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Ski patrol: Discuss.

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

 

Ski Patrol: Discuss.

 

What’s your opinion on them?  Do you like / hate them?  Can you share a story about them?  What makes them interesting?  Are there specific mountain patrols or individuals that stand out?  Why?

post #2 of 18

I worked at a small resort back when I was younger.  Back then I went out for an instructor gig and got it on the first try.  If I were to be able to log enough days anytime in the future I believe I would try fo a patrol position rather thay teach again.  Teaching was cool when I was single and trying to impress people with my ski-lls and cool jacket.  The patrols I've known are all pretty cool and laid back.  I've come across a few that seemed a bit uptight too though.  Anyway, I'd love to be a patrol someday and envy all of them except when they're taking crap from teenagers.  But, I;v\'e been one of them too so what comes around goes around hahaha!


Edited by crgildart - 6/28/10 at 5:31pm
post #3 of 18

Some of the best skiers at my home mountain, particularly in the woods.  Good people, dedicated.

 

There is definitely very little connection between Instructors and Patrollers, which is sad.  I make a point of trying to build bridges between people and thus have befriended some.

 

Utmost respect and admiration for my partners in red and white.

post #4 of 18

I was a patroller in the 70's and it was a fantastic experience.  The whole crew was dedicated to service and there was a great bond among us.

 

I read complaints about patrollers here on Epic from time to time and it almost always seems that the problem is with the complainer, not the patrol.  If I decided to get back into the ski business, ski patrol is how I would do it.  However, I'm not ready for skiing to be my job.

post #5 of 18

Okay, I think I have now figured out who this focus group is for.  I'll keep my mouth shut.

 

I look at ski patrol as my partner.  I don't think the general public really understands everything they experience. I know I didn't until two seasons ago.  They deal with keeping the public safe and deal with the realities of life and death.

 

When I worked at Loveland, I saw a patrolman come down on a sled with a victim. The person in the sled was a ski racer who crashed badly into the trees off the race course.  The racer was also a very good friend of the patrolman who was in the sled with him.  The racer didn't make it. The patrolman was utterly devastated.

 

Some of you know my own experience two seasons ago.  I was riding along when I and a kid's instructor with his class came upon a skier face down unresponsive in the middle of a run.  I checked on him, quickly noted his condition, and quickly let the other instructor know I was going to call patrol. Neither of us had our cell phones on us.  I went to an emergency phone and called patrol.  They were there almost immediately - really just one hundred yards from a main patrol bldg.  Unfortunately the skier had a massive heart attack and couldn't be saved.  I was devastated.  Patrol had me fill out a 5 page incident report in excruciating detail.  I started freaking out. I really couldn't believe the guy had passed. Patrol was incredibly understanding and helped get me resources to come to grips with it. They told me "they don't train you guys to deal with this".  They followed up for a few days with me because they knew it really affected me.  A few weeks later another skier went into a tree and passed.  Patrol has to deal with fatalities, major accidents, mayhem, and be professional skiers.  I have the utmost respect for them and am glad they are there.

 

Three years ago we had to watch a new safety video produced/filmed by Vail Ski Patrol.  It was hard to watch and listen to their stories.  The little girl who said "daddy please don't die" as patrol hauled him off just about killed me.  Daddy had skied into the trees and bled out at Vail.  He didn't make it.  You could tell the patroller telling the story was still affected.  I think every skier should have to watch that training video before hitting the slopes. Thanks Vail for producing that as hard as it may have been to.

post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by daysailer1 View Post

 

Three years ago we had to watch a new safety video produced/filmed by Vail Ski Patrol.  It was hard to watch and listen to their stories.  The little girl who said "daddy please don't die" as patrol hauled him off just about killed me.  Daddy had skied into the trees and bled out at Vail.  He didn't make it.  You could tell the patroller telling the story was still affected.  I think every skier should have to watch that training video before hitting the slopes. Thanks Vail for producing that as hard as it may have been to.

 


That video sounds pretty incredible.  Do you know where I could find it?  Is the Vail patrol particularly well respected?

post #7 of 18

I would call the head of Vail Ski Patrol.  I don't know who that is but I'm sure that information couldn't be too hard to track down.  That video was brand new three seasons ago.  Cindy Dady who is now the GM of Echo Mountain got the video and made us watch it.

