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What We Can All Learn From Ski Patrollers


By: Skiing Magazine
February 23, 2012

Each season, ski patrollers clock millions of hours on the hill. So we asked these mountain savants—hundreds nationwide—to share their insights on everything from meat-rub recipes to banking good karma. Here are 100 of their secrets.

It Ain’t Boring

1.It Ain’t Boring Had I known I would be an Aspen Mountain ski patroller for 30 years, I would’ve punched out my ski boots when my feet first began to hurt and held on to that Apple stock I bought in the ’80s. But as it stands, my feet are lumpy with bone spurs and my retirement plan is kaput. Still, it’s been worth every turn.

We patrollers are a ruddy bunch—from talented misfits to law-school dropouts—with duct-taped gloves and dirty uniforms. Our headquarters are ripe with banter and tradition, and the clannishness can be thicker than an inch-an-hour blizzard. We have more words for snow than Aussies have for vomit. (Our lexicon—“snirt” is snow and dirt—often sends French exchangers home with a near-useless English vocabulary.)

We’ve coolly outskied avalanche slabs with packs full of explosives and igniters tucked into our goggle straps (though since 9/11, stricter protocol has prevailed). We’ve brought people back from death (once setting off lift-line cheers at the announcement of a pulse). I’ve retrieved a hysterical man’s wig after his fall and replaced it on his head backward. I’ve rescued a woman with an exploded breast implant. I’ve broken up fistfights and skied with the King of Spain. We are rescuers, referees, and ambassadors. But above all, we are a modern, professional outfit. Today patrols provide care on the slopes equal to what EMT-Ps provide on city streets.

This profession can hijack your intentions—vocational, romantic, academic. Instead, you’ll learn how to save lives, find free food, and drink beer from a cowboy boot. The years will leave you with rich friendships, stories, and epic ski days—and a bone spur or two.  —Tim Cooney, Aspen Mountain, Colorado

2.Put Up or Shut Up. Let your skiing speak for itself.  —Lel Tone, Squaw Valley, California

3.Gun It All the time. And don’t spray about it later.  —Sam Howard, Alta, Utah

4 Ski More On your deathbed you’re not going to wish you’d spent more time at the office.  —Gordon Gebauer, Jay Peak, Vermont

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