aid course that National created. It is basiclly an EMT B course without cars. This course could be longer depending on mountain training requirements. After you have passed this course and are a candidate you start working on how to run toboggans. If you have the basics as a skier running toboggans shouldn't be a problem. Ususally you take a skiing test before the patrol considers you but many areas feel that if you can do first aid they can teach you to ski. So once again that varies. Once you have passed the OEC course you need to go thru a 10+ hour refreasher every year. Which includes first aid, CPR and mountain procedures. A volenteer usually is required to patrol 20-25 days a season.

Patrolling could mean many things. Generally I find that work, besides first aid, consists of trail maintenance and hazard marking, supporting races, and anything else the mountain feels they can get away with. Remember you will be an employee of the mountain not NSP.

Your skiing will definately improve. You will be skiing things you never thought you would. You will be skiing in all kinds of weather, it's amazing to find that skiing in the rain is acutally fun. Ice storms arn't too thrilling though.

Cost varies also. Some hills provide uniforms others don't. Doens't matter because by the time you keep up with your peers your into 100's of dollars worth of Gortex, Skis, boots, Bolle's, etc. Suddenly you will find that your ski's are no longer satisfactory when you liked them last year. Plus you will need two pair, we can't ski on rocks with the good pair, can we? It would be cheaper to buy lift tickets.

The only thing that is attractive about it is that you get togeather with great people who have similar interests, you have the ability to make a differences, and you are on ski's. What more do you need.
post #4 of 45
Sounds to me like you don't. Not trying to be flippant but if you have been told the pros and cons and can only see the cons, keep freeskiing.
post #5 of 45
Sugar is quite right. Sometimes you are just doing 'bump'. Sometimes you are carrying a 300# man down the hill on a toboggan which is tough whether you are doing lead or drag line.

Mikla is another good one to ask as ell as Sugar Snack.
post #6 of 45
Just like picking a hill to ski at, pick the patrol to ski with. I have patrolled at small and big mountains, and there is a difference.

The best mountain I patrolled at treated all the patrollers fairly. We did "bus duty" (explaining skiers responsibility) not only during busy trip days, but we also rotated through the "SLOW" zones also. We were trained in how to assist all areas of mountain management (only called on if someone was in trouble and needed help), but never had to shovel the parking lot.

We were trained in helping to set up and manage a race course. And we were all expected to train for (courses were paid) our Senior.

Friendly competition during training drills, and the occassional "gotcha" during sweep made for a close knit bunch.

Required skiing was every other weekend.

Comraderie was great. Training for any ski condition was great. Mountaineering and avalanche training a blast!

Yes it is work. But man, the rewards are fantastic. Check out different areas before you jump in.
post #7 of 45
I still can't help but see the rampant volunteer patroller status out east as a disservice to everybody involved, the ski companies are making out on it! At all my old stomping grounds, all the patrollers were paid - and you could see a difference in professionalism because of it, and a difference in happiness and dedication of the patrollers. I think the ski industry is scamming its patrollers and the public with this, they should all be paid!
post #8 of 45
Todd, you are certain to get flamed for that post, but......... you are RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!
post #9 of 45
I will say Todd, bold statement. But, I agree for the most part, because I would never ride in a sled piloted by a volly patrol. I have seen, and heard of too many incidents where the volly has dumpped, or lost the sled.

One of the reasons that Volly's are needed is because of the huge increase in traffic on the weekends at most local hills. The Mtn probably cannot afford to pay for amount of people they need to actually patrol the area. They pay them by giving a seasons pass, and first tracks.
There is also what some will percieve as a status symbol of being a patrol.
post #10 of 45
Thread Starter 

I really have enjoyed the posts so far. I can see that comraderie and being around other that love the sport would be a great benefit. I think that the structure would be the biggest hassle for me. I have that Mon-Fri. (at the real job), and skiing is when I get to unwind. One thing that I was told was that "when you have the red vest on, no catching air." That makes sense on some level, but being on the mountain for an all day shift w/o taking an air or two just ain't skiing! (Hey, I'm still under 30, although I know I'm not invincible ) I would like to try it at some point, ut I think that I will consider other hills, as mnetioned by some of you. I believe that I would make a good patroller, if my mind was set on it and the setting was correct. Otherwise, I don't think that I would be very happy. Thanks for reaffirming what I already know...for the time being, I should just keep free skiing (and buying my own passes).
post #11 of 45
Todd, et. al.

I have been on both sides... volunteer EMT and professional paramedic... volunteer ski patrol and paid ski patrol.

The only difference is money. There are good and bad people on both sides, and to make a blanket statement will start a flame war!!!

If the person running the organization is concerned about quality of care, it doesn't matter if the person gets paid or not. The level of care will/should be superb.

