Out on the slopes long before most folk are even thinking about getting out of bed, the ladies and gentlemen of the ski patrol are there primarily to ensure the safety of everyone on the slopes. Many people associate ski patrollers merely with carting the sick and dying off the slopes in blood wagons - whilst this is an important duty, ski patrollers have many differing and varied roles and responsibilities than extend far beyond casualty care. The aim of this page is to give you a wee insight into the life of a ski patroller, explain the sort of credentials needed to consider ski patrolling as a career and how to go about it. I have also included some links to various websites around the globe that are related to ski patrols and patrol issues.
Ski patrol organisation
The majority of ski patrollers are direct employees of the particular ski area where they work - either on a salaried or sessional basis. Funding usually comes from the price of a lift ticket. The head honcho is termed either 'director', 'chief', 'manager' etc and he or she has overall responsibility for the patrol services provided. Larger patrols will have many sub-divisions with their own managers - these may cover areas such as education and training, avalanche control, snowboard parks, medical services etc. Most alpine countries have a national organisation that coordinates the activities and training of ski patrols within that particular country - some have several such organisations all vying for members! In the UK, the national organisation is the British Association of Ski Patrollers (BASP), with their HQ based in Glencoe. All ski patrollers in the UK are encouraged to be members of and received training from BASP. Not surprisingly, the National SKi Patrol (NSP) in the USA is the largest such organisation in the world. At a higher level, several countries have brought their national organisations together under the asupices of the International Ski Patrol Federation (FIPS). FIPS holds a biannual congress - the last was held in Utah, USA in 2007 and the next will be held in Are, Sweden in April 2009. More details at the bottom of this page.
Ski patrol duties
The following is a list of the duties that usually fall to the ski patrol [it is not exhaustive, just exhausting]
- Daily monitoring of weather, snow and avalanche conditions - dealing with avalanche risks by controlled explosions +/- piste closures
- Deciding when a ski area needs to be closed in the event of bad weather
- Assessment of slope conditions - closing those not felt to be safe, identifying hazards and signposting appropriately
- Monitoring the behaviour of skiers and snowboarders on the slopes - those who persistently ignore the FIS code of conduct may have their tickets removed and be banned from the resort in the future
- Providing first aid and evacuation services to those injured or falling ill whilst at the ski area
- Taking care of lost children at the resort
- Providing information to skiers and snowboarders wishing to explore the backcountry
- Performing an end of day sweep of all runs before the resort closes
Becoming a ski patroller
So you fancy trying your hand at this ski patrol lark then?! Here are some of the attributes a ski patrol boss will be looking for in a potential patroller - obviously this will vary from country to country and from resort to resort:
- Age >18 years
- Ability to ski/snowboard in all conditions (remember too that you may have to do this with a 100kg casualty on a sledge behind you!)
- Recognised first aid qualification(s)
- Clear head under stress
- Ability to work under pressure as a member of a team
- Ability to work with the public (not always easy!)
- Ability to cope with injuries (the blood and guts!)
In the first instance your initial port of call should be the ski patrol chief at the area where you would like to be considered for work. Failing that, try contacting the national organisation in the country (if one exists). You can read JobMonkey's guide to becoming a ski patroller by clicking here.
Remember that ski patrolling can be very hard work in harsh conditions and the pay may not be that great for the hard work involved. What is great though is the ability to work in fantastic alpine locations with fantastic colleagues, doing great sports....well worth it. The following describes the route to becoming a full ski patroller in Scotland and is taken from the BASP website.
Ski Patrol Training
Pre-requirements for training course
- Minimum age of 18
- A minimum of an adult standard first aid certificate - 4 day H.S.E. standard, 4 day BASP Standard or 4 day Mountain First Aid.
- 4 star award skiing standard
- Membership to BASP
- Winter mountain skills would be an advantage
- Dates for 2001 - 9th-14th December at Glenmore Lodge, Aviemore
- Cost £300 residential or £260 non-residential (inc. lunch, teas/coffee
► Candidates may be exempt from part or all of the patrol training course at the discretion of the training committee. The candidate would be expected to receive training at a resort to cover any deficit in skills and knowledge. At the end of the candidates training period, the candidate will be issued with a log book,training flow chart and patroller training scheme notes.
► A candidate with the relevant prerequisites to join the training scheme attends a 5 day course held annually. They must then attend a Ski Test with the chief of ski patrol of the patrol which they wish to train with. The test is not to determine the candidates' skiing style but they must satisfy the chief of patrol that they can ski confidently and safely in all conditions. The candidate is then a Trainee.
► The Trainee must log a minimum of 100 hours in the company of qualified patrollers. These hours are to be spent gaining hands on experience and being trained and assessed in the various sections of the Log Book. Once the log book sections have been successfully completed the Trainee becomes a Probationary Patroller.
► The Probationary Patroller works under the supervision of senior patrollers and must successfully complete the requisite log book sections over a further 2 seasons (minimum of 30 days per season) . Upon successful completion the Probationary Patroller is graded as a National Patroller.
► National Patroller provides the individual with the necessary skills to deal with day to day situations and to assist with any more unusual occurrence, difficult evacuations etc.
► The three sections of Avalanche, Mountain Craft and EMT should be taken and revalidated at regular intervals. These modules can be undertaken before National status is achieved.
► Should be able to ski parallel turns in easier terrain, ski in control on steeper terrain. Make a no fall controlled descent of a red run showing consideration to other skiers. Make a non-stop descent of a blue run showing consideration to other skiers. Ski in control down a mogul field for at least 100 metres. Choose a route on easier terrain showing sensible choice of line and good awareness of hazards. Be able to navigate from point to point using a resort map.
You will find some pictures of my own ski patrol in action on the picture gallery page.
British Association of Ski Patrollers
National Ski Patrol
Australian Ski Patrol Association
Canadian Ski Patrol
Canadian Ski Patrol System Ontario Division
Swiss Ski Patrol
Dave's snowboard patrol page
Forthcoming ski patrol conferences
The International Ski Patrol Federation (FIPS) holds a biannual ski patrol conference. These congresses allow ski patrollers from around the world to network, discuss new ideas and equipment and (of course) ski and socialise together! The British Association of Ski Patrollers are active
FIPS members and will be sending a delegation to the next conference. This will be held in Are, Sweden
in April 2009. For more information about this meeting, please visit this page
For more information on FIPS in general, please click here.