International Ski Patrol Day

The above photo is from a recent Sunday at The Highlands, when patrollers from the Northern Michigan Region of the National Ski Patrol came together for a Toboggan Enhancement Seminar.  In the photo are patrollers and hosts from The Highlands and northern Michigan ski resorts. All are members of the National Ski Patrol.

If you've ever been to The Highlands, you've probably seen the ski patrol. They are everywhere—on the mountain, in the lodge, and at the top of every lift. Ski patrollers are here to keep everyone safe and make sure you have an amazing time!

The ski patrol doesn't just wait around for an accident; they provide the necessary measures to avoid danger and accidents at the resort. As ski patrollers, they frequently respond to injured people, stabilizing them, providing first emergency care, and transporting them off the mountain.

Whether it's an injury or simply a question about what's next on your journey down the hill, they are there to help.

 In honor of International Ski Patrol Day, we are showcasing a few of our Highlands ski patrollers.

Ski Patrols on a chair at The Highlands

Meet Jeff!

Jeff has been a patroller since 1976 and involved with the international side of ski patrolling since 1991. He has been all over the globe representing the Fédération Internationale des Patrouilles de Ski (FIPS)-an international organization representing ski patrol and associated ski safety organizations.

How did you become a ski patroller (or what got you interested in being a ski patroller)?

I started skiing in Michigan during high school and quickly saw that people have a tendency to fall down and occasionally need help. The people in jackets with crosses on them would help those skiers, and I thought to myself, "That could be fun!" Little did I know it would become a lifelong passion.

 I joined the National Ski Patrol in 1976 and have been ski patrolling ever since at Michigan ski resorts, the last 26 years at the Highlands. However, in 1991, I saw that the international ski patrol organization, FIPS, was having a meeting in Thredbo, Australia, and decided to attend. I was immediately hooked on the international aspect of ski patrolling and have since served as a delegate for the United States/National Ski Patrol. The FIPS organization meets every two years. I have been all over the globe (Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Russia, Argentina, and Sweden next year) meeting fellow ski patrollers and sharing my passion for patrolling and skiing.

What qualities make a good ski patroller?

A good ski patroller will have a burning passion for skiing, a genuine desire to help their fellow man/woman, and the ability to show empathy for guests that need assistance. Throw in a dash of humility, and you've got the makings of a good patroller. It does not hurt to have a good sense of humor as well. 

Ski Patrol White Cross on Back on Red Coat

What are the most important "tools of the trade"?

There are two worlds a ski patroller lives in while on duty. The first is making the ski area safe and helping to ensure guests have a memorable experience while visiting the resort. It is important to be a good listener and make the guests feel welcome. 

The second is the first responder aspect of a ski patroller's duties. A vital "tool of the trade" is to exhibit a calm, professional, and empathetic attitude when dealing with a hurt guest. Attitude is everything!

What is the biggest challenge about being a ski patroller?

Staying calm and relying on your training when a difficult situation demands it. Staying warm can also be a challenge at times.

Meet Kevin!

Kevin has been a ski patroller since 1992! He has patrolled at Mt. Holly, Europe, while living in Germany, and is now a member of The Highlands Pro Patroller staff. With a background in skiing, being on a ski team, and a can-do attitude, it was a natural fit to be a ski patroller.

How did you become a ski patroller (or what got you interested in being a ski patroller)?

I grew up skiing in northern Michigan, starting to ski in my freshman year of high school. My school, East Jordan High School, started a ski team, so I joined the team and learned to ski by racing with bamboo for gates (ouch!). Fast forward ten years. I was living in SE Michigan and wearing a Killington Ski Resort shirt while buying a boat. The seller was a ski patroller at Mt. Holly and asked me if I wanted to join the ski patrol. That was in 1992, and the rest is history.

What qualities make a good ski patroller?

Empathy for an injured guest whose day turned from being on vacation and having a great ski day to being injured and the fear and pain of the unknown. 

The development of a sense of awareness for safety on the slopes can go a long way towards preventing guest injuries as well; it takes time to develop and get an eye for it. For the past two years, I have been a Pro Patroller at The Highlands and have learned more than I could have imagined. When I entered the Pro Patrol role, I had three goals: to help others, learn more, and not get injured. So far, I have been successful.

Ski Patrol on top of The Highlands Slope

What are the most important "tools of the trade"?

A great pair of boots for warmth and traction on icy surfaces.

As a Pro Patroller, I was amazed at how much safety roping, hazard marking, tower pad installation, and other tasks would need to be accomplished out on the slopes, quite often early in the morning or after closing. A good pair of boots helped me accomplish one of my goals, not getting injured. Some other tools are a well-stocked first-aid kit, a pocket knife, scissors at the ready, and great skis and ski boots.

What is the biggest challenge about being a ski patroller?

One of my biggest challenges is self-reflection on what I could have done better or differently after each injured guest scene I've experienced. On a simple injury, the reflection sometimes lasts for an hour or so, while on more serious injuries, I may be thinking about the experience for days, trying to work out what I could have done better to prepare myself for the next encounter. The issue is that no two scenarios are the same; it is a task of continuous improvement. As Jeff said, it's also a challenge to stay warm.

Thank you to all of our ski patrollers here at The Highlands!

Ski Patrollers in Training at The Highlands

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