A woman sitting next to me on the chairlift asked me today, “So do you just ski around looking for injuries?”
I get this a lot.
While it might seem like we ski patrollers spend our working day skiing (and in some cases, snowboarding) around waiting for injuries, there’s more to it than that.
There are rope lines that need to be maintained. The entire perimeter of Crystal is enclosed with a continuous line of rope. New snow, wind, rime, even warm spring melt all conspire to destroy this line. Every day we fix it, raise it, lower it, unfreeze it, derime it and shovel it out.
We provide first aid and transport injuries to the base area. This is maybe our most high-profile job, and one where we interact the most with the skiing public. Helping an injured skier or rider is the most rewarding part of the job.
There are tower pads that need raised or lowered. Those green and orange pads that wrap the towers must be manhandled (or woman handled, as the case may be) with diligence, a shovel and hopefully a partner.
Not only do we make up all the warning signs on the slopes, we repair them, move them around, drill them in on firm days, and put them away on sweep so they are out of the way of the snow cats.
On busy days, we stand by the Speed Control signs and Slow banners and remind people to go slow. We talk to skiers and riders about our policies and record the names of those we talk to on The Violator List (like your Permanent Record in school, but it lasts a lifetime). This is not the most rewarding part of our job.
When it snows, we do avalanche control. We wake up early to hike the ridges and use explosives to start avalanches so they happen before the slopes open.
Finally, we get to do all these tasks on skis. While we aren’t taking laps and choosing our favorite lines, we do get from here to there by skiing.