Mountain operations

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Ski Patrol

Ski Patrol is good fun and hard work. A bit similar to Surf Lifesaving. Ski areas can have both volunteer and professional patrollers. The job involves making the ski area safe for both paying customers and other staff: i.e. identifying and reducing hazards, putting out signs to warn of hazards and closed areas, helping people in trouble, picking up casualties, and assist with search and rescue operations when these become necessary. Many ski areas have significant avalanche hazard to control before areas can be opened to skier traffic. Traditionally, the two sides of the Ski Patrol coin are Advanced First Aid, and Snow Safety skills (avalanche hazard identification and control).

It's hard work. You get up first and put in hours of hard physical labour to make the area safe before the public are ever out of bed. Busy days often coincide with lousy weather, and you spend more time out in it than the paying customers. You need to be fit. Ski Patrol involves a lot of digging snow, lifting and transporting heavy things, and lifting people also. You are the last off the hill at the end of the day - days of hard yakka in bad weather that began before dawn can end well after sunset.

But it's also good fun. You get to ski the powder first - to check it's safe, of course ;) and most of us involved in this line of work love helping people to be safe and have a good time. On the good days, sitting at the top of the mountain watching the sun go down before doing the final sweep makes up for a lot of slogging in the slush.

If this sounds like fun, and you don't mind a bit of hard work (or think you'd look good in a red uniform), start by asking your local ski area if they have volunteer patrollers on their staff, and what qualifications they require. Advanced first aid is usually mandatory, and some sort of avalanche safety course is also a good starting point. You need to be a strong skier in all snow types on any steepness of slope, and strong enough to tow a toboggan with an injured person on board. Ski patrols vary in their attitude to snowboarders, but many these days are "equipment-neutral" as long as you have the strength and skills to do the job. Attitude is the most important thing. After a season as a voly, you will know the ropes and have made lots of useful contacts who will advise you and be able to guide you through the professional training.

Ski School

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