On Patrol




They do it — not for riches — but because they love it.It takes a different breed. Though being on ski patrol is often glamorized by movies and tall tales, the men and women who spend their days outdoors in winter’s finicky grip are a dedicated group of hearty people who do more than rescue injured skiers and snowboarders on the Granite State’s slopes.Many are full-time while others work full-time jobs and are ski patrollers on weekends and holidays. Some are fresh out of school while others have shifted careers with an AARP card in their wallets. They’re trained in emergency care and are at the mountain long before the lifts start running and after they close.They are first responders when a skier breaks a leg, do trail maintenance and keep the calm during those dicey lift evacuations. Becoming a member takes study, strong skiing skills and a comfort in winter.But there are also benefits of the job: skiing. First tracks belong to the ski patrol. So do last tracks, called sweeps, when they schuss down trails making sure there are no lurking, or lost, skiers and snowboarders. Perched on the mountain in their tiny, and often cozy, cabins, there’s also a world of jokes, camaraderie and one-upmanship.“I seriously love my job, I look forward to it every year,” says Loon Mountain ski patroller Jeff Martel. “Does that sound like overkill? I like getting on the hill, I like getting on the hill early. Why have I done it for 37 years? I love the challenge.”It’s patrollers like Martel, those with a passion and enthusiasm for a job that won’t lead to riches but certainly to some epic ski stories, that are a reminder that patrollers are also unique mountain resources for getting around the mountain or knowing when the ropes are about to drop on some trails.But listen to what they say: They can end your day quickly by pulling your ticket if you don’t follow the rules.Impressive FactCannon Mountain, home of the New England Ski Museum, appears to have had the earliest professional ski patrol in the country. The patrol parka belonging to C. Minot Dole, “Minnie,” founder of the National Ski Patrol System, is on display at the museum.Gear BoxSee Gear Box photo above.Ski patrollers have an arsenal of tools at their disposal. Skiers and snowboarders have probably seen them skiing down the slopes with a toboggan. The sleds have to be versatile and maneuverable as they have to first go up a lift before a ski patroller uses them to transport an injured skier down the slopes in all weather and snow conditions. (CTM100, www.cascadetoboggan.com, $948)Patrollers also need first aid gear for trail mishaps and carry them in belts strapped around their waist (www.skiareasupplies.com, $50 to $65)Skier and riders aren’t the only ones in constant communication with each other. So are patrollers. You’ll see them with radios and harnesses, keeping all abreast of their locations and needs. (Conterra Adjusta Pro Double Radio Harness, www.patrollersupply.com, $44)Expert AdviceJeff Martel is a Loon Mountain mainstay. He started on the ski patrol in 1973 and is still there some 37 years later. At 62, when not on the slopes, he’s an avid cyclist in the non-snow months.Generally, how do I become a member of my favorite mountain’s ski patrol? The best thing to do is sign up for an outdoor emergency course (OEC) so that you are qualified medically because it is a national ski patrol. If you move somewhere else this qualification can go with you.How good of a skier or snowboarder do I really have to be? Strong; able to ski any trail on the mountain in all conditions. It doesn’t have to look pretty but you do need to be able to carry equipment like bamboo, drills and run a sled. Of course, we teach you that stuff, but you should have an idea of what’s involved before you go looking for a job. We have many that show up that have an idea that this is somewhat easy work.Aside from administering first aid to an injured skier or snowboarder, what else does a ski patrol member do? Check trails to make sure they are safe to open, mark hazards and/or obstacles. We report the conditions to marketing. We deal with reckless skiers and snowboarders. We do trail work which means that we clear the trails of debris-fallen trees. We check lift lines, we’re responsible for a lift evacuation. Since we try to be very visible we are in constant contact with the public.What’s the best and worst part of the job? The best part is getting to be the first one down the mountain in the morning. I call it “This is the Time to Smell the Roses.” [The worst part] I think is trying to educate people who don’t understand why their skiing or riding was reckless and unsafe. That makes it tough.How’s the pay and benefits? Very fair, and you have to love what you do.Do ski patrollers like curious visitors to their cabins? We don’t have too many people that actually stop in. I think people think it’s like walking into a police station. But we are actually really friendly and don’t mind the company at all.What would cause a ski patroller to yank someone’s ticket? Skiing closed trails, reckless skiing and attitude is the number one reason why we would confiscate your ticket for the day.Would you really pull my ticket if you caught me poaching? It all depends on your attitude. However, a trail that is CLOSED is closed for a reason.
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