 

I don't know that Vail Ski Patrol is anymore respected than any other patrol.  It's a tough job all around.  The head of patrol at Aspen Highlands has some hard stories.  Seeing three of your buddies die right in front of you can't be easy.  As a young guy he messed with patrol, they converted him as a way to keep him out of trouble with patrol.

post #8 of 18

I feel like in my experience patrollers wear at least three hats each and every day on the mountain, and some of their tasks are more well-received than others. 

 

The first and most important hat is that of the medic, and for obvious reasons it seems to provide the most respect and gratitude from typical mountain-goers.

 

The second hat is that of the trail crew.  This is the time they spend checking and sweeping the mountain before and after each ski day, and the time that they put into maintaining the trails.  This maintenance seems to include locating and marking hazards, opening and closing trails or sections of trails, and dealing with the ropes, signs, and other paraphernalia that goes into such a job.  In my experience the level of respect this side of the patroller gets is largely dependent on the philosophies and rules/regulations of the mountain company that they work for.  At hills with "open woods" and "soft closure" type policies the patrollers seem to be much more accepted and their decisions respected more when they DO choose to rope something off.  Hills that are strict about maintaining closures and pursuing rope duckers to inflict consequences for their misdoing seem to have patrollers that are respected less by the 'core' skiing community, and who are viewed more as 'the man' who must be eluded and avoided at all costs than as helpful, friendly fellow ski bums.  (see avy note below...)

 

The third and final hat that I often see patrollers wear is that of the cop, security, or rule-enforcement force.  Again for obvious reasons I feel like this job gets patrollers the least respect of any that they do, and is often the reason that they are stigmatized among younger skiers as authority figures that should be kept at a safe distance.  The bad, abuse of authority, power tripping side of this hat often seems to me to be more a matter of individual patrollers personalities than mountain policy, but I feel like the overall 'feel' of a place certainly contributes to how prevalent it is.

 

In general I like ski patrollers and respect and appreciate the job that they do.  Like any other group of people there are always a few bad apples, and I think these power-hungry a**holes are the ones who often give patrollers a negative stigma among younger skiers and riders.  In my experiences a lot of these folks are the "weekend warrior" volunteers who show up a handful of days a year and act like they own the place.  That kind of attitude doesn't go very far with full-time employees and everyday local skiers!!

 

 

 

 

*** Avy disclaimer: I live and ski on the east coast, and therefore my experiences with ski patrols all stem from eastern resorts.  When I discuss the risks and consequences of ducking ropes and skiing closed terrain I am in no way referring to terrain that is at risk for and/or controlled for avalanches.  Patrols out west and in bigger mountains around the world wear that whole other hat which I know little about and have an extraordinary amount of respect for!  

post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JayPowHound View Post

I feel like in my experience patrollers wear at least three hats each and every day on the mountain, and some of their tasks are more well-received than others. 

 

The first and most important hat is that of the medic, and for obvious reasons it seems to provide the most respect and gratitude from typical mountain-goers.

 

The second hat is that of the trail crew.  This is the time they spend checking and sweeping the mountain before and after each ski day, and the time that they put into maintaining the trails.  This maintenance seems to include locating and marking hazards, opening and closing trails or sections of trails, and dealing with the ropes, signs, and other paraphernalia that goes into such a job.  In my experience the level of respect this side of the patroller gets is largely dependent on the philosophies and rules/regulations of the mountain company that they work for.  At hills with "open woods" and "soft closure" type policies the patrollers seem to be much more accepted and their decisions respected more when they DO choose to rope something off.  Hills that are strict about maintaining closures and pursuing rope duckers to inflict consequences for their misdoing seem to have patrollers that are respected less by the 'core' skiing community, and who are viewed more as 'the man' who must be eluded and avoided at all costs than as helpful, friendly fellow ski bums.  (see avy note below...)

