Ski patrols provide care and service
Patrick Kezerian, a 29-year ski patrol veteran at Cannon Mountain, takes the rescue toboggan down a steep trail on April 6 while patroller J.P. Johnson skis alongside. (Kathleen Baglio Humphreys)
Safety is the primary concern of ski patrollers across the Granite State who are first on the mountains each morning making inspections and safety decisions to keep the public safe. Patrollers are also the last ones on the mountain after the chairlifts stop, making sure everyone is off safely.
When an injury happens, ski patrols draw from a variety of skills and high-level medical training to treat the patient efficiently and quickly for the best possible care.
In 1938, Cannon Mountain in Franconia became the first resort to have a paid patrol, hiring a dozen patrollers, establishing a tradition steeped in history. Today, 80 percent of ski patrollers across the country are volunteers, mostly because they are passionate about skiing and helping people.
“The most gratifying part of patrolling remains providing a service and care to injured skiers and snowboarders,” said Cannon Mountain Ski Patrol Director Brian Delahanty, who has 35-years with National Ski Patrol.
Amy Swift has been a full-time patroller at Cannon Mountain for 11-years. “I’m passionate about skiing,” she said. “That is probably what brings most patrollers to ski patrol. You have to love the idea that the mountain is your office. I enjoy helping people.”
Responding to an injury takes coordination and skills.
“When a call comes in, the big thing is where it is. You to have to anticipate rather than react and size up what is happening and get the assets and resources on the hill by communicating with dispatch,” said patroller P.J. Johnson.
“Depending on the severity of the injury, the focus is getting the person stabilized and off the hill. We work hard to provide the most basic medical care and rapid evacuation. We can be more effective in the Notchview First Aid Clinic, but some injuries have to be treated on the hill,” Johnson said.
Injured people are brought off the mountain in a toboggan. Dispatch can call for an ambulance or helicopter to be standing by if needed.
Cannon Mountain’s patrollers total years of experience and have a variety of backgrounds such as EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, wilderness rescue and are certified by Outdoor Emergency Care and National Ski Patrol.
The patrol decides on daily trail openings and closures.
“We ride the lift and listen for anything out of the ordinary and checkout the lines and wheels and make sure everything is turning and nothing is frozen up. We ski the terrain and make sure nothing has changed overnight, such as trees coming down or unsafe conditions,” said Delahanty.
“We have to evaluate Mittersill, which is considered side country by skiing it. If the Mittersill lift is not running, we hike the saddle,” said Delahanty.
Mittersill poses a safety concern.
“It’s challenging terrain at Mittersill, and the big thing is if somebody is injured in some of these places we have to make a technical rescue to get them out. The glades can be challenging,” Delahanty said.
There has not been a rescue at Mittersill this season.
“Ski Patrol is importance to daily mountain operations, safety and risk management,” said Thomas Prindle, Wildcat Mountain and Attitash Mountain Resort’s Marketing Director.
Across the country, patrollers are a tight-knit group.
“Patrol is my second family,” said Johnson.
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