Diary of a Ski Patrolman: Week 3
Skiers and boarders know: our sport is exhilarating, beautiful, filled with memories, but also with an inherent risk. We are, after all, descending a snow covered mountain. And that’s why we train so long and hard. Most skier and boarders never get hurt. If you look at statistics for the number of participants and injuries skiing ranks among the safest. But things happen, whether we are hiking, swimming, fishing, playing baseball or soccer—or even bringing wood in from the shed. And when something happens our job is to bring an injured guest down safely and quickly.
Today I was just skiing, doing a routine trail check and all of a sudden I see someone on the side of the trail wave at me, and I notice another person lying down. Many words and thoughts ran through my mind. Time, for a split moment, seemed frozen. My first reaction—”Oh no, what am I doing!?”—gave way to “Don’t worry, I know what to do from my awesome two months of training.” And it was that second thought which was correct.
Although I was not able to do anything hands-on because of my soon to be upgraded [I hope] status as a trainee, I stayed on the scene, radioed up to the patrol hut, and found out what happened. I felt a bit awkward standing there without being able to help my patient, but I explained the situation the best I could, and mostly just kept talking. I’ve learned that talking to injured people relaxes them a bit, because it helps them ignore their pain, or at least dulls it a little. And sometimes just a little is all they need to know that they’re going to be taken care of by patrol.
Within a few minutes the other patroller appeared from the snowy reaches of the summit. I assisted with a few other minor things, such as gathering cravats to be used for a splint, and setting up the patient’s “seat” in the toboggan. We make an effort to give people seats of comfort made from cardboard, wool blankets, and foam as we ski them down in a metal sled. It might not sound like much, but that extra effort can make a huge difference.
Now that I’ve seen that with my own eyes, I feel like my winter work here means a lot. It means a lot to me, and a lot more to my potential patients, and it’s that second part, just like that second thought that overcame the first, that is really the essence of working as a ski patroller.
Okay, so I thought yesterday was a fluke. But it certainly was not. At each scene, I once again explained I was still in training, though they may have wondered why I wasn’t helping them more. But I stuck to the rules for everyone’s sake, and all was well.
It was really interesting, actually, to finally see how my training actually applies in reality. For some reason, it was a bit surprising to me…but in an excellent way. I guess while training on your friends as patients, you lose touch a bit with the fact that your patient may be in pain, and perhaps not smiling all that much. I wouldn’t smile, I don’t think, if I’d just twisted my knee and couldn’t ski for the rest of my holiday break.