 

The third and final hat that I often see patrollers wear is that of the cop, security, or rule-enforcement force.  Again for obvious reasons I feel like this job gets patrollers the least respect of any that they do, and is often the reason that they are stigmatized among younger skiers as authority figures that should be kept at a safe distance.  The bad, abuse of authority, power tripping side of this hat often seems to me to be more a matter of individual patrollers personalities than mountain policy, but I feel like the overall 'feel' of a place certainly contributes to how prevalent it is.

 

In general I like ski patrollers and respect and appreciate the job that they do.  Like any other group of people there are always a few bad apples, and I think these power-hungry a**holes are the ones who often give patrollers a negative stigma among younger skiers and riders.  In my experiences a lot of these folks are the "weekend warrior" volunteers who show up a handful of days a year and act like they own the place.  That kind of attitude doesn't go very far with full-time employees and everyday local skiers!!

 

 

 

 

*** Avy disclaimer: I live and ski on the east coast, and therefore my experiences with ski patrols all stem from eastern resorts.  When I discuss the risks and consequences of ducking ropes and skiing closed terrain I am in no way referring to terrain that is at risk for and/or controlled for avalanches.  Patrols out west and in bigger mountains around the world wear that whole other hat which I know little about and have an extraordinary amount of respect for!  


That's interesting and brings up some good points.  I think you're right that there is a lot more to the Ski Patrol than meets the eye.

 

Questions for all:

 

What's special about patrols in various parts of the country?

 

daysailer1 mentioned both Aspen Highlands and Vail ski patrols... what do the rest of you think about those patrols?

post #10 of 18

I have upmost respect for the real patrollers out there. The ones in local NJ/PA pocono type resorts are more like baby sitters IMHO, I feel bad for them, I know they have been told at Blue in PA to give the Snowboarders a little lee-way since they are so important to the revenue. (I don't know it that's changed over the past couple of years) This is the same slope that the patrollers series was shot at.

 

Since I really on ski out west, I will speak only to those folks who not only patrol the slopes for assholes but have to deal with real life day to day decisions and be experts in moutnaineering, avi control and rescue and so much more. those folks loose their lives so we can slide on the snow. I thank them all the time for the job they do. Most seem shocked that I took the time, just to say thanks.

 

 

Epic for life, contact vailskipro (Rick) for help with that video. Let me know if you need assistance, I have his #.

post #11 of 18

Have to agree with all the above posts.  Without ski patrol there would be little, if any, skiing as we know it, resorts couldn't't function without them.  The only skiing would be BC or hiking for your turns. When i grow up and become a better skier I would love to try out for ski patrol in Snowmass.  I've seen them in action many times, always impressed by their professional manner.  Seems that patrollers are a close knit bunch keeping mostly to their own group. 

 

As JayPowHound so well pointed out they do wear many hats.  The job details and the hats they wear seem to me to vary from mountain to mountain.  Aspen/snowmass patrollers see a more experienced skier for the most part leaving more time for avy/terrain duties.  A mountain like Angelfire sees a ton of first time evers with  high medical emergencies taking up a good portion of their work.  Very little avy work and terrain monitoring here.

post #12 of 18

I've never had anything but absolute professionalism, competence, and empathy from Ski Patrol.  I've riden in their sleds twice at Snowmass (hit a tree, dislocated shoulder) and twice at Breckenridge (both dislocated shoulders).  They are great, although I suspect the guy in Crazy Ivans above me who was sloughing snow and chunks of crust down onto Patrol while they tried to get me in the sled wasn't too happy with the lecture they gave him!

 

They've got a job to do, and I've never seen them do it with anything other than utmost competence.

 

Mike

post #13 of 18

Here is some perspective. 

 

Ski patrollers have  first aid training provided by whatever licensing body their area, and their area's insurer deem appropriate.  

 

Many resort ski patrols are affilated with National Ski Patrol Systems, Inc and NSP maintains its own first aid program called Outdoor Emergency Care, soon to be in its 5th edition.  In addition  patrollers must have a current CPR card at sometning more than basic or community level.

 

Other areas use EMT basic or higher as there first aid requirement. 

 

They are also trained by their respective areas in lift evacuation techniques unique to the area, tobaggon handling and skiing skills specific to the area and, where applicable, general as well as specific to the area avalanche techniques.

