A ski patroller is someone who provides emergency medical care and rescue services to patrons of a ski resort, or in a back country area. Ski patrollers also work to promote mountain safety by enforcing area policies, clearing debris from the ski runs, maintaining the resort boundaries, and other specialized techniques (e.g. avalanche control, toboggan handling, chairlift evacuation, avalanche search and rescue, snowmobile operation). Contrary to the name's implications, ski patrollers can be snowboarders, or be alpine, telemark, or nordic skiers. Because of the location and type of career, most ski patrollers must be adept at either skiing or snowboarding, and be in good physical condition. Some ski areas allow patrollers who lack sufficient skiing or riding ability to provide emergency care in the first aid room.
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Ski patrollers are the first responders to injured or ill patrons on the ski hill. Typically this entails incident scene management (managing any risks present, e.g. other skiers or snowboarders), and the assessment, treatment, and transport of the injured or ill patient. Ski patrollers are often required to transport an injured patient from the accident site to the infirmary using a toboggan, and are actively involved in handing the patient off to the local emergency medical services system if necessary.
In addition to their first aid responsibilities, ski patrollers also work to ensure and promote mountain safety. Ski patrollers typically start the day by performing a sweep of the mountain before opening hours to ensure that the mountain is safe for guests. This entails maintaining the resort's boundary rope lines, clearing debris from the trail, fixing broken signs, and marking obstacles. Ski patrollers routinely perform these duties while not attending medical emergencies. At the end of the day, ski patrollers perform another sweep to ensure that no more patrons are on the hill.
Shockingly, ski patrollers also get to ski! Whether the patroller is a snowboarder or a skier, a lot of time is spent traveling from location to location by riding or skiing.
Ski patrollers get to work in the mountains, as you would expect. Typically this means working within the confines of a ski area, but can sometimes include neighbouring backcountry areas. Because of this, ski patrollers typically work in the cold weather, and sometimes in harsh conditions (e.g. rain, snow, and in the dark).
Because skiing and snowboarding are predominantly winter sports, employment in this field is typically seasonal. Most ski patrollers find alternate employment during the summer months, typically doing something that utilizes many of the same skills as ski patrolling. Careers like Paramedic, Firefighter, Lifeguard, and Backcountry Guide are natural candidates for patrollers during the off-season months.
From before dawn to well after the lifts stop running, ski patrollers have one of the most demanding—and rewarding—jobs on the mountain.
Many people associate ski patrollers merely with carting the sick and dying off the slopes in blood wagons - whilst this is an important duty, ski patrollers have many differing and varied roles and responsibilities than extend far beyond casualty care.
One of the most revered skiers in North America demystifies the life of a ski patroller, and talks about living and working at one of the best mountains on the planet and storms that dump eight feet in one go.