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.

5 Responses

  1. DJS says:

    How about adding a former lawyer to your crew! Would love to hear about how to become a member of Ski Patrol.

  2. Matthew Pures says:

    Being a Ski Patrol “Shadow” when i worked at DV back in the late 90s was a truly enlightening experience for me and one I have thought about often. You all do an amazing job, all the best to you and keep up the tremendous job you do!!!

  3. Claire N says:

    I was recently one of the “skier wrecks” that ski patrol had to respond to. I was so impressed by the speed at which the ski patrol lady appeared, and she was very helpful and made sure i got down the mountain OK and knew where to go to see an EMT. So thank you, to all of you, for the job that you do. Throughout my stay at Deer Valley i really felt that the employees truly cared about their jobs and every one i met was so upbeat…..even though i have many years to go I am already planning my retirement at Deer Valley!!!!

  4. Jamie S. says:

    Hey ski patrol, I am glad to hear that you all are actually real people, not that I ever doubted it. I enjoyed reading this post and I am looking forward to more posts about the patrollers. Thank you Deer Valley!

  5. S. Jefferson says:

    how can I get my hands on one of your cool red hats?

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