 

I cannot say this as a universal statement, but in my experience, there is no rules enforcement training of any kind.  

 

That could be why for  first aid, snow safety, transportation and lift evac we are generallty rated pretty highly, but for rules enforcement we tend to get lower marks.  It is tough to do and do well and it is the part of the job I least like and struggle the most with.

 

post #14 of 18

As the skills and responsibilities of Ski Patrol are pretty well addressed above, I will relate something personal: The patrol at Squaw saved my life this past March. There is no doubt in my mind. 

 

I was at the top of the mountain, just at the edge of a large, steep face, when the agony of an Aorta Disection (aorta aneurysm) struck me.

 

Patrol came to my aid, got me on a sled and pulled it away from the rollover with a long rope, not wanting the hill to slide, then attached a snowmobile to pull me to the landing zone for the chopper. Meanwhile a doctor was flying up the mountain from the base clinic on a snowmobile to help patrol with the diagnosis. The whole time, a patrol was bent down close to my face and asking how I was. He said: "tell me about your pain, on a scale of one to ten." I was shouting for all I was worth, "ten, ten, ten, TEN!" The doctor, a US Ski Team racer's dad and expert skier himself was working with patrol. He said: "with this much pain, we have to think aneurysm." That determined the urgency, the speed of evac needed, and the medication and aid on the spot. His diagnosis was critical. Patrols' work was swift and skillful. I was writhing, screaming, and puking all at the same time, but their confidence inspired me and erased my fear.

 

What was clear to me was the high level of concern these patrol have. The urgency of their action was so evident. Their will that I should not die was powerful. Their feelings were right out there. Later in the hospital (33 days) when I couldn 't sleep I would replay the rescue in my mind, and it made me very emotional to recall how hard they worked and with such passion.

 

Squaw is a tough mountain. Snow control is very difficult and dangerous. Lots of skiers and boarders are seriously injured. Our patrol have a skill set that is of the highest level. Squaw patrol were my only chance to survive an emergency Aorta Disection. Just about any other place that is a part of my life, I would have died.  They are constantly up to speed, rotating at an alert status. Only major mountains have that capability, and it is provided by patrol.

 

When I could drive and walk around I went straight to the ski patrol headquarters to thank them personally. I met Tom there, who had been a first responder and we had a hug. A couple other guys said: "I bet you never thought you'd see that guy again. How cool is that!"

I called the doc to thank him. He answered the phone: "David! I can't believe you made it!"

 

edit: add one concept:

we ski with some degree of risk and abandon. we can only do that because patrol has our back, so to speak. It's evident in contrasting resort skiing with back country. when I ski the back country (rarely) with a small group, we always have a little meeting before we start skiing: the jist of it is: no falling, period. no skiing on top of each other, period. know you terrain traps and safe spots. It's a conservative approach and not as necessary skiing the resort, due to patrol's control of the situation.


Edited by davluri - 7/1/10 at 12:05pm
post #15 of 18

Is it me, or do many ski patrol's seem cranky?

 

Other than that, they are good at scooping the injured off the hill.  I've been rescued at Killington (tree), Petersburgh Pass (1969) and Mad River Glen (1973).

post #16 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Jones View Post

Is it me, or do many ski patrol's seem cranky?

 

 

Kinda like being a cop!   Most people they work with are ill tempered either because they have been caught doing something they shouldn't have, or because they have had something else bad happened to them.  Almost everyone a ski patrol deals with.all day long is in a bad mood or has a bad attitude.
 

post #17 of 18

I can't say I've ever had any bad experiences with ski patrol personally. I've skied with them some and been given tips on where to find good snow when riding the lifts with them. Got to ride down on a sled the second time I went skiing at age 6. (The reason why you don't let your parents teach you to ski-Dad assumes Blue must mean easy and takes you up a peak with no green trails.) I do like to ski fast on the frontside, but I never have had any ski patroller be a jerk about it, they have always just let me ski.

post #18 of 18

Not much experience here, so not much to add.  Vital role, not particularly well rewarded!  I've never had a negative run-in with ski patrol ... frankly, I just don't see them all that much.  The hope is that they do their job relatively invisibly ... as opposed to just not doing the job!

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