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MN patrollers (ok -and others) - thinking about making the jump

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
I've been sitting around doing a lot of thinking this winter (bad back - not much else to do...), and after having been an instructor for 3 years, a tech for 3 years, and out of "the biz" since 1999, I'm getting the itch to get back into the fold again. I'll probably have back surgery to fix a bulged disk this spring, and then I'll be ready to roll.

I'm kicking around trying out life on the Ski Patrol. A little background on me: I am not a stranger to helping people out. I was a lifeguard (solo) at a State Park for three summers, and have taken some Combat Lifesaving courses while in the National Guard. I've had a knack for medical things my whole life, as my family has a long line of nurses in it. I have even thought about going to nursing school, but just can't make the jump right now. I'm a competent skier (level 8 I suppose - my only weakness is bumps), and know "The Code" very well. I'm in good physical condition (minus the back issue which will be dealt with), and spend most of my summers biking and kayaking. I don't really have high alpine/backcountry experience, but I don't think avy training is going to be a big factor in MN! I am interested in getting into that to some degree some time down the line - at least some informative/academic courses if nothing else.

I'm interested in getting as much info on what it takes to be a patrol as you guys can give me. Specifically you Minnesota guys (I live in Saint Paul, and am a pass-holder at Welch) -- where are the best places to patrol at, where to avoid, best perks, best management & SP Directors, and things along those lines. I don't want to make the commitment, end up working for an asshat management company, and quit. I see this as a long-term commitment - it's not just for the jacket!! How much will it cost me to get into this, and what kind of time commitment should I expect to make? I'm a busy guy, so my time is pretty valuable to me, but I'm certainly willing to give up a day or two a week to do this.

I'm not looking to Pro Patrol - I'm too old to get into that, and I have a mortgage too, so I guess that's out... I'm also wondering about what kind of other "perks" are our there - exchange programs and so on. What are the expectations if you go to another area to ski - a vacation for instance? Are their discounts for lift tickets and such like there was when I was in PSIA?

Any feedback appreciated.
post #2 of 28
Always good to have more NSP Members

Obviously I am not from around you area but these links may help. Each patrol has a patrol director. Each patrol director will have very different requirements from the next patrol director. Contact the Patrol Director from the ski areas in your area to determine if they are in need of your services. You may also want to consider contacting the region director for the patrols in your area.

NSP Central Division

Central Division Website
post #3 of 28
Definately check out the various patrols in your area before deciding on one. Ask if you can shadow the patrol for a day to see what it is like. Your skills will greatly improve once becoming a patroller if you keep an open mind, are willing to take some constructive criticism, and practice new skills.

Perks vary at each mountain. Some possible perks you may find at your home mountain: free or discounted skiing for your family, discounted food/equipment/lessons for family, etc.

Costs vary as well. The OEC course is generally paid for by the mountain that you will patrol at, but not always. You usually have to pay for the books (about $75). Jackets (I believe) are usually your responsibility. Some mountains require the same jacket for everyone, others have some flexibility and allow a few styles. Jacket prices can range from $100 to $250+. If you fully utilize the equipment discounts and become a gear freak, the cost could be endless.

As far as skiing at other area goes, that varies as well. I think most places give at least a discount to ski there. There are some that will give you a free day if you wear your jacket and help them patrol.

This is my second year as a vollunteer patroller. I find it physically and mentally challenging, and am loving it.
post #4 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by eblackwelder View Post
If you fully utilize the equipment discounts and become a gear freak, the cost could be endless.
Oh dear... : I'm in trouble... This could be a problem!! I have too much stuff in my closet already.

Good feedback so far - keep it coming, guys! (And gals!!)

I'm assuming I can contact most Patrol Directors either via email or directly to talk to them about getting started and spend the day with some of them on hill to see what they're up to. That might be the best way to get started I'm thinking - at least before I front any money/commitments/etc.
post #5 of 28
One thing you need to know. The first year time commitment is quite extensive. Be specific with your questions to get the complete first year requirements.

You will need the 60 hour Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) classroom work. Mine was 3hrs a night / twice a week for 10 weeks. You have to pass the test of course. No big deal if you attended the classes and paid attention. I hate to admit it, but I did not read much of the book.