As a volunteer Senior, I scored higher on the tobaggon test than the "paid" patroller from a different mountain. I took pride in my skiing skills and manuveured a tobaggon down many a "hairy" slope...without any physical or psychological damage to the patient.

Who would I want caring for me? Someone that cares, regardless of the money.

You are right...ski areas should "pay" the volunteers with season passes and reduced food to compensate for the services provided.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 04, 2002 04:18 PM: Message edited 1 time, by KeeTov ]</font>
post #12 of 45
I agree there are good and bad people on both sides, I just think its clear that demands can be higher and kept more seriously when one's livelyhood depends on it. I think that the pool of volunteer candidates is deep enough that they can probably mostly not "hire" the bad seeds though. But as long has you have a pool of folks willing to work for just a pass, the ski areas have no reason not to keep it up! Somebody like you - dedicated and beating a paid patroller at tasks/tests should be getting paid $ (not just a pass, which doesn't actually cost the area anything)

Question: why is volunteer patrolling so big out east but not in say CO?

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 04, 2002 05:34 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Todd M. ]</font>
post #13 of 45
I will add that of the men, they're a very "fraternal" bunch.

Be prepared to buy lots of beer for every mistake you make.

They're good times if it's your bag.

I liked the snow science. I also have lots of experience as a wilderness search and rescue dog handler. I grew up an obedience trials geek. I was initailly drawn to the avy S&R dog handlin'.
post #14 of 45
When I was out west supervising/training I often helped patrol out during big snowcycles by helping with avalanche cutting and control (I was on the County SAR and got avi training from them), that part of the job is the part that looked fun to me. Kicking off slides and tossing bombs, what more fun could a guy want!

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 04, 2002 05:54 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Todd M. ]</font>
post #15 of 45
Good thread!
Just a little disappointed with Argus' comment that he wouldn't want to be pulled off the hill in a toboggan by a "volly"... that's a sad statement.

My personal opinion is that you will get higher standard care (including toboggan rides - in *most* cases) from the person who is there because of personal dedication and caring than the person who is there for the pay. That's not to say that pro patrollers don't provide the goods where care is concerned.

*Most* of the volunteer patrollers I know and work with are there because they care, because they love what they're doing... it's certainly NOT for the $$$ (and the season passes are not free, just discounted). There is a certain amount of "status" involved... it is most certainly nice to not have to wait in long lift lines (at the mountain where I patrol, patrollers take every 10th chair if there are that many in line).

There are pros and cons to every argument... you have to find your own answers. But for me, my patrol "family" are the greatest, and I wouldn't trade my association with them for anything.

Hope your answer is right for you, Bandit Man.
post #16 of 45
I would think with good hiring and training you should certainly expect equal care, but now you get *better* care from volunteers than pros? Common, give these guys some credit! Volunteers say that they are somehow "sacrificing" more and therefore must be more dedicated? A volunteer is such partially because they can afford to be a volunteer. Pro patrollers don't have an office job to fall back on, they make their living completely from patrolling - they sacrifice a lot by dedicating themselves completely to the profession.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 04, 2002 06:47 PM: Message edited 3 times, by Todd M. ]</font>
post #17 of 45
After 10 years service as Volly's in the mid-west, my wife and I dropped out so that we could do all the stff necessary to relocate west. Hey we were Mountain people trapped in flat-lander's bodies! Just couldn't fulfill the time committment and get all the other stuff done. Now my local hill isn't Bittersweet near Kalamazoo, it's Mt Hood. Next year we go back through OEC (120 hours) and sign back up as Volly's.

My patrol experience was positive for the most part. Yep - did a shift in the rain, a 14 hour shift at one area, played ski-cop (that's the worst part of the job for sure), helped set and un-set the bamboo, gave impromtu ski lessons by the bus-load so the spores (spastic persons on rental equip) could get down the hill. Drove 2.5 hours to make my shifts at Bittersweet from Valparaiso, IN. But - the folks I patrolled with, the knowledge I gained (I can't imagine why a course like OEC isn't a requirement for graduating from hi-school) and the satisfaction 'buzz' you get from actually helping out another person kept us coming back for ten years. Not too mention that I really did get a lot of quality turns in!

Based on the questions you're asking I'd say you aren't in the mind set to do it. I wasn't until my mid-thirties so please don't take that as criticism.

A couple of thoughts. One, most every mountain with a Volly patrol will take an interested party out for the day. You tag along and see how a shift goes. That is a good way to see if you're still interested. There isn't anything a Volly hates worse than having his time wasted (OK a drunk parent with a broken kid or maybe that shift in the rain ...) so they'll give you a realistic view.

