Like a couple of you, I'm also a new patroller and I'm surprised to see the wide range of toboggan procedures used by different patrols, including tail-less patient transport at some pretty big resorts
Where I patrol (small hill outside Detroit) we train in such "lead-alone" patient transport and use it, as many of you do, depending on a number of factors including terrain and conditions, the urgency of the patient's condition and availability of other patrollers.
But we also train, test and re-cert annually as patroller basics in two-patroller tobogganing, with distinct, separate responsibilities for the lead and tail operators that are clearly defined in a "senior" manual (sorry, can't cite precise title/edition).
These standards may be common across the Central Division; I'm not sure. But they're unlike anything I've seen either in the NSP's "Ski Patroller's (basic) Manual," 1997, 14th ed., or the latest "Ski and Toboggan Manual."
Our tail operator has "primary responsibility for the overall safety" of the toboggan, patient and lead operator by keeping the rope under proper tension and parallel to the fall line to be able to halt the toboggan immediately if necessary.
The lead is responsible for "primary" braking, plus route selection, changes in speed and direction, monitoring uphill and passing traffic, and communicating with the tail operator.
The tail, in addition to "overall safety," is responsible for secondary braking as necessary, monitoring(observing) the patient's condition, monitoring traffic and maintaining the "emergency reserve braking rule" at all times.
The rule says the toboggan speed may vary according to skill, terrain and conditions and the patient's status, but the speed may never exceed the reserve braking capability, and if that occurs the tail operator shall let the lead operator know and assist in slowing the toboggan until the braking reserve power is re-established.
As some of you noted, the hardest part is the tail's responsibility to keep the rope parallel to the fall line with sufficient tension to immediately stop the toboggan, when necessary, and within two toboggan lengths.
We basically grip the rope with both hands, underhanded, through the loop at the end. Matching the lead's speed is vital because you can't become a drag on the lead and you'll flunk the tail operator part of the exam by letting the rope touch the snow (that violates the emergency reserve braking rule).
This is obviously much different than the "belay" tail rope procedure where the tail is passed around the patroller's back, but I'd guess that makes it easier where terrain and/or conditions require the actual belaying of the toboggan.
I'm lucky in a sense: I lost a month of training to injury and returned with too little time to catch up on training (our on-hill test was Feb. 1), so for the time being I'm an auxiliary patroller and will continue training for the test next season.
I'm also surprised to hear that some patrols give the tail operator responsibility for route selection but, again, that's probably dictated by the specific terrain, conditions and distances at your specific resorts.
That and the local autonomy on these kinds of things, which obviously vary widely.
Be safe, everyone, and enjoy yourselves for as long as your season lasts. We lost a bit of snow with a recent warm stretch and a bit of rain yesterday. But we've got an Alberta Clipper heading our way with another 6-8 inches by Saturday.