Early Morning as a Ski Patroller

This was actually from CHRISTINA, and I forgot to post it back when it was snowing!
 

4:15 AM: Ring, ring. My phone wakes me up. “Hullo” I groan, full of sleep.

“Christina, we are out the door at 6,”  Says my fellow patroller doing the morning call-outs.

“OK,” I mumble and roll back over; it’s another avalanche control morning so we are in two hours early today.

At 5:45 we’re in the Patrol room and booted up ready to go, all ears for the weather briefing.  We receive our route assignments—which could be one of the 23 on the mountain.  At 6AM we check our avalanche beacons and head to the bottom of Chinook, headlamps blazing and a tangible excitement for the powder ahead.  When we get to the top, we lace our explosives with fuses and wait for first light—which can be as late as 7:20am early in the winter. 

Our routes take anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours depending on conditions, winds, visibility, and about a million other factors.  If all goes well, this early morning work is completed on time. Some days, however, things don’t always go as planned—lifts get rimed in bad weather, high winds keep us sitting at the bottom, snow drifts make hiking the ridges sometimes waist deep. We have perfected the hurry-up-and-wait  technique.

While avalanche control is often considered the best part of our job (who wouldn’t love it?), it is surely not the easiest.  We need to be fast, safe, and efficient to get the mountain open on time. In addition, we also need to know that when we call our routes in clear, we did our best to mitigate the hazard for our guests that are chomping at the bit to shred the powder.  Once our routes are complete, we must cycle back up to do our daily opening runs—checking boo, rope lines, slow banners, tower pads, medical gear, and other features that are all an integral part of mountain operations.
 

One thought on “Early Morning as a Ski Patroller

  1. CDOT

    Just wanted to give the Crystal Mtn. Patrol mad props for all the hard work you do (getting up at 4am/well earned first tracks/safely playing with dynamite/giving free toboggan rides down the steep slopes to First Aid/herding cats at closing time/etc.). Your organization is bomb-diggity..
    A short story long. Years back a very experienced back country guide and hot-shot tailgunner friend of mine were lost in Revelstoke B.C. in an inbound backcountry accident. They were suddenly taken out by an avalanche with no warning. Again, these people were highly trained technical backcountry enthusiasts and they got wiped out. Sooo unfair.
    As a result, you’ll never again catch me ducking your rope lines or not obeying posted signage in search of fresh powder. Y’all don’t close runs or post signs because it’s fun.
    It really, really sucks I learned my lesson the way I did but that’s truly the reality and risk of doing what we all would like to do, but probably shouldn’t do. I now truly believe there is good reason for everything. I don’t mind when routes are closed anymore.
    Back in the day I’d duck a rope with the best of them simply because I could do it and never thought I’d ever get caught by 1) a Ski Patrol or 2) an avalanche. I’ve cheated trespassing offenses, getting my ticket pulled, and even cheated the silent white-death on more than a couple dozen of occasions until my lesson learned and it had nothing at all to do with me.
    So to Joe and/or Jane Skier and Snowboarder Sam and/or Sally out there (yep that’s you) whose not yet lost someone close or distant to a skiing accident of whatever flavor please do yourself a favor and listen to the patrollers (ropes, signage, and bamboo). Ski Patrol definitely knows how to keep you safer than you know how to do on any given day.
    With all that said thanks again for an awesome year and cannot wait to see you again next year same time, same place…

    Like

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