You will also need on hill training for patient transportation. These are the skills needed to toboggan a patient. These have little to do with your current skiing ability. At my hill, three different trainers need to sign off on your proficiency for 14 different skills. THEN you get to train with the toboggan. More skill proficiency sign offs. Our hill also requires / provides three nights of PSIA ski instruction.

This is all on top of your commitment to patrol a regular shift.

DO NOT in any way take this as an argument against becoming a ski patrol. Not my intension at all. Just to make you aware that the first year time commitment is pretty intense.

After that candidate year, the minimums are OEC refresher, CPR recertification and patrol your shift. With many opportunities to become further involved and more highly educated.

On a side note: If you are going to go out and shadow a patrol. Do not pick a weekday when school is in session. It is possible you will only find out who the competent cribbage players are. Pick a holiday, a weekend or a busy weeknight.
post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 
DeadMoney --

Gotcha - didn't take it as an argument against working toward this goal. Understood on the time commitment as well. That shouldn't be a problem. It'll stretch things a bit starting out, but nothing I can't handle. I'm not concerned about the toboggan thing either at this point -- I'm cool with that. I'm not intimidated by it, and understand it's not something you just do - there's a right way to do it, and it takes practice. It's just one piece of the puzzle.

I just want to be able to help when I can, and step back when I'm over my head. No ego issues here. I've been the "new guy" before. I paid my dues as an apprentice instructor back in the day, so I get the whole "pecking order" thing. I've got the rest of my life to be the best patroller I can be. Rome wasn't built in a day.

PSIA ski clinics - boring as heck, but I get it. I used to got to them on a mandatory bi-weekly basis when I taught. Skill refreshers never hurt. I've been helping a friend learn to ski, so I've been working the rudimentary skills again - it's more work to ski slow than to ski "normally"!!

I'm only a weak cribbage player right now... I'm also a 50-hour-a-week guy (I'm a buyer for a pharma company), so I'll probably only be available for the times the hill is BUSY!! Good thing - it makes the days fly by.

Where do you patrol?
post #7 of 28
Perfect attitude axe. Like any group, every player has his or her strengths. And different levels of enthusiasm for different tasks. I would guess that every area would take on more NSP members. After all we don't cost them much. Fresh out of OEC you will be more up-to-date than many seasoned patrolers. They are likely to be more comfortable handling the toboggans. Some are better at the patient interaction, some are cooler in more tense situations. It's the team aspect that I have come to enjoy.
post #8 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeadMoney View Post
Perfect attitude axe. Like any group, every player has his or her strengths. And different levels of enthusiasm for different tasks. I would guess that every area would take on more NSP members. After all we don't cost them much. Fresh out of OEC you will be more up-to-date than many seasoned patrolers. They are likely to be more comfortable handling the toboggans. Some are better at the patient interaction, some are cooler in more tense situations. It's the team aspect that I have come to enjoy.
Reminds me of military stuff to a degree. The guys fresh from basic had new points of view that some of us hadn't thought of and so on.

The concept of "each having their strength": I was always a great middle guy - the jobber who could take and give orders as it was necessary. I could still think for myself, but was never so stubborn as to think that someone under me couldn't teach me something, as well as having the balls to point out an issue with someone above me if I had reason to believe the path might not be the best one. Unfortunately, I get to deal with the latter situation at work far too often these days... :

Ahhhh...the world we live in, and the world we escape to...
post #9 of 28
All the above is good advice, especially the candidate year stuff...it's a killer. I guess I'd just suggest you figure out which area you'd like to patrol at then contact the patrol director. You'll probably get a free-ticket for a ski proficincy test (you will need to be at least a low expert level or better), and if that goes OK, then hooked up for the next OEC course (around 4 months 2 nights/week plus weekend mornings). After you pass that, then a few more weeks of OEC on-hill at the chosen area to get familiar with local equipment and protocols, then pass that. Then the ski & toboggan training starts...and a test at the end of that. Objective - ski a loaded toboggan down the most difficult trail under the worst possible conditions in perfect control. Also somewhere in here will be some lift evac training and basic rope rescue stuff. Maybe some security type training if the patrol does that. Possibly some SAR stuff too.

