By Jared Eygabroad – Mission Ridge Media Team
I began wondering what the day would bring as I drove my bald tires up the winding road to Mission Ridge before the season began. The lifts hadn't opened, but the Ski Patrollers were already gearing up. I thought this was the beginning stage of their preparation, but soon found out they had been gearing up since the end of last season.
The training day I had come to film soon turned interesting when the Medstar helicopter came to land while they brushed up on how to set up an LZ (landing zone). Dust covered the waiting crowd and training soon followed. CPR and splinting were two of countless training stations set up to get everyone working as one when faced with any emergency.
Lift evacuation came in many forms: patrollers rappelled alone with the ropes they always carry, they belayed stranded "guests" from stuck chairs, and one even belayed his avalanche dog from at least 50 feet in the air. The dog waited happily and safely on the ground while the patroller slid down right behind.
I only expected to film some basic medical training but found something much more. The patrollers were preparing for every scenario that can happen on a mountain, an endless task. Although endless, each looked more than happy and willing to train in the falling snow (snowblowers). At one point, two of the lift-stranded "guests" were covered completely in snow from these machines as they waited for others in chairs ahead of them to be "saved." When they finally made it to earth, they were drenched and cold, smiling and ready for more.
I came away from this experience with a great respect for the patrollers that are dedicated to the safety of those enjoying their mountain. It was impressive to see just a tiny slice of how they prepare and continually train. It was even more impressive to see the attitudes in which they did so, smiling with the opportunity to check their Gore-Tex against the elements (again, snowblowers). It's great to know they are there every day; ready, trained, and having a genuine passion for their endless job.
To see a photo album from the day's training check out our Flickr photostream.