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Why Patrollers Are Better Than Action Heroes

Ski Patrollers are stewards of the mountains. They’ve got your back, protecting you by flagging stumps or throwing bombs. You’re ass is in their hands, and patrollers will protect it no matter how dumb it may be. They’ll save your life for a fraction of what a doctor makes. Actually, for about the same amount as a doctor gives his kid in allowance money.

If you talk to any veteran patroller, they’ll spin a few yarns of big city big-shots who get in over their heads in the mountains. Whistler patrollers might tell you about the piles of vacationers who got lost out-of-bounds, such as the group who urinated themselves to prevent bears from attacking them as they spent the night in the backcountry. British R&B star Seal also got lost outside the Whistler boundary. He asked some local snowboarders if he could go for a run through Kyber’s with them. After the locals got a taste of the speed of an upper-class British R&B star shredding in hard-boots, they ditched out and left him to fend for himself. A year later in Rolling Stone Magazine, Seal was asked what his scariest moment was. He responded with a story about the time when some “Skate rats” abandoned him in the mountains of Canada.

winter 2005 030

The Coast Mountains: An endless playground for lost and injured CEOs

These stories, as bizarre but believable as they are, can’t touch what happened to a friend of mine in her first year of patrolling. She was only fifteen, working as a junior patroller at one of the Rocky Mountain resorts. Celebrity Ski Week is always a busy time for the mountain’s staff. She showed up at a wreck to see a man in a bright one-piece suit screaming while holding his arm. The first on-scene patrollers had calmed him down a little, but not enough to get him to brave a ride in a toboggan. He refused to travel any way besides a snowmobile ride up to the top of the mountain, then a ride down the gondola.

Patrol got the one-piece suit, broken-armed victim on the back of the sled and took him, further from help, up to the top of the hill. My junior patroller friend met him there. They jumped in the gondola together as she started taking info and filling out paperwork. “Okay, time of incident done, date, run, location done. Could I get your name?”

“Jean-Claude,” He replied, wincing in pain.

“What’s your last name Jean-Claude?”

“Van Damme.”

“Okay thanks. Ohh, Mr. Van Damme, you don’t look so good, are you okay?”

Then, as if in slow-motion, the kickboxing, bloodsporting, cyborging, leg-splitting JCVD’s face changed from pale to green. He proceeded to vomit. Not just vomit, but vomit onto a fifteen year old girl. Not just vomit onto a fifteen year old girl, but vomit onto a fifteen year old girl and then act like nothing ever happened. No, “I’m sorry,” or “Are you okay?” Not even a, “You’re probably the youngest girl I ever puked on.” Just a burst of stomach contents followed by fifteen minutes left of downloading. Silent, awkward, and unapologetic.They never spoke again. Skiers only like getting puked on when “puking” is referring to snowing really hard. Perhaps The Muscles From Brussels got that lost in translation.

My initial reactions to my patroller friend were, “Do you still have the jacket?” and “Did you sell it on eBay?” Her response to both questions was no. It went through the wash enough times to get the smell of rich-people food out of it, then it was given back to the mountain at the end of the year. The rest of her ski seasons was much of the same work, helping out those who got themselves into trouble. She never mentioned much of thank yous or other sorts of appreciation. To my friend, her job was her reward.

Apparently some action heroes, aren’t even moderately tough guys in real life. But patrollers will get a bile shower for slightly more than minimum wage just to make sure some Euro in a Ricky Martin key-party suit gets to the bottom of the mountain safely. So treat your mountains stewards they way they deserve. I mean,just think what patrollers can do for you if you don’t vomit on them.

JCVD Quote

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