Basically takes most of an entire season. After that, not bad, usually a full day indoor OEC refresher, a full day on-hill OEC refresher, lift evac refresher, S&T refresher, CPR/AED refresher.

It's worth it! Done it for 19 years, son is a patroller too. Love it! Great deals on equipment, have gotten discounts or comps (sometimes at terrific areas) most places if you plan ahead, etc. Great friends, good times (mostly).

nypatroller
post #10 of 28
Thread Starter 
I talked to the hill boss at Welch on Saturday. They said the director would contact me and let me know if they were going to be having the "initial ski clinic" this year - he thought there was about a 80-90% chance they would. But if they don't, would it be best to just contact NSP-C to see who WILL be having one, and then go from there?
post #11 of 28
Hey Axe,

Neat thread -- and glad your considering patrolling. This is my second year patrolling and I can assure you that all the requirements mentioned above vary greatly by hill. The little ski area I work at has only a single lift and about 250 foot elevation change over the entire thing. Predominately man-made snow to open the season... In Alaska (go figure). For us, it's "get OEC and CPR, and you're good to go." Virtually all our "rescues" are accomplished with a snowmachine that pulls a tobaggan. Bringing our skiable tobaggan (which is still required to be positioned at the top of the hill, even if it's rarely used) down the most difficult run takes all of 45 seconds and really doesn't require much in the way of tail-roping. It's a beginner hill!

On the other hand, I had the GREAT opportunity to shadow Bogus Basin Ski Patrol (Idaho) this past Sunday, and now I more completely appreciate the comments many of you make on this forum about what's required to be a good patroller. Those guys are awesome, and the testing / training they have to do boggles my mind. Their current crop of candidates are probably better trained than I am. I'm envious, of course, but that's the way they run their program. Our hill is different. If/when we ever move and I want to get involved with another patrol, it will certainly require more training on my part. But that's the exciting part.

Hope you get a chance to get involved. Each hill has different needs. If you can be happy filling the needs (however extreme or limited) wherever you work, then you will have embarked upon an exciting adventure.
post #12 of 28
I patrolled in college down in Mankato (went to school in St. Peter), and from what I remember I wouldn't say the patrols are desperate for bodies, but you should have no problem getting on if you can pass the basic requirements.

Good luck and thanks for volunteering!
post #13 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gonz View Post
I patrolled in college down in Mankato (went to school in St. Peter), and from what I remember I wouldn't say the patrols are desperate for bodies, but you should have no problem getting on if you can pass the basic requirements.

Good luck and thanks for volunteering!
I taught & tech'd at Kato from 1993 - 1999. When were you there? I bet we shared some time.
post #14 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by trochilids View Post
Hey Axe,

Neat thread -- and glad your considering patrolling. This is my second year patrolling and I can assure you that all the requirements mentioned above vary greatly by hill. The little ski area I work at has only a single lift and about 250 foot elevation change over the entire thing. Predominately man-made snow to open the season... In Alaska (go figure). For us, it's "get OEC and CPR, and you're good to go." Virtually all our "rescues" are accomplished with a snowmachine that pulls a tobaggan. Bringing our skiable tobaggan (which is still required to be positioned at the top of the hill, even if it's rarely used) down the most difficult run takes all of 45 seconds and really doesn't require much in the way of tail-roping. It's a beginner hill!

On the other hand, I had the GREAT opportunity to shadow Bogus Basin Ski Patrol (Idaho) this past Sunday, and now I more completely appreciate the comments many of you make on this forum about what's required to be a good patroller. Those guys are awesome, and the testing / training they have to do boggles my mind. Their current crop of candidates are probably better trained than I am. I'm envious, of course, but that's the way they run their program. Our hill is different. If/when we ever move and I want to get involved with another patrol, it will certainly require more training on my part. But that's the exciting part.

Hope you get a chance to get involved. Each hill has different needs. If you can be happy filling the needs (however extreme or limited) wherever you work, then you will have embarked upon an exciting adventure.
Thanks for the kind words!! I'm looking forward to getting the process started. I'm hoping that I can ski well enough to try out this spring with my back being the way it is and all.
post #15 of 28
Hey Axe,
You interested in Nordic Patrol at all?
Go to www.trailpatrol.org, click on "Winter Patrol". We work in Elk River, Monticello, Zimmerman and Cambridge.

