There are lots of jobs at ski areas, but not all involve skiing.

In fact, jobs on skis are relatively limited. The two most obvious are ski patrol and ski school. I’m certainly familiar with ski patrolling, with 20 years of experience in my resume. My time as a ski instructor totals exactly one half day, which is why the focus here will be on ski patrol.

Dave Irons, Ski Columnist

Obviously, things have changed since I first became interested in joining the ski patrol.

I was a regular Sunday River skier and had often skied with members of the patrol, including Bob Walker, who was the patrol director through the 1960s, so they knew my skiing qualified.

That requirement hasn’t changed. Every patrol member must be able to ski or snowboard all terrain on the mountain in all conditions.

Of course, there are more than 10 times as many trails as there were in 1968. White Heat, for example, didn’t exist, although a number of us skied that terrain through the trees in the famous winter of ’69. With over 300 inches of snow that winter, the trees on that side of the mountain were often skiable. Today, there are clearly marked glades so no skier or patroller has to break the rules to ski in the trees.

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To meet the first aid requirements was really simple. The National Ski Patrol required all members first complete the Red Cross standard and advanced First Aid courses, a total of 26 hours, plus CPR, which was usually included in the 26 hours.

Typically, a new member would also attend the patrol’s annual fall refresher, a weekend of first aid practice in various procedures in handling injuries and preparing the injured skier for transport.

This fall refresher would also be the time to review and practice lift evacuation procedures, not needed prior to 1971 when Sunday River got its first chair lift. In 1968 the area had a grand total of three T-bars. One serviced the Mixing Bowl, and by riding the lower T-bar 3,000 feet) and the upper T-bar (2,200 feet) a skier reached the summit of Barker Mountain, now called Locke Mountain. Hence the trail off Locke Mountain called T-2. So much for history. (You can find more in my Book, “Sunday River, Honoring the Past, Embracing the future.”)

GETTING STARTED

To learn about getting involved in today’s ski patrol at Sunday River I visited SundayRiver.com and talked with patrol director, Josh Thompson.

Under “Employment” on the website, I found volunteer opportunities, which listed ski patrol and mountain hosts.

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From Thompson, I learned that the Sunday River Ski Patrol has 35 professional patrollers and 60 volunteers. In addition to being able to ski everything on the mountain in all conditions, they have to meet one of several medical training certifications such as EMT or Winter Emergency Care. A complete list can be found on the website.

Pro or volunteer ski patrol requirements are the same. As are the duties performed. We often think of ski patrol in terms of their obvious duty in providing care for injured skiers, but they are actually part of an overall safety team as part of the mountain operation. They are the eyes and ears of management.

Take a typical day. Patrol members are the first to ride the lifts and ski the trails. That first lift ride is one of observation, listening for any unusual noises as the chair passes over a tower., checking the unloading area to make sure it’s smooth and clear. Any new snow is cleared from rescue toboggans.

Next comes skiing the trails to make sure they are skiable. Signage is checked and any necessary barriers are in place. Fencing and mazes at lift entrances are checked as crowd control is a critical part of patrolling.

Patrollers are often seen standing by slow skiing areas as part of their safety mission. It is always hoped their presence is enough, but occasionally they will ask a skier to slow down. They are not interested in playing policeman.

MOUNTAIN HOSTS

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The Mountain hosts are part of the safety team. Everyone who wears a resort uniform is there to enhance the guest experience, whether it’s to give directions or to assist the ski patrol at the scene of an accident.

While the qualifications for Mountain hosts are not as rigid as those of ski patrol, they must be able to ski or ride all of the groomed runs on the mountain.

The hosts are also registered members of the National Ski Patrol, which means they must have a Winter First Responders Certificate. This can be obtained through NSP. Or the Wilderness Medical Associates International (Wildmed.com).

Once someone is accepted into the host program, Sunday River will provide additional training.

START NOW

I did learn that Josh Thompson and I have one thing in common.

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My advice as Sunday River’s patrol director was always to make contact with the patrol a year ahead. In other words, if you wish to patrol next year, either go to Josh now or to the website to get the specifics on requirements. With a little luck, you might get to have the director observe your skiing this season and get some pointers.

If you have friends who patrol, discuss it with them. When I took over the Sunday River Ski Patrol in 1971 a big weekend day was 1,500 skiers. We knew the skiers and they knew us. It was easy to ski with a potential patrol candidate; not so easy with a season total approaching 600,000 skier visits.

A lot has changed in the years since I last wore a patrol parka, and while my PSAPA membership card calls me a certified Professional Ski Patrolman, don’t look for me wearing a first aid belt on the mountain.

When I ski, I often visit the patrol shack at the top of the mountain, and I’m always reminded of what I miss most about patrolling. It’s not being the first one up the mountain in the morning or being the last off at night. It’s the people.

If you want that job on skis, check that website. You could get to ski with some very good skiers and skiing on patrol will surely help your skiing. It certainly helped mine and, as readers of my words know, provides a lot of background for these columns.

See you on the slopes.

Dave Irons is a freelance writer and columnist who hails from Westbrook. He has been contributing to the Sun Journal for many years and is among the most respected ski writers in the Northeast. He also is a member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. Write to him at [email protected] 


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