About Alan Neuhauser

Alan Neuhauser is a first-year ski patroller at Deer Valley. Before joining patrol, he lived and worked in New Jersey as an editor for Patch Media, a network of more than 900 local news sites owned by AOL-Huffington Post. He is a 2009 graduate of Vassar College and a 2010 graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He has been a New Jersey-certified EMT since 2008.

Life as a Patroller During World Cup

Thousands of ski fans flocked to Deer Valley Resort at the start of this month for the 2012 FIS World Cup. From Thursday, Feb. 2, through Saturday, Feb. 4, top skiers from around the world –including stars Hannah Kearney, Heather McPhie, Mikael Kingsbury and Dylan Ferguson – competed in freestyle moguls and aerials events. They launched themselves off bumps and jumps in a display of speed, agility, athleticism and daring that left virtually every viewer – from patrollers standing course-side to fans watching on TV at home – slack-jawed in amazement.

The World Cup represents a showcase for the resort’s Race Department, which along with the Snow Grooming, Snow Making, and Lift Operations departments, spent the week before the event constructing the courses and spectator areas. The crew was assisted by a legion of local volunteers who shaped each mogul and jump by hand. The result was stunning. In a few short days, they transformed the Champion and White Owl trails into challenging elite runs.

Champion, site of the 2002 Olympic freestyle mogul’s event and White Owl, home of the 2002 Olympic freestyle aerials proved a great venue once again. Both are located on Bald Eagle Mountain.

(Patrol manager Steve Graff, right, reviews the plan for World Cup before the start of the first session Thursday evening, as patroller Mark Chytka looks on.)

Patrol assisted with setup, hanging rope lines and baffle-fences along the sides of the course. Then, when warm-ups started Wednesday, and competition commenced Thursday, a team of patrollers took to the race hill to provide first aid for the athletes, coaches, and spectators, if needed.

Seventeen patrollers worked the event: 10 on-course, five in the spectator area, and two supervisors – one in the Bald Eagle patrol shack, the other roaming where needed.

“It’s a nice change of pace,” patroller Kate Atha said. “You’re not doing openers or 10-50s [radio-code for a skier wreck]. It’s a midseason refresher.”

Still, the World Cup days are long and cold. Patrollers working course-side typically stand outside for more than three hours at a time before rotating back to the patrol shack to warm up, eat, and rest. Once it was all over Saturday night, patrollers stayed past midnight, helping the race department, snow groomers, volunteers and others dismantle the course.

“It’s a good lesson in how to dress warm,” Atha said. “You’re not always moving, it’s not always sunny on Champion – or you’re working at night. So you’re wearing eight layers and mittens and heat packs, and you’re constantly eating.” Night events ran from about 7 or 8 p.m., depending on the day, to about 9:15 p.m., and temperatures dipped to 3 degrees Fahrenheit.

(Maitland Wiren and Kate Atha relax at the end of a long day Friday.)

The reward? The best seat in the house.

(The aerials course, lit-up for the finals Friday night.)

“You get to be right in the thick of the action,” patroller Hylton Early said. “When you’re right there working course-side and you see the athletes warming up and talking to their coaches, you get a much better understanding of the commitment and time the athletes put into it. You also get a much better sense of the size of the moguls, the speed the guys are going, how high they go off the jumps.”

The 10 patrollers who worked course-side were divided into pairs, which rotated roughly every 45 minutes through various stations on the courses. On Champion, the stations were located at the start gate, the first kicker, the second kicker, the finish, and the Bald Eagle patrol shack. On White Owl, patrollers stood watch at the jumps and below the landing area.

In addition to dealing with the cold, the work presented different challenges from a regular ski day, particularly on Champion: the runs proved especially slick, the moguls were enormous, and thousands of spectators were watching – not to mention the TV cameras.

“You got to be 100-percent solid with running sleds in bumps,” Atha said. “The course is hard enough for athletes to ski it. We’re responding to wrecks and skiing with sleds in those same bumps.”

(Patroller TJ Somers and Mark Chytka stand at the bottom of Champion during warmups on Wednesday.)

The three days of World Cup – four, if you include Wednesday’s practice session – provided an additional bonding experience for the patrollers working the event.

“You’re all putting in the sacrifice of the long hours and cold temperatures,” Early said. “It’s almost like pledging.”

Asked whether they plan to sign-up for World Cup next year, Early and Atha were unequivocal. “100 percent,” they said.

(The moguls and aerials courses Saturday night, as seen from overhead.)

