Topic: Profiles

Diary of a Ski Patrolman: Week 6

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Unexpect Rainbow

Fresh Powder

Ski Patrollers

All photos/art by Josh Allen

Skiing a patient down in a toboggan is no easy task. It often times involves some pleasant, fiery burning in my legs and reduces my biceps to wet noodles. But it’s all worth it, to make sure my patient is safe. So, since it’s just not hard enough, let’s throw in some moguls!

Yep, that’s what I was introduced to on Monday morning. Moguls that were just about as hard as cement. Or maybe titanium. Either way, I was simply thrilled to be placed in front of a toboggan with a fellow patroller in it, hanging on for dear life. I think he was hanging on so tightly because he knew this would end badly for one of us. Or both.

The technique is different — I was facing sideways, with only one hand on the handle, and the other on the crossbar of the toboggan. It’s hard to picture, I am sure, so just imagine driving your car, but sitting in the passenger seat, and using one hand. That’s sort of what it was like, but then throw in terrible lower back pain on one side. That’s more like it. Oh, and half the time I was skiing backwards, without looking in that direction, hoping that the mogul behind me wouldn’t catch the back of my skis and flip me over. Surprisingly, I didn’t get run over by the toboggan, or send my passenger flying down the rest of the trail. It actually went pretty well, and now that I’ve got the hang of it, or so I like to think, I find it really fun. But still really painful. I see it like this: if I’m in pain and my patient is in less pain because of it, then it’s a good thing. So bring on the moguls, I’m ready!

I skied more moguls today, and tried to build up some endurance. I accomplished something: I made my right arm so tired, as if it could only lift a pebble if I tried really hard. And then in the afternoon, I got the chance to use it for something way better. Chest compressions! Luckily, this was a CPR training operation. Unluckily, it meant supporting all of my weight on one arm, in a toboggan racing down the hill, all the while straddling my “patient,” and trying not to be too awkward.

Just before we left, I got the reassuring comment from a veteran that “Don’t worry, a few patrollers have fallen out during this type of practice.” Great, so I’m ready to be the next! We were doing CPR on a “patient,” while traveling down a steep incline, with five patrollers all operating as one life support system. One patroller steers the toboggan in front, two are behind as tail-ropers, who end up taking the weight and getting a wicked forearm workout, and two are in the actual toboggan, awkwardly placed over and around the patient, providing rescue breathing and compressions. It’s pretty amazing, once I took a step back and absorbed just what we were doing.

Essentially, we were a mobile ambulance, but without all the fancy gadgets and beeping. We had our own beeps, I guess, as in when we felt ourselves just about to topple out of the sled. But once again, just like in the moguls, everything came together, and no one ended up careening down the hill unchecked. It feels pretty darn good to know I can assist on a mobile CPR incident, if we have one. And I feel even better knowing that my fellow patrollers can do it, too. It takes a lot of coordination and strength, but it’s worth all the effort if we can save someone who otherwise might not make it down the slope.

Snow day! So I don’t have to go to school, I can sleep in! Yeeeeaaah! Wait.…I’m working, and I’m not in school any more. So let me wake up and trek to the mountain to go knock off those discos, and fix that bamboo, and behave myself.

Nope, I won’t go off that powdery jump on the side of the trail, made from nothing but pure snow and windy goodness. Nope, I won’t race down some super soft moguls. And certainly, I will not be super tired at the end of the day from skiing more runs than any other day. Okay, so somewhere in there I lied. I’m going to go with that last sentence. My legs are really tired, but in the best of ways. It snowed all day today, and it was the best day of the season. I was at work, and so the term “snow day” has taken on a new meaning. It means I’m going to be around friends, working, but having an absolute blast simultaneously. It means I’m going to have wobbly legs from bouncing around in pillow soft moguls. And it means the mountain will be mostly empty because fresh, deep powder scares most people. But to me, it’s overwhelmingly enticing. I want more of it, and soon. Because I want to deny myself more of those amazing runs…and knock off those discos.

Cranberries. This week I ate so many cranberries. I must have a really healthy system right now, from all that vitamin C and cranberry goodness. Let me explain. The patrol hut gets filled with food sometimes. Yes, most of the time it is stale, or old, or frozen. But I have come to appreciate just about any type of food that is free. Working to live is fine with me for now, and it removes that annoying tendency to take things for granted. I no longer take a warm house for granted [and I don’t have one, anyway]. I don’t take food for granted because I realize that it’s easy to not have enough. So I stuff myself with cranberries when they’re brought up to the hut. And they’re even grape flavored, or if you’re feeling adventurous, throw in some blueberry flavored cranberries.

I don’t take beautiful views for granted – I see the White Mountains almost everyday from the summit, and I say to myself, “Wow, I am very fortunate to turn around in my chair and see that.” It’s easy to take things for granted. But try not to…because that powder will be choppy and crusty and soon it will be groomed [probably tomorrow, in fact]. And those cranberries will be gone, too. All four boxes of them. Because Okemo patrollers are good at what they do, and that includes eating. And the patroller lifestyle is good for one thing in