Fall is an exciting time for skiers. As thoughts about knee-deep powder turns and crisp, sunny days spent carving around the local resort start to fill our minds, every skier feels that draw to the mountains that always leaves us wanting more. For some, this passion becomes so great they decide to make it their profession. Enter the ski patroller.
Ski patrollers are responsible for maintaining and promoting skier safety, providing first-aid assistance to accident victims on the hill, and transporting injured skiers. They play a huge part in what makes any ski area run. Working as a ski patroller can be physically demanding, but it also might be the most rewarding job you’ve ever had.
HOW TO BECOME A SKI PATROLLER
1. Get a medical certification
Skiing and snowboarding have inherent risk. Because of this, a huge part of any ski patroller’s day is serving as a first responder to any medical emergencies on the mountain. Typically, ski patrollers are trained to the National Ski Patrol’s (NSP) Outdoor Emergency Care certification or have Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) licenses.
A CPR certification is essential. Many EMT or Outdoor Emergency Care courses include this training within their course curriculum.
2. Gut check: you need to be the best skier on the mountain
Most daily operations performed by ski patrol are done while skiing. You may not need to be the next Olympic moguls gold medalist, but the ability to ski all the terrain within the resort in any condition is essential. Once you get the job, you will be required to ski additional equipment, supplies, and even injured people anywhere on the mountain.
3. Contact your local resort
Many resorts begin hiring new patrollers in the off-season. Reach out to the resort you want to patrol at the summer before. A lot of preparation happens even before the snow starts to fly. Resorts depend on ski patrollers to open runs, reduce hazards on the mountain, and get the resort ready for the upcoming season.
It is also a good idea to contact the resort during the winter before you want to start ski patrolling. Some resorts will invite you out for a “ski-around” to assess your skiing ability and to show you a little bit about what ski patrolling is all about.
4. Attend trainings
Once you get the job, prepare to attend trainings at the resort. You will spend time refreshing your first-aid skills, learning about avalanche mitigation, and learning how to perform daily responsibilities.
Some ski resorts also require their patrollers to conduct avalanche mitigation. These patrollers have advanced training in avalanche safety, wake up early, assess snow conditions, and head out onto the mountain early to make sure the ski runs are safe from avalanches. One of the upsides to these activities is the amazing powder turns that patrollers get while they are opening up the mountain.
What is the difference between pro and volunteer patrolling?
Ski patrollers comprise two distinct groups. Pro patrollers are often employed on a full-time basis by the resort for the entire ski season. The biggest difference is that pro patrollers get paid. They conduct avalanche mitigation at some resorts and take on additional roles not undertaken by volunteers.
Many resorts offer volunteer patrol opportunities. In these roles, patrollers dedicate their time, usually once or twice a week, to responding to accidents and working as a patroller. They may work in base clinics, in first-aid areas, or as full-fledged patrollers.
Often, these individuals have jobs away from the resort, have been pro patrollers in the past, or are looking for a fun activity to do on the weekends. Some resorts employ entirely volunteer ski patrols. If you’re unsure whether becoming a pro patroller is really the path you want to go down, joining a volunteer patrol is a great way to test the waters.
Becoming a ski patroller has enormous benefits. Perhaps you’re interested in pursuing a career in emergency medicine and want a fun job to get you set in the right direction. If you’re interested in skiing 120 days a year and want to get paid while you do it, ski patrolling is probably the job for you. Maybe you’re looking for something to keep you busy on Saturdays while the family skis at the local ski area. Whatever the reason, ski patrolling can allow you to become part of a valuable team and provide incredible professional development. It is an excellent opportunity for anyone at any age.
If you are ready to join your local mountain ski patrol, contact them or the NSP (if you’re in the U.S.) or the Canadian Ski Patrol (if you’re in Canada) and ask about opportunities. Ask them about any first-aid classes they may be teaching or if there is any opportunity for you to do a “ski-around” with them. Express your interest early. Though becoming a ski patroller does take a little effort, the experience and knowledge you can gain make it well worth it.