A ski patroller’s day starts long before the lifts open. Near dawn, fog covers the valley and I-90 below Silver Mountain, ahead of a bluebird ski day.
The Snowcat driver gives patrollers a ride to the top of the mountain in the morning, so the patrollers can perform avalanche mitigation before the public is on the mountain.
Patroller Serena Primmer tosses a hand charge into the snowpack below. Detonating hand charges helps mitigate the risks of in-bounds avalanches. These charges are delayed a couple minutes, giving patrollers enough time to ski away and take cover before the blast.
Primmer inspects the debris of early-morning avalanche control work. After large snowstorms or changes in snowpack, ski patrollers ski-cut the hill and toss bombs to reduce the risk of an avy. This avalanche control work keeps skiers much safer from slides when enjoying a resort.
The old fire lookout at the top of Silver Mountain provides beautiful vantage point for looking down upon the ski resort and into Silver Valley.
Patroller Curtis Huey analyzes the avalanche slide path caused by a hand charge he threw a few minutes earlier.
Huey and Primmer assess the snowpack after throwing a charge. After the patrollers make an assessment, they radio dispatch to record the findings.
Patroller Bryce Johnson looks down into the Silver Valley. After a hike to the top of Wardner Peak, he’ll check on stored equipment—and get some fresh turns he’s willing to work for.
Johnson makes a few nice turns while on the morning shift. Patrolling is tough work, but it definitely has its perks; ski patrollers always get first tracks.
Foltz and Johnson are all smiles on this beautiful spring day.
Thanks to hard work with ropes and other equipment, ski patroller’s gloves usually last one season. In order to extend the longevity of gloves,these ski patrollers use insulated work gloves instead of fancy waterproof (and expensive) ski gloves.
The Chair 2 patrol shack is one of the mountain’s meeting places. On cold days, frozen patrollers stop in for warm coffee and cocoa; during the spring, frequent barbeques fill the air with the smell of burgers and sausages. It’s no wonder skiers and borders want to be friends with the Silver Mountain Patrol.
Patrollers Mike Heglund and Foltz warm up in the patrol shack on top of the ski hill. If you ever have the opportunity to hang out with seasoned patrollers in this environment, take it. Down time in the patrol shack usually consists of tall tales, good laughs, and strong coffee.
Mike Heglund, a longtime member of the Silver Mountain ski patrol, stands outside the patrol shack and watches guests. Not every patroller has been around for years, but those who have are a wealth of knowledge and experience.
A skier makes some soft turns during the late morning. Good snow sticks around at Silver Mountain, especially the side of the mountain once called the Jack Ass Ski Bowl. This area is now home to Chair 4.
Sometimes, once the chores have all been completed and the guests are happy and healthy, there’s nothing left to do but kick back and sip on a well-earned cup of coffee.
What a Ski Patroller Does
A ski patroller assists in the overall management of slopes, trails and base areas. They ski or snowboard through the area, ensuring that users are behaving responsibly, and providing first aid, rescue and transport to those who need help. Ski patrols are either volunteers or paid staff. Benefits include free skiing, training in first aid and emergency response, and the opportunity to improve skiing or snowboarding skills.
Medical First Response and Rescue
- Respond to accidents
- Assessment and treatment to injured or ill guests
- Incident scene management
- Transport of the injured or ill patient via toboggan
- Accident investigation
- Maintaining medical equipment and rescue gear
- Providing dispatch service for emergencies
- Mountain Search and Rescue
Safety and Maintenance
- Ensure and promote mountain safety
- Avalanche detonation and ski cutting
- Assessing the condition of runs before opening
- Maintaining the resort’s boundary rope lines
- Clearing debris from the trails
- Fixing broken signs and marking obstacles
- “Sweeping” the mountain at the end of the day
- Routine patrolling of runs
- Personal relations with guests
- Educate guests in accident prevention and proper use of lifts
- Guidance and advice for trail choices
- Assist with Special Events
- Assist Terrain Park Crew, Lift Maintenance and Snow Sports School as necessary
- Improving ski skills… out skiing!