Patrollers keep their skills sharp with a refresher course every fall. The constant reinforcement is necessary, Henyon says, because even with all their shifts and all the people out on the slopes, a given patroller may really take care of only one or two patients a season. “You have to stay proficient,” he says.
That said, patrollers will interact with lots of skiers in a non-medical situation. Sometimes they’re called to give a courtesy ride in a sled or pickup truck if someone has a sudden crisis of confidence and can’t ski the rest of the way down the mountain. This doesn’t happen while I’m there, though it might have, had I chosen to accompany Henyon on his morning pass through the black diamond slopes.
In addition to ski patrol members, Wintergreen has a cadre of about 60 safety patrol members with no medical training. We join two of them at the top of one of the ski lifts. They seem to appreciate the assist from Ebling, who helps them in picking up a never-ending stream of skiers who fall down as they slide off the lift chairs. It looks like something from “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” except with a very real possibility of serious injury.
Next we reconvene with newbie Wells, who confers with Ebling about putting up a few more ’boos in front of a snow gun beneath one of the lifts. “A little more exciting than changing trash bags,” he says with a grin.
A few minutes later, as I stand with Henyon monitoring the antics of the largely young, largely male skiers and snowboarders on the terrain park, it’s easy to see how excitement can be overrated. Wells and his co-patrollers would probably agree. I cringe nearly every time someone wipes out.
I ask Henyon about his worst fear as a ski patroller. He hesitates, reluctant to even say the words. Not wanting to scare anyone, he takes my question in a slightly different direction: Now that he’s a father, he says, he worries a lot more about children.
Cold and spent from a day of nervous observation, I decide that my day has come to a close. It’s just about 3 p.m., and the slopes won’t be closing for another seven hours. At that point, the ski patrol has taken 13 calls. Two patients needed to go to the emergency room.
Numbers like that don’t daunt those dedicated to the ski patrol. They love being on the mountain.
“It’s the dream that everyone wants to be a ski bum now and then,” Ebling says. “It’s great work.”
Great but tiring.
“I’m usually in bed by 9:30,” Henyon says.
That sounds pretty late to me.
Details, Wintergreen Resort
2012 Ski Guide
An Alpine feel in Telluride, Colo.
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