Many of us have dreamed of giving up our day jobs and moving to the mountains in pursuit of a life of skiing. For professional ski patrollers, they’ve taken that dream a step further by helping the rest of us enjoy the mountains in safety. Who are these professionals behind the goggles?
Ski patrollers wake up before dawn, trek across treacherous ridgelines, and sacrifice their time to help others. Luckily, all this hard work has its own reward. Ski patrollers live a life filled with the joy of skiing, the gratification of helping people, and the fulfillment of being a part of something greater.
Building Trust on the Mountain – One Hidden Feature at a Time
When you get first tracks at any resort, there were people who inspected the slopes far before you lined up for the chair lift. These inspections ensure that dangerous avalanches are avoided, jagged rocks are marked, and crevaces are roped off. When you feel the freedom that only comes from being safe, it’s all thanks to the efforts of the ski patrol.
Jill, a patroller at Red Mountain said: “I take pride in making the mountain safe for people before they come up on a big powder day, and getting up at 6 o’clock in the morning, when the sun is just rising, observing the slopes that we need to control, and thinking about all my friends that are going to come up and ski during the day.”
I take pride in making the mountain safe for people before they come up on a big powder day.
Every skier lives for first tracks. You may even envy the ski patrollers who have first dibs on all the freshies. The truth is, ski patrollers must often sacrifice their own joy for the sake of safety. Instead of first tracks, they’re often up first, down last.
And, it’s a tough job. As Patroller Andrew said: “picking up, sometimes, 8kg of explosives in your bag, and then skiing some of the more hazardous terrain on the mountain, with the potential of avalanches, and yeah, you watch out for each other . . . you have to know five steps ahead, and three steps behind, what’s going on, at all times”
Picking up, sometimes 8kg of explosives in your bag and then skiing some of the more hazardous terrain on the mountain… with the potential of avalanches, and yeah, you watch out for each other.
A Part of Something Bigger – One Big Ski Family
Yet dedicated ski patrollers are connected to something bigger than just their daily tasks. These professionals love to ski, and that connects them to a much greater community of like-minded people. Professional skier, Kaylin Richardson, is a member of this exclusive world. As a beneficiary of ski patrollers’ commitments, she also feels banded together with these fellow skiers: “In every ski town I go to, you meet these kindred spirits. The mountains are my happy place, and the moment I sit down with them, we have this shared ground, where we just love the mountains, we love skiing pow, we love making turns, and you can talk for days, and then weeks, months, years later, I’ll come back, and look them up, and it’s like no time has passed, because you have that shared love for the sport.”
Just as Kaylin noted, the shared memories of fun on the mountain connects skiers to one another. And like-minded people tend to gravitate to the sport. For ski patrollers, there’s an added element of safety. Patrollers have each others’ backs during challenging and dangerous experiences. As Duncan puts it, “we have a very tightly-knit group of ski patrollers here, um, and, yeah, it is cliché, but they are my family…”
The Heart of It All – A Passion for Skiing
Safety and family are nice and cozy thoughts. Yet, ski patrollers and skiers are united by something more thrilling, too. This community is built on passion. There are no words that can express the feeling you have when you’re skiing down the mountain on a beautiful bluebird day. The wind on your face, the rush of the speed, the power of a carved turn. This feeling is the tie that binds.
Patroller Duncan describes skiing as, “you’re just choosing your path, and floating around, especially in powder snow, um, it’s soft, you feel everything under your feet, it’s always different. Sometimes, it’s… it’s bottomless, it’s amazing, and just dreamlike, really.” This dreamlike state is ultimately what it’s all about.
It’s that nameless draw that skiers live for. “That’s what connects us to a shared pastime of loving the sport, and it’s what connects skiers together.” As Kaylin put it, “I’ve been putting ski boots on for ages, thousands of times, and the cool thing is, is that it’s something that, the moment I slip them on, there’s this switch that flips, where this is my arena, this is where I’m happiest.”
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This article was first published by Helly Hansen in October 2018 – view the original article here.