Ski Patrol Magazine

How Do I Become a Ski Patroller?

How Do I Become a Ski Patroller?

Let’s first define the job responsibilities of a Ski Patroller to ensure you understand what you could be signing up for.  Most people perceive that ski patrollers are the “ambulances” of the mountain and that patrollers ski all over the mountain looking for injured people or responding to calls of an injured skier.  While this is their most glamourous responsibility they are also responsible for more mundane and less appealing roles. Their day is job includes activities such as: securing perimeter rope lines; raising or lowering tower pads; creating and installing warning signs; dealing with dangerous skiers and snowboarders.  Here is an excerpt from a recent Ski Patroller post by Sugarbush.

National Ski Patrol

Patrollers perform a wide range of safety activities including: 

  • conducting trail checks

  • marking and removing hazards

  • planning and implementing trail maintenance work

  • openings and closing trails

  • inspecting and maintaining equipment/ropes

  • completing daily paperwork

  • identifying injured lost, out-of-control or reckless skiers/snowboarders

  • responding to first aid calls

Additional duties may include:

  • transporting equipment around the mountain on skis

  • operating snowmobiles

  • engaging in day and night search and rescue

  • evacuating guests from chairlifts

  • employing basic chainsaw work

Emergency response will include providing stabilizing care and transportation of injured guests, completing accident reports, and maybe reviewing/documenting accident scenes. Patrollers will be expected to maintain their training and certifications throughout their employment.

However, in order to be successful ski patroller you need a strong desire to help others, learn emergency care techniques (most patrollers don’t have first aid experience prior to becoming a patroller), improve their skiing and snowboarding skills, and enhance the safety and enjoyment of snow sports for all. In a nutshell, it is much more than just a routine day on the slopes. Although, there are benefits such as being outside (although many of the days will be frigid, very windy, sub zero temperatures and rain and snow)  for the majority of the day, getting fresh tracks when the rope drops, proform discounts, wearing a cool red jacket with a white cross and getting last chair to sweep the slopes.

In order to become a ski patroller you should?

  1. Join the National Ski Patrol (NSP) as an associate membership.  The NSP is the official organization of ski patrols in the United States and provides certifications and classes for its members.  The cost of membership is only $60 per year. Additionally, the membership comes with direct and indirect benefits. The membership will provide you:

  • An annual subscription to Ski Patrol Magazine.

  • The ability to purchase all NSP Online Store items except patrol uniform-specific items.

  • Access to all Pro Deals, excluding Black Diamond and including limited Patagonia discounts.

  • The ability to participate and be credentialed in NSP training or education programs, per the above guidelines.

  • Comprehensive support services.

  • Online resources.

  • Annual updates.

Additionally, many ski companies offer discounts to folks who work in the industry.  For example, JSKIS offers a 20% pro deal discount to individuals who work in the ski industry, including ski patrollers.

2) Enroll in the Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) class.  The Outdoor Emergency Care class is the signature course offering from the National Ski Patrol and is required by all patrollers.  In fact, the OEC course is considered the “gold standard” training for emergency care in the outdoor environment   The three primary objectives of the OEC course are: 

  • Performing safe and effective stabilization and extrication of injured persons in the outdoor environment

  • Scene safety (identifying hazards to both responders and visitors)

  • Safe and efficient use of outdoor emergency care skills to prevent further injury to visitors

Outdoor Emergency Care

The skills taught are basic emergency skills taught include using airway adjuncts, assisting patients with medications, splinting and bandaging, providing emergency care for environmental illnesses and injuries, using special equipment and techniques particular to non-urban rescuers, and managing prolonged transport.

The fee is $60 and an annual refresher course is required to maintain certification. 

While the National Ski Patrol and resorts offer other training, such as avalanche and mountain rescue, they are not required at most resorts.  The remainder of the training is done on the job such as toboggan training and lift evacuation procedures.

3) Get in Shape!  Ski patrolling is not a cubicle job, it is a job where you are conducting physical activities day in and day out in harsh conditions. Here is another excerpt from the recent Sugarbush job posting.

Patrollers must also be in sound physical and mental condition to perform their job duties. Patrollers must be capable of lifting 100 pounds or more as well as possess strong (expert level) skiing or riding skills- capable of safely skiing/riding all terrain in all conditions including wooded and gladed areas.

Get in Ski Shape

It should be noted that you need to be a strong skier, defined as, being capable of skiing any trail on the mountain.  You will need to be confident that you can get to and evacuate skiers and riders from any trail. Otherwise, stories like this happen… In 2009, a skier hit an unmarked bare spot on Lower Ovation at Killington, fell and slid into some rocks which resulted in a broken leg.  While broken legs are not common anymore in skiing, it was not a noteworthy accident, until the Ski Patrol arrived on the scene. When the injured skier was being transported off the trail the Ski Patrol snowmobile and toboggan flipped over!  The snowmobile accident further injured the skier. The incident did result in a lawsuit, which Killington settled in 2012 for an undisclosed amount of money. 

Lastly, you do ski patrol for the love of helping people, being outdoors and skiing.  If you do get paid (would need to be at a large resort) you will barely make enough money to pay for your gas to get to the mountain.  However, a great way to get your foot in the door is to volunteer at your local mountain and get some experience. If you have a desire to make ski patrolling a career you will need to get as many courses and certifications as you can, including advanced EMT (AEMT) training.  Additionally, it would benefit you to become multilingual, as this would allow you to work at destination resort.

Good luck in your pursuit of becoming a patroller.