05 December 2010

Ski Day 3: Dog Day Afternoon

Today ended up being one of the wackiest days I can recall in my relatively brief patrol career. But we'll get to that later. For anyone reading this who was there, the post title is probably enough.

I got an early start today, mostly because of a mild case of nerves, or more accurately a stronger than usual desire not to be even a tiny bit late. Today was my first day as a Hill Captain on the Mt. Hood Ski Patrol.

For the uninitiated, the Hill Captain's job is essentially to lead/coordinate the efforts of the usually dozen-plus volunteer ski patrollers for the day. It's a bit of paperwork, plus ensuring everyone has what they need to do their jobs (radios, working passes, transceivers if the avy danger warrants, etc.), plus making sure assignments and tasks are covered, and be the Shell Answer Man (or at least know where to find the answers). More or less. A great crew of patrollers makes the HC's job a walk in the park, and today we had a great crew. I needn't have worried about much.

My stellar crew included Barkernews and NoPoGirl, who were doing one of their split-shift days, where they each do a half-day patrolling and spend the other half with their adorable daughter, Hazel. They're both excellent patrollers, and I was also blessed to have a host of other very experienced patrollers, including 3 guys who I've worked for on countless occasions when they were Hill Captains, and even a former President of the patrol. I knew some of the rookies we had today from helping train some of them last season (and I had worked with some of them already this season), so I had confidence in them as well.

By and large, the day was pretty uneventful. Only 2 cases all day, which wasn't much of a surprise, given how few guests came to Ski Bowl today. The cold and the hard-pack probably kept people away, but with decently-tuned skis/boards, there were good turns to be had on the groom. We did some avalanche transceiver practice, which is always a good thing to do regularly.

But things got weird in the afternoon. The short version is that we added "Animal Control" to the list of tasks.

Apparently, today was a popular day for people to bring up their dogs and let them off their leash. We had one patroller basically chasing dogs for the bulk of the middle of the day. This one pooch must have been some kind of endurance champion, as it had covered a ridiculous amount of ground - almost the entire eastern half of the ski area. Once the first one had been corralled, it wasn't long after that a second loose dog was called in. The same patroller who had worked the first dog case got on the second one as well. On top of that, we had yet another off-leash pooch a little later on. This time it was a couple of cross-country skiers that had their dog with them, but at least this one didn't run all over half the area. Lots of 'guest education' happened this afternoon, with regards to dogs and leash policy.

Once the canine misadventures were behind us, things quieted down for the rest of the day. We had an unplanned early closure of one of the lifts (decision of the area, not mechanical), which we adapted to fairly quickly, and once relieved by the paid patrol night crew, we were done after sweeping the closed lift. Paperwork, check in radios, hand out vouchers, do a little de-brief, and call it a day. Great work from everyone.