Snow Skiing – Ski Patrol

The Ski Patrol combines the functions of the police, emergency workers, mountain guides and search & rescue teams for the purpose of establishing as safe an environment as possible for recreational skiers. Skiing can be a dangerous activity if rules and regulations are not followed to the letter, and even if a skier does follow the rules they may suddenly become mired in a situation that is beyond their control, resulting in injuries that can be life threatening. As well, the cold and often isolated conditions where skiers can meet up with misadventure can turn mild injuries into potentially fatal ones very quickly.

This was the situation that Charles Minot Dole found himself while skiing in 1938. Having suffered an injury on the slopes, he found that it took a very long time and most of his strength to get down to the safety of the ski lodge and medical attention. Dole resolved to ensure that others would not have to face such difficulties, and established the National Ski Patrol. The NSP, whose stated mission is “service and safety”, today has over 25,000 members and has helped set up similar organizations in countries such as Canada, Australia, Chile and Korea among others.

Ski Patrollers can be identified by the red jackets they wear, typically marked with white or yellow crosses on the front and back. Members endure a long training period, essential when it comes to knowing the area they will be supervising and all of its potential hazards. One of the most dangerous things a Ski Patroller must be concerned with is the possibility of avalanches. Although most ski resorts and recreational facilities are designed to be out of the reach of an avalanche, NSP members are aware that skiers that take it upon themselves to ski in restricted or forbidden areas may stray into areas that are avalanche prone. In case of an avalanche or any on-slope accident, NSP members are also trained to get to the injured person quickly with a stretcher and medical equipment, and then get the skier off the slopes and to proper medical attention. Although the NSP does not keep formal records on how many skiers have been saved from an unfortunate fate, it’s certain that their presence on the ski slopes of the world has made them a safer place for all to enjoy!