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Slippery Slopes

Slippery Slopes
2nd Battalion 211th Aviation Regiment,
Ground Support Aviation Battalion
Utah National Guard
West Jordan, Utah 

For me, my “after-Army” plans for the future started in the summer of 2007 at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. During this deployment, time seemed to stand still. It was during a 115 F day, while daydreaming about the Rocky Mountains, that I decided to become a national ski patroller. After all, I’d spent a lot of my younger years on the ski slopes in Utah. Even though I hadn’t skied in 20 years, I still considered myself a good skier and was confident my skills would come back to me in no time.

After my deployment, I was released from active duty and returned to Salt Lake City. I immediately put my plan into action and completed emergency medical technician certification. I then found a selection event at the Brighton Ski Resort, which hosts an open house to pick ski patrol candidates.

At the start of the day, I was first in line with 20 other candidates, looking down an expert run called Hard Coin. As the lead instructor patroller pointed down the steep, powder-filled run through the trees, I asked myself, “What are you doing? This is insane!” I snapped back to reality and pulled it together. It was now time to shine.

Patrol instructors lined the run when I stepped off. I flew through the trees and my skis pointed perfectly downhill. I pressed the snow for steady speed and good rhythm and had an amazing run. Throughout the day, I had extreme runs, while instructors corrected techniques and evaluated my skiing ability. While skiing came back to me quickly, I realized I needed to be in better shape.

Following the open house patrol selection process, I was asked to participate in the candidate training program. During the next eight weeks, I skied with the best ski patrol instructors. I was trained and qualified on toboggan handling and completed my outdoor emergency course. For the next three years, I was a member of the National Ski Patrol. I saw many accidents during my time with the patrol. Sadly, a common factor in those accidents was most could’ve been prevented.

No matter your skiing skill level, it’s important to prepare yourself before heading out on the slopes. Whether you’re a novice or a rusty experienced skier, start your first day on the slopes with an instructor. Also wear the proper safety equipment. Helmets can save lives and prevent a traumatic brain injury. Choose goggles that fit and ensure their lenses are adequate for varying sunlight levels. Select skis for the conditions you plan to ski. Remember, powder skis do not perform on groomed runs as well as alpine skis. Dress in layers with gear that is performance based and stay physically fit during the winter months. And don’t forget the sunscreen!

Being on the hills all day can be physically challenging. If you live on the coast and fly to a ski resort, remember the air gets thinner at 10,500 feet. While you are there to have a good time, never ski impaired. Collisions and injuries happen in a flash, and in my experience, crashes usually involve innocent skiers. It’s important to realize that you are still legally responsible for the injuries you cause. Practicing a little safety will help you have an enjoyable skiing adventure.

Did You Know?

The National Ski Patrol is the leading authority of on-mountain safety. The NSP is dedicated to serving the public and outdoor recreation industry by providing education and accreditation to emergency care and safety service providers. The organization is made up of more than 28,000 members serving over 650 patrols, including alpine, Nordic and auxiliary patrollers. The NSP members work on behalf of local ski and snowboard areas to improve the overall experience for outdoor recreationalists. To learn more, visit the NSP website at http://www.nsp.org/slopesafety/slope_safety.aspx.

  • 1 November 2013
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 7212
  • Comments: 0