Two. Volunteerism is a disease. It's addictive. And rewarding. Maybe you should look up a summer time organization in your area. Maybe it's the folks who stage Mtn Bike races or maintain the trails. Help out with a Criterium. Kind of ease into volunteerism. See if it's for you. The gain isn't economic (unless you have a family of 4 and want to them ski all the time). The gain is in how you feel after helping someone who needs it.

By the way - I've never heard of a Volly dropping a patient out of a sled. The lawsuit ramifications would be staggering for the area and would pretty much kill a local patrol I suspect. Running a sled is pretty easy once you learn how. Patrollers are taught how to run a sled and if they aren't competent to do that job, then someone else takes the sled and they do the equipment carry or run tail or clear traffic on a busy day. It probably has happened somewhere sometime but it sure isn't common. and ... if you need to ride in the sled, well, it's amazing how attitudes change when you're in the snow and someone in a Rust and Blue parka wants to help...
post #18 of 45
Yep - though I don't agree that volunteers somehow sacrifice more, and are better than pros in any way. I also don't think you are in any danger riding in a sled with them, they take their mission seriously and the patrol directors are not going to tolerate any unprofessionalism from patrollers, paid or not.
post #19 of 45
Now for specifics: as a volunteer EMT in the early 70's in Vermont, we had a longer training course than the "national" standards. The squad that I helped to start (UVM Rescue) had the same number of training sessions as the "pros" in the city.

Then I moved to Buffalo (mistake in many ways, but a different story). NY standards were lower than Vermonts (at the time), and although I had Instructor Trainer level in Red Cross and Heart Assoc, it was never used. The thought in the ambulance corp was we didn't need to train. In the 24 hour shift, we had enough training because we dealt with an average of 2 calls an hour. Time off was that-time off. In the 3 months I survived, there was no training or mention of it. When I pushed, I was pushed back.

So, would I rather be a volunteer in Vermont doing extra training or a paid paramedic in NY with no updated of skills? As I said, I left after 3 months. By the way, the pros in Burlington were great to work beside.

So.... I will always side with the person that cares about the job and the level of skill provided.
post #20 of 45
Why be a patroller, Instructors ski more. (and with poles.)
post #21 of 45
Shhhh Tom! Instructors are always in a stinking wedge right?! Don't let on that on mountains like yours, instructors at your level mostly get paid to rip up the pow and steeps all day!

No . . . . that can't be true, its really just wedging all day long.

post #22 of 45
Yeah, well patrollers always get first run!!!! And of course we have to check closed trails for the renegades that jump rope.
post #23 of 45
Really did not mean to offend but I will give you my reasoning behind that statement, it may have been a little to blanket.

When I was skiing full-time, I had run of the mountain and knew everybody that was there on a daily basis. The Pro-Patrols at that time were some of the best skiers on the hill. I have seen some volly's with questionable skiing skills (minority).
So when you are a local and ski 24/7 you build certain attitudes and elitist points of view. So that was the begining of my holier than thou attitude.

But here is the story that really got me.
A buddy of mine was skiing at a different area one day and blew out his ACL. His sled piolet was a volly, and some how someway the back rope was dropped, into a turn the piolet lost control and let go of the sled sending my friend hurling down the hill in the sled backwards. A free skier saw what was happening and his only choice was to try and flip the sled. It worked but my friend did a barrel roll while still in the sled. If this skier had not stopped him it could have been 10 times as ugly.
So this is a 1 in a million instance and by no means is every volly or any patroller for that matter going to jepordize your safety while carting you down.
It is just something that has stuck with me, you know, ford sucks chevy rules dumb attitude.
I guess I will change my stance a bit and say that depending on the terrain in which I am injured I would evaluate the situation and possibly request that a pro be present. I'ld be happy with any help if I'm man down and would be very gracious to any patroller that came to my aid.

Apologies to all that I offended. I would ride in your sled anyday since I feel I could trust a BEAR.
post #24 of 45
Thread Starter 
Argus...Geez! That was a scary tale! I think you outright intimidated me out of patrolling!!