The moguls and aerials events were broadcast on NBC on Saturday, Feb. 11. The dual moguls portion of the event were broadcast Saturday, Feb. 18, at 2:30 p.m. EST on NBC. For the results, as published on the official FIS website, click here.

 

Behind the Scenes with Ski Patrol

Deer Valley patrollers all look the same. That’s what we hear, anyway. We understand. With our chiseled, All-American looks, not to mention our identical red-and-black uniforms, it can be hard to distinguish one patroller from the other, or tell how many of us there are on the mountain.   

It’s the question I’ve received most often: “How many of you are working today?” Followed by: “What the heck do you guys do all day?” 

Here are the numbers: 

Roughly 40 full-time patrollers at Deer Valley

17 of them are rookies

20-30 others are part-time or on-call

25-30 patrollers are on-duty on any given day

3-7 patrollers are assigned to each of the resort’s six patrol shacks 

Together, patrol represents a varied lot, ranging from former tree-trimmers who hail from Minnesota, to former real estate developers who lived in Florida, to paramedics, firefighters, physicians’ assistants, and journalists-on-hiatus (ahem).   

We’ve proven, however, a truly cohesive unit, one united by the drive to maintain Deer Valley Ski Patrol’s reputation as one of the elite patrols in North America. More on that in a future post.  

Our day starts with morning meeting at 8 a.m. Picture roll call from any police procedural, and you get the idea – albeit without the Formica desks or crusty sergeants. 

For about half-an-hour, we review major events from the previous day, the ski-trail grooming plan, any projects that need attention (such as opening or closing trails), and the weather forecast. If there’s time, we do a practice assessment: one patroller plays a patient, the other the first-responder – think of it as early-morning amateur theater, replete with a peanut gallery. Then we head to our assigned mountains for opening runs.   

Each patroller is tasked with skiing several particular trails during openers. The main purpose is to ensure each run is safe to open to the public, a task which includes surveying the snow conditions, making sure bamboo and rope lines are firmly planted in the snow, and checking that pads are still in place on lift towers, trail signs, snow guns, and other obstacles. Opening runs are also when we plant our slow signs.  

The rest of the day then proceeds much you might expect: responding to skier-wrecks, installing or removing bamboo and rope lines, performing speed control, training, and otherwise skiing around. The end of the day approaches at 3 p.m., when Empire Patrol begins its sweeps, closing that portion of the mountain and funneling skiers back toward the Silver Lake and Snow Park lodges.

 Sweeps are staggered across each mountain. And in addition to ensuring that no guests are left on any runs, we also prepare the trails for Deer Valley’s overnight workers: the snowmakers and snowcat operators. We remove the slow signs we installed that morning and pull back rope lines to allow the snowcats to groom the trails. If all goes according to plan, we’re off the slopes by 5:15 p.m., just as the cats are rumbling from their garage off Ontario run.

The day flies by. With six mountain peaks as our office, how could it not? Next up: more on responding to skier wrecks, the divide between “wreck” and “project” patrollers, and The Wheel of Misfortune. 

Any questions? Shoot an email to alneuhauser@gmail.com.

Sun! Snow! Tourists!

It’s January in Park City!

Sun! Snow! Tourists!

It’s my first year on Deer Valley Ski Patrol, and I’m here to see it all. Eight weeks ago, I resigned my full-time job as an editor with Patch Media in New Jersey, and accepted a position with patrol – a job I’ve wanted to do since my first trip to the slopes as a 6-year-old. It meant leaving family and friends more than 2,000 miles behind, and moving to a town where I didn’t know a single soul. What’s more, by pure coincidence (I think, anyway), this season has so far proven one of Utah’s driest on record, with December experiencing its lowest level of snowfall in recorded history.

This rookie season on patrol, however, could hardly be better. Heck, I’m beaming even as I write this blog post. Joining DVSP marked one of the biggest transitions of my life. But from the DVSP team, to the resort’s leadership, to the guests, these past eight weeks have proven some of the most fun and fulfilling I’ve ever experienced.

This blog will record the life of a rookie patroller with DVSP. Previously, it was penned by Matt DeWaard, a long-time patroller, former hill captain, and great photographer who left a big pair of ski boots to fill. Over the course of the next four months, I’ll bring you photos, videos, and insight into the day-to-day life of a first-year patroller. Send thoughts, questions and suggestions to alneuhauser@gmail.com. You can also learn a little about my own background by visiting www.alanneuhauser.com.

Below, here are photos of patrol from early in the season. Far, far more to come soon!