Ski patrol is always there to help
At any ski resort in the country, ski patrollers are the first ones on the hill and the last ones off at the end of day.
They give unselfishly of their time to help ensure safety and care for injured skiers.
The National Ski Patrol motto is: "We are a different breed." That certainly is true, but they all share common traits — a willingness to help people, dedication and the love of the sport.
Roughly 80 percent of ski patrollers are volunteers. Professional certifications are required, along with yearly refresher courses. The National Ski Patrol offers its members clinics to improve their skiing, snowboarding, Nordic or telemark skills.
Brian Delahanty has patrolled at Pats Peak and Crotched Mountain, where he was patrol director. He is now a paid senior patroller at Cannon Mountain. He spent many of his 34 years on the ski patrol as a volunteer.
"I really enjoy the job. I've just always done it, and started like we all did — to get cheap skiing — and stayed with it. I couldn't think of anything else to do in the winter. It's a good time and I find it very rewarding," said Delahanty, who is also a professional firefighter in Manchester.
Patrol groups are typically a tight-knit group.
"It's good to be around people who are like-minded and have similar training," he said, "who like to be outdoors in winter and like helping people".
Cannon is a challenging mountain. But Delahanty, an advanced skier, is ready for it.
"You have to keep your skills at a good level and continually train and stay in shape," he said.
Ski patrollers provide medical assistance on the mountain and transport the injured to the first-aid center or, when necessary, a medical facility.
Patients are brought down the mountain strapped into a toboggan harnessed to a ski patroller, so strong skiing and snowboarding skills are important.
Still, there are novice skiers who are able to assist.
Emergency medical technician Celeste Lunetta was a non-skier when she started in the aid room at Pats Peak in 2001. Crotched Mountain, which reopened in 2003, is one mile from her home, so she joined the Crotched Mountain Ski Patrol there. Today she is an Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) instructor, and through the National Ski Patrol has developed the skiing skills and confidence to carry patients in the toboggan.
"What I like about NSP is all the continuing education support they offer," Lunetta said.
"I would love to see more young people getting involved with patrol," she said. "A few years ago, NSP said the average age was 50 ... It's hard work, but good work."
For more information on the ski patrol, visit www.nsp.org or www.nhnsp.org.
Slopeside runs every Friday during the ski season. Kathleen Humphreys can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.