Mal@Hood had it right. I don't think that I am in the mindset to be a good patroller right now. As this season starts to wind up, I find myself taking a bit of a selfish view, thinking that I want just a bit more time on the him, not for anyone else but myself. Trying to ease into the volunteerism sounds like a good idea. However, if I am ever to become a patroller someday, it would have to be as a "Volly." With two little skiers to raise, I can't afford the Pro option.
So, thanks again for all the insight. This was just what I wanted to hear...both sides of the story. Next season I'll try to be a bit more unselfish with my skiing time and teach my 4-year old to ski! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #25 of 45
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Argus:
I will say Todd, bold statement. But, I agree for the most part, because I would never ride in a sled piloted by a volly patrol.
Sorry to hear that. You will be missed here, since we are all volunteers. Also NSP National Outstanding Patrol.
One of the reasons that Volly's are needed is because of the huge increase in traffic on the weekends at most local hills. The Mtn probably cannot afford to pay for amount of people they need to actually patrol the area. They pay them by giving a seasons pass, and first tracks.
As has been mentioned, the pass does not cover it. Patrollers are not the only ones who get substandard rewards for above average service to the public skiers. Anyone who thinks they are paid what they are worth is probably right. If they paid the people involved from snowmakers to instructors, a lift ticket would be $200.
There is also what some will percieve as a status symbol of being a patrol.[/QB]<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Funny thing about that. When I reprimand a guest for a safety violation he thinks I am a dope. When he is hurt he thinks I am the smartest man he ever met.
post #26 of 45
a copuple of other points that have'nt come up:

*not all ski patrollers are part of the NSP system. Some mountain "do their own thing" and have a different set of requirements, some times less stringent, sometime more

* there is a drive to re-name Pro patrollers to Paid patrollers... IF they are NSP he training is the same., but there has been a lot of division based on terminology

*being an EMT or a Paramedic of WEMT will not exemtp you from OEC training, unless you can challenge the final exam

*great modeling for you kids. My 15 year old son just joined his dad as a student patroller and the younger one can't wait until he's old enough.

*I'd rather be taken down the hill by someone who loves what they do that someone who is getting a few buck over minimum wage so that they can ski a lot.]

* someday, patroller dont get to ski much at all, what with on going training, codes and so on. And at our hill, they get one run down after setting signs; it's not a "cut the powder up " free for all like at some hills.

Irulan... devoted NSP "Angel" spouse to #9498, who was PNW (WA, ID, OR) outstanding patroller last year ( him, not me.)
post #27 of 45
In no way shape or form am I discounting the fact of how valuable the NSP is.
I gave a specific example that makes ME leary of SOME volly's.

Volly's are some of the happiest people on the hill. They love skiing and they love helping people. These are very respectable and desireable traits.
Bottom line, NSP/volly's make the rest of our skiing experience more enjoyable and I thank you for that.

My most sincere apologies to any that I offended.
post #28 of 45
I am a volly at Smuggler's Notch, VT. My observations are that the paid patrollers fall into 2 classes: old and young, with one charactaristic in common: they can exist on a low wage. The young guys adjust to the low wage through lack of expense and are probably in it for a few years of great skiing. The older guys tend to be semi-retired, e.g. former govt employee on pension, or own a seasonal business which leaves them with winters free and perhaps no kids left at home. Missing from this group, of course, is the middle-aged family person who could not get by on the low wage. If I had to choose, I would rather be taken down the hill by one of the older, paid guys.

The vollys span the spectrum, but in general are the middle-aged family people who get benefit from the free family pass. However, there are also the young singles and the older retirees in this group. In this group are people who have ski-patrolled for many years, even decades. They tend to have good high-paying off-slope careers, perhaps they help teach at the OEC courses, in any event, a dedicated bunch, typically smart, and really on the ball. I would ride a sled behind these people any day. Of course, rookies happen, and a new volly would be more tentative with the sled, but it's like that all over. I've seen people go on the paid patrol right out of OEC course and I bet they're a little shaky through December. Yes, of course anyone would prefer an experienced hand if you're injured on the slope or if you're going in for a vasectomy, but sometimes it's the luck of the draw and you get a rookie.
post #29 of 45
>>*I'd rather be taken down the hill by someone who loves what they do that someone who is getting a few buck over minimum wage so that they can ski a lot.<<

Most of the longtime patrollers I know (all fulltime pros) all love what they do AND love it so much they are willing to tolerate the poor pay, so they can do it 5-6 days a week. They love what they do TOO MUCH to only do it part time! Its extremely condiscending and insulting to those pro's to suggest that folks who are getting paid to do it are going to be any less passionate about it than folks who volunteer. Sure there are some bad eggs in the basket, same with every basket.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 06, 2002 10:51 AM: Message edited 1 time, by Todd M. ]</font>
post #30 of 45
My .02 - I considered patrolling as a way to get myself to the mountain all the time since I now live in DC. When I lived in the West, I used to envy the patrollers who were on the mountain all the time. Then I went up to Liberty one fine winter weekend and thought twice - eastern resorts are crowded (and I know this may sound unfair, but it's basically true) with way too many people skiing out of control - carnage central. I saw at least three collisions that day. There are too many intersections on eastern mountains (or at least at Liberty). I've got to think that as a patroller at a mountain like that, you'd be busy every second. Plus eastern mountain weather sucks a lot of the time. In general, I think it would be kind of miserable.... :
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