Let me know if that rings your chimes at all.
Hans
post #16 of 28
Thread Starter 
Hi Hans,

Nordic probably wouldn't be optimal for me, and it looks like it's the north side of the Cities, so kind of a longer haul than I'd want to make.

I appreciate the thought though!

Thank you!
Chris
post #17 of 28
Deadmoney was dead on in his longer post - It takes committment, but well worth it. I have patrolled for close to 30 yrs it has been great. The comradship, service to skiing public and skiing can't be beat.

If you like skiing Welch, take the time to connect with the shift captians and patrol director personally and shadow several times. The personal touch will go a long way in the hill keeping you in the loop when the next training and openings come along.

Quote:
But if they don't, (have a class ) would it be best to just contact NSP-C to see who WILL be having one, and then go from there?
Nope, I would call or personally contact patrols in areas that you are interested in patrolling at. You can find out if there will be openings and how to get signed up for their training. (Additional note it is standard procedure to train at the hill you will be patrolling at.)
post #18 of 28
Hey Chris - although its old, check out this article. A lot of the information is still accurate on life as a Patroller. I've been at it for going on 12 years now as a volunteer patroller at a small area in Pennsylvania. I don't plan on quitting anytime soon!

http://www.dcski.com/articles/view_a...mode=headlines
post #19 of 28
Thread Starter 
I spent my first day "observing" with the patrol yesterday -- I say "observing" because I spent the day in a mogul clinic!! : I will say it's one of the best clinics I've had the pleasure of going to however - the "moguls" yesterday with nothing more than big mounds of ice, but by the end of the day, I was comfortable skiing them, and before yesterday, you couldn't have PAID me to ski in moguls like that. The first run of the morning through them was a MESS!!

I did spend a couple hours shadowing a couple patrollers late in the day though, and it was fun to do. There were really no incidents, but that's ok - a good day on the hill for everyone!

I met some great people yesterday, and got some needed feedback on what I'll need to do over the next year or so. I met patrollers from a handful of areas, so if Welch does not do an OEC class, I'll have a couple other options, but I'm hoping they will have a class as I really like skiing there (even if I'm a little sour about the back injury/season pass issue...). If it doesn't work out, it sounds like Hyland and Buck might have a little room.

Thanks to the folks on the Welch patrol that let me hang with them yesterday (Tim & John), and to Jeff from Buck for putting on a great clinic!! I learned more in one day about surviving moguls than I have in the last 16 years. I'm hoping I'll be able to ski with them a few more times before the season closes.
post #20 of 28
I patrol at powder ridge.
post #21 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hamradio View Post
I patrol at powder ridge.
Cool - that's the first "real area" in MN I ever skied at. Nice top, but the run-outs are WAYYYY too long. I haven't been there for a couple years.

So since you're 16 years old, are you a "full patroller" or are you a "junior patroller" or something along those lines? The reason I ask is that since you are not 18, there might be some kind of restrictions that you would have to follow?? Just curious. Congrats BTW, and stick with it! I wish I would have had the chance to do this when I was your age.
post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by hamradio View Post
I patrol at powder ridge.
Tell Tony S. (from Sartell) that I said "Hi"

Hans
post #23 of 28
Thread Starter 
Well, my back was well enough after a near four week layoff. I hurt it again running moguls. Don't ask...: I was pretty concerned about it -- I was hurting pretty bad again and had *JUST* gotten better, I was on new skis & boots, and my back was untested. Long story short, I felt fine, and the new gear was great. Moving on...

I had my first "Chinese Downhill" with one patrol over the weekend. It was interesting in terms of the disparity between the levels of skiers. I'm not the best skier on the hill by ANY stretch of the imagination, but I was far & away the strongest skier in the group. I'll leave it at that.

