02 July 2006

Ski Patrol Shadow Day #5

I guess the memory really is the first thing to go. Now that I'm in the middle-aged demographic of 'Males 35-49', I guess I have an excuse for leaving my camera at home AGAIN. I took a camera phone self-portrait, but it looks like I'm angry or something, so I'm not gonna post it.

Today was a gorgeous day up at Timberline. Audioslave filled the Sorento's cabin as I motored up the Timberline road, passing a guy on a mountain bike who looked like he wasn't working very hard, despite the steep incline. Crazy motherf-, I thought. Who would do that? Oh right - guys who aren't in as awful shape as I am...

Sure would be a rewarding ride down, though. Probably have to replace the brake pads, though, since there's no engine compression to help slow you.

I pulled into the lot, expecting it to be a little chilly. It wasn't. I don't have a fancy-schmancy rearview mirror with a thermometer on it, but I'd guess it was right around 50. It was nearly 60 in Rhododendron at almost 6am.

I met with some of the pro patrollers, and waited for a fellow volunteer to show up. One finally did, and it turned out he works at the same CompuHyperGlobalMegaNet campus as I do. Cool. I found out from him that there wouldn't be any other volunteer patrollers, as nobody had signed up for today. I later found out that I missed an e-mail from the MHSP training director telling me today might not be a good day to shadow as there was no guarantee any volunteer patrollers would be there.

Since I lucked out, I paired up with Dave and we drew our radios and went up to the top of Palmer to see what the pros needed us to do. We did some typical open-the-hill stuff, straightening bamboo/rope lines for the lane markers for the ski camps, made sure the western boundary markers were present and visible, and then went back up for another run. A very warm breeze was blowing, so we knew we were in for a hot day.

As we headed for the bottom of the Palmer chair, it started raining on us! It actually felt good, and we weren't so surprised since we could see the rain cloud coming from miles away. We headed up the ramp to the lift, and as we got to the top of the ramp, KA-KRACK!! A loud clap of thunder boomed from very nearby, startling a number of people. They had to shut down the lift for a while until the danger passed. I was glad I didn't have to apply what I'd learned in OEC about electrical burns today.

We took another run once we got back to the top, and decided to hit the patrol room for a bite to eat. I was feeling pretty hungry, but I know that was actually in part because I needed some fluids. I drank a bunch from my CamelBak and munched on a Clif bar.

We headed back up the hill, and it wasn't long after that when we got called into action. One of the racers for one of the ski camps was injured. Since I'm still not sled-qualified, Dave had to come with me. The kid had tweaked his knee, but he was either not in a ton of pain or just a really calm or tough kid. There was another racer that was complaining of lightheadedness, so Dave and I did our on-hill assessments and took them both down the hill to the aid room. Neither was a very serious condition, and they'll both be fine. Might not be participating much in the remaining week or so of camp they had left, though. Bummer.

By the time we'd gotten everything taken care of for them both, it was getting close to closing time, so I headed back up to the top of the hill to help the pro patrollers with the final sweep for closing. I ended up having to traverse a great distance several times to pull some signage down and put it off to the far side of the snowfield so that the groomer 'cats' wouldn't chop it into tiny bits. It was quite toasty by then, and I was sweating buckets doing all this work. I also had to move some 'slow' signs off to the side, but that was a much smaller distance and much easier.

Still, by the time I finished my assignment, I was BEAT. I could barely ski down, my legs were so tired. Also, the snow was heavy and mushy, and getting sticky, too. Perfect recipe for disaster, and the usual reason the ski patrol is busy in the afternoons. I managed to get down without falling, and even made a few decent turns before I started 'skiing lazy'.

Once I arrived back at the patrol room, I pulled off my sweat-drenched shirt, talked to Dave to make sure we were good to depart, then sat down to get out of the rest of my gear. We put our radios back in the charging cradles, did a final look-around, and called it a day. I was so damn glad I had ordered a radio harness. It would have SUCKED to have had to wear a jacket all day, just to have a place to carry the radio.

I packed up all my crap and trudged off toward the Sorento. Fired it up, and cranked up the A/C to max - it was that hot. I'd guess in the 80s. Sat in the rapidly-cooling SUV, turned up the Audioslave, and headed down the fun and turny road back to Highway 26 and on home.

It was a good day. Good snow, some excitement, got to put my recently-completed OEC class knowledge to use in real life, and worked my tail off. I'll be sore tomorrow, but it'll be a good kind of sore. The kind some good beer and barbecue will soothe.


Anonymous said...

Hi there man,
I really liked to read about your ski patrol stuff. How does someone get involved in that?

Ghost Dog said...


Well, if you're local (Oregon, within reasonable distance of Mt. Hood), then visit the Mt Hood Ski Patrol page and click the 'Join Us' link. There's a little more info there, as well as an online form to fill out to get in contact with someone to arrange a shadow day. There's also a PDF application form you can download.

If you're from somewhere else, I'd suggest just contacting your local ski area offices about the ski patrol for that area.

brando said...

GD saving the day. Keep up the good work.