21 January 2007

Ski Day 10: A Little Bit Of Everything

Trainer JG briefs us on the morning's plan.

Ski Patrol training shifted back to Timberline this weekend, and things were a little different from the average sled-training day. It started out cold and windy and overcast, but with some sun peeking through the clouds here and there. Unfortunately, I didn't notice the sunrise from the parking lot until I'd loaded myself up with all my gear to walk to the patrol room. So, no photos of it - I didn't want to put everything down and dig out the camera - but it was gorgeous. Just incredible how you had blue-tinted snow fading up into brilliant orange sun, fading up again into a kind of purple-gray sky.

Just a look at the scene at the top of Norman. The whole day was this mix of sun and clouds.

Anyway, enough about the scenery. We started out with some light sled-running and area orientation. We went back over some stuff I'd already heard from training days at Timberline earlier in the season, about the new lift, new runs, what the 'sign run' is, and so on. We didn't run any loaded sleds, but we worked on 'railing' the empty sled. That is, digging the outside or downhill skeg of the sled into the snow to make it track properly when making traversing turns. Nothing terribly new for me, so I only got to do a couple turns early before handing the sled off to one of the other apprentices.

Rodger, getting some more time in the handles as JG discusses the finer points of skeg-railing.

After some more sled-dragging and area orientation, we did a practice scenario where one of our trainers pretended to be injured, complete with fake blood on the snow. I didn't get to respond first like I wanted to, because one of the other apprentices kind of made a big deal about being rusty with the first aid stuff. We all ended up assisting with the fictional case, which was a fractured tib-fib. We did alright, except for spending a little too much time trying to determine the best way to get our fictional patient (trainer JG) into the sled. Also, we did some things a little out-of-sequence, and the first responder didn't complete his assessment before making his call for the sled, but we managed to get JG splinted and into the sled without making things too much worse.

After the practice scenario, things started happening on the hill. We started hearing more and more cases over the radio, so training kind of halted and we were put into action in various capacities all over the hill. I got to splint a couple tweaked knees, drag empty sleds to cases, assist in an assessment here and there, and got some good turns in here and there along the way.

One patient was enjoying the whole sled transport thing a little too much, but I think I'd much rather have someone like that than a screamer or an argumentative or combative patient. This 'fun' patient was a snowboarder who'd tweaked her knee, and once we got her into the splint and loaded in the sled, she was kind of getting into the whole experience, even handing her camera off to one of the Timberline Mountain Hosts who was helping out so he could shoot the whole thing from start to finish, including her ride down the hill in the sled, uploading on the chair, and the ride to the aid room on the gurney. It's awesome when they can be in such good spirits. A lot of times, people are really bummed about ending their day with an injury, which I can totally understand.

We had a youngster who wasn't quite as cheery about the whole thing as the boarder I just mentioned, but he was a tough little trooper and handled the whole thing pretty well, too. I didn't encounter anyone today who was making a big scene or anything, so that must make it a good day. Also making it a good day was 4 or 5 sled uploads without any incident - no bobbled loads, no sloppy unloads. Here's me on the chair with one of the beat-up Cascade sleds:

My 'Hi Mom' moment for the day. One of several trips up Stormin' Norman with a sled.

I just missed out on first-responding to a real case in the afternoon, because we were just a little bit too far away and another patroller (D, who we were calling a 'case magnet' today as he seemed to be involved in everything) got to it first. I did get to respond with a sled, but they'd completed most of the work by the time I got there, and the somewhat puzzling decision was made by one of the mountain ops folks to take the patient up the hill on a snowmobile. I think D didn't want to make a scene in front of the patient, and the mountain ops guy was adamant about it, so we let it happen, against our better judgment. I don't think any further injury was caused, so it worked out alright, but I bet we could have given her a better ride in the sled, even if we had to take the patient to the bottom of the Pucci lift and upload to get the patient to the aid room.

Anyway, things quieted down a little towards the end of the day, and we did sweep without incident. I swept the "Bone Zone", which isn't on the maps, but is a really cool gully full of interesting terrain in the trees to the east of Conway's Corner. When I came out of the trees to cross Nona's Bologna, I saw this really cool band of clouds that I just had to shoot:

A look towards Ski Bowl. Too bad the clouds weren't a little higher. Might have gotten a better look at the setting sun.

Our head trainer radioed us after we completed the Norman sweep to tell us to locate an avalanche transceiver that he'd buried for us to find as part of an exercise in the afternoon. Since things got busy, we never got to do that exercise, but we did use our transceivers to locate the buried one. Rodger and I managed to get closest and started digging for it, and I happened to dig it out. After the usual remarks about how I was owed a beer, I packed it away and we went down to meet for Pucci sweep.

After some home-baked cookies from the patrol president, the time came to sweep Pucci. I paired up with OEC classmate Michael to go sweep Wingle's Wiggle, which is a nice but rather brief steep drop. Michael and I met up at the top of Wingle's with one of our other OEC classmates, Bob, and dropped down the Wiggle one at a time. All too brief, but still a load of fun making good fast turns on the steep drop there. We wrapped things up by moving some signage near the bottom of the lift so it wouldn't be chopped into bits by the groomer cats, then headed back up the lift to call it a day.

We had to drag the training sleds back to the aid room before we were truly done, so being a glutton for punishment, I grabbed the only Cascade of the 3 sleds we had and hauled it over. But I had JG snap this shot of me paused on my way over there. I'd hoped to get the lodge in the background of the shot, but things were getting dark, so the auto-flash kicked in. Anyway, here:

Okay, more 'Hi Mom' stuff. Dragging the empty sled 'home'.

We de-briefed in the patrol room, talking about the cases and things that happened during the day and what we learned from them, then headed down to the Ratskeller for the 'real' de-brief over beer and food while waiting out the traffic. I bought a beer for one of our very senior patrollers - a guy who's been on the patrol for 60 years. Yes, you read that right, sixty. Fortunately, he likes dark beers, so I got a pitcher of Black Butte Porter, poured him a glass, poured one for one of the other apprentices (Vince, who carpooled with me from Govy to T-line and back), and one for myself. Good beer with good folks after a good day.

Does it get any gooder?


brando said...

Great post. The open sky pic was my favorite. I'm glad that people can be civil when they're hurt. I think that would be tough for me.

Ghost Dog said...

Thanks. The sky was awesome all day, a constantly changing mix of sun and clouds. I wish I'd stopped and shot the sunrise, though. Incredible. I'm sure I'll get another chance.