This year, our commitment to safety, both for patrollers and the skiing public, takes on more importance than ever.
COVID will change many of our procedures for the 2020-21 season. We don't have a clear picture what that will look like yet, but know every aspect of what we do on the hill will require extra care.
The skiing public will need to adjust their plans and have patience until we can get back to the new normal. Patrollers will carry masks, eye protection, and gloves.
What is a day in the life of a patroller like?
Every day is different and presents it's own challenges. The snow conditions, weather, and crowds all have a significant impact on planning and how any particular day unfolds.
Alpental has a mix of both paid staff patrollers and volunteer staff. The pro staff is on the hill early doing control work and checking safety equipment. The volunteer staff supports the pro staff on weekends and holidays and support the daily needs of the public. Volunteers are also allowed to work on Friday evenings whenever there is a need for additional support.
The volunteers are broken into 5 teams, plus a dedicated group of doctors. Each team has roughly 2 duty days per month plus a few extra days added to support other teams. Each team member needs to fulfil their scheduled obligation or find a substitute for days they can't be on the mountain.
Volunteer patrollers are required to be on the hill at 8:00 a.m. for the daily briefing. We will have clocked in and signed up for 'bumps' which are one hour commitments in one of three locations; at the top of Chair 2, the mid mountain hut, or the Aid Room. We will also have our radios checked out, tested and tuned into the proper channel.
The Duty Patrol Leader (DPL) gives a briefing which includes current, recent and past weather conditions, inbounds and backcountry conditions, events on the hill, training opportunities, lunch plans, etc.
The Professional Staff (the Bro's) typically give an update on their concerns and what they expect to need help with during the day. The doctors might give us an update on recent incidents.
Volunteer patrollers are allowed to ride Chair 1 when the Pro Staff is done with their control work. Permission to ride Chair 2 usually comes a bit later once the upper hill is deemed safe. First runs are used to replace signs, place bamboo and rope off problematic areas.
During the day we attend to accidents, answer questions, and generally do what we can to ensure the public is safe and has a great time. Lunch is generally a potluck with a themed menu.
Sweep is the last and likely the most important thing we do. All patrollers meet at the top of Chair 2 and get an assignment to sweep a portion of the hill. Once the public has emptied the last chair, we gather in our teams and proceed slowly down the hill, ensuring that no one is left out to spend a cold night on the slope. Ropes and signs are moved out of the way for the snowcats to groom the hill.