I have another this coming weekend. This may be the better patrol to get started with as it sounds that they will more likely be taking candidates next year. Time will tell I guess. I just really want to get the certification under my belt and get going with this thing!! I want to strike while the iron is still hot, you know? Now it's March... It'll be another 6-8 months to sit and stew about this... I wish there was summer course & certifications. I think about skiing all year - doesn't everyone else?
post #24 of 28
Thread Starter 
I had another "ski along" this past weekend. The way they do their certification is interesting, and I like the idea in theory.

You spend the first year doing ski clinics - basically working on the ski skills that you will need to successfully become a patroller. The following fall, you do your OEC. The reasoning behind it is that you can do all the OEC work, but if you aren't able to handle the toboggan, or if your skiing skills are not up to par, then you have kind of wasted your time in doing all the 1st Aid training. So the program takes 2 seasons, but is essentially still a 1 year program. It goes from one season into the next. I like the idea.

So now the waiting for next season begins... I'm really looking forward to it however. The group I skied with was a great bunch of people. The overall level of skiing within this group was pretty impressive as well! I wouldn't be frightened if I had to be carted off the hill by any of these people.

My only regret is that I'm not living out west, and getting the kinda of "real mountain" patrolling that you would experience there - terrain control and so on. Maybe some day. Hey, a guy can dream, right?
post #25 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by axebiker View Post
I had another "ski along" this past weekend. The way they do their certification is interesting, and I like the idea in theory.

You spend the first year doing ski clinics - basically working on the ski skills that you will need to successfully become a patroller. The following fall, you do your OEC. The reasoning behind it is that you can do all the OEC work, but if you aren't able to handle the toboggan, or if your skiing skills are not up to par, then you have kind of wasted your time in doing all the 1st Aid training. So the program takes 2 seasons, but is essentially still a 1 year program. It goes from one season into the next. I like the idea.

So now the waiting for next season begins... I'm really looking forward to it however. The group I skied with was a great bunch of people. The overall level of skiing within this group was pretty impressive as well! I wouldn't be frightened if I had to be carted off the hill by any of these people.
We do it a little different, but we only take on good skiers (paramedics excepted). If someone wants to join, they go through a ski off to prove they have a chance of passing sleds. I guess our theory is that we can teach OEC to nearly anyone, but skiing skills- not so much. Our training includes Sled and OEC at the same time. Usually half the day on sleds, and half the day on OEC, every weekend till passing. When a candidates passes sled, they are able to back when not in class, since they can bring a sled and equipment to the scene. This also does double duty, as they get to participate in real life situations, and get some hands-on OEC, without the responsibility.
post #26 of 28
We teach the OEC first. Some people around here just want a really strong first aid course and some are planning on using the certification elsewhere. Then we do the on-hill. Some people don't finish their list and never get a jacket. Most candidates around here are allready pretty strong skiers. We charge money for the OEC. The onhill costs us nothing and is free. Succesfull candidates get a vest and some supplies from the patrol.
post #27 of 28
I patrol at buck hill and their patroler training program is great. They do on the hill ski training before oec training to make sure everyone can ski. Then during the summer your do oec training 3hours twice a week for several weeks.
I would say the on the hill training is excellent, I thought I was a good skier until jeff gullekson made me a better one. I would say check out buck hill this winter for the on the hill training, buck is a great hill to work at. As long as you don't mind working with senior citizens, jk saturday night crew, haha. http://www.buckhillskipatrol.org/
post #28 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bertrenolds View Post
I patrol at buck hill and their patroler training program is great. They do on the hill ski training before oec training to make sure everyone can ski. Then during the summer your do oec training 3hours twice a week for several weeks.
I would say the on the hill training is excellent, I thought I was a good skier until jeff gullekson made me a better one. I would say check out buck hill this winter for the on the hill training, buck is a great hill to work at. As long as you don't mind working with senior citizens, jk saturday night crew, haha. http://www.buckhillskipatrol.org/
That's the plan. I came out for one of the ski-alongs last spring, and had a good time with the people I was with, as well as seeing a HIGH level of skiing among those who were hoping to join the "mountain guide" program this upcoming season.

I did a mogul clinic with Jeff last winter - he is a GREAT instructor, and I have the utmost respect for anyone who can get me to do things I've been avoiding for almost 20 years!
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