What It's Like To Be a Ski Patroller

Posted by Alan Feder on Thursday, September 28th, 2023 at 3:43pm.

Fall is here and snowy weather is right around the corner. If you're a skier or snowboarder, you are likely already thinking about snow! For skiers and snowboarders alike, this is the time of year when you start blowing the dust off your gear and figuring out where and when you're going to hit the slopes. In the Madison area there are four ski areas: Tyrol Basin, Cascade, Devil’s Head, and Blackhawk, which is a private ski club. Typically, the ski areas in southern Wisconsin are open by Thanksgiving. 

Did you know that nearly every ski area in the United States has a ski patrol? If you have ever skied at one of our local ski areas, you likely saw them wearing red coats with white crosses. My name is Alan Feder, and I have been a ski patroller for 20 years: 11 years as a paid professional for the Aspen Skiing Company and 9 years as a volunteer for the Tyrol Basin Ski Patrol near Mount Horeb. I am also a member of the Mad City Dream Homes real estate team and have been helping people buy and sell homes in south central Wisconsin for 9 years. 

What does a patrol do? Primarily patrol responds to reports of injured guests, medically treats those guests, and then either releases them on their own or passes them on to more definitive care like an ambulance ride to one of the local hospitals. Ski patrols also help their areas provide customer service, trail maintenance, and (should it be needed) lift evacuation in the event a chairlift becomes inoperable. 

How do you become a patroller? In order to carry out these activities, patrollers get certified in Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC), an 80-hour intensive course with classroom and practical skills testing. Once the classroom portion of the OEC class is completed and passed, candidates begin their on-hill training. This training takes up most of the first season on the patrol. The primary focus of on-hill training is learning how to ski or snowboard a toboggan with an injured guest down any slope in the area. This culminates with on-hill testing conducted by patrollers from other areas. 

Ski patrols have budgets to purchase medical equipment and other gear. Many patrols are run as nonprofits and must fundraise to keep their patrol going. Tyrol Basin has an annual Ski & Snowboard Resale where a percentage of the purchases goes to the patrol. The public is able to bring their own gear in to sell as well as vendors that bring in gear to sell. This year the sale will be held from 8:30am to 3pm Sunday, October 22, 2023. Mark your calendars if you're looking to buy or sell some gear! 

The Tyrol Basin Ski Patrol, as a group, puts in more than 10,000 volunteer hours per year. This includes pre-season medical and lift evacuation training, weekly shift attendance, and helping with events throughout the ski season. Many ski areas are open during  summer season and have events and activities like frisbee golf, mountain biking, haunted houses, etc. In Wisconsin, most ski areas are volunteer and they are always looking for new members. If you love skiing or snowboarding, reach out to me and I can answer your questions and connect you to one or more of the local ski patrols. 

Another benefit to patrolling is spending time with friends & family when not helping guests.  Here I am riding the chairlift at Tyrol Basin Ski Area with my daughter, Phoenix. Have a fun & safe ski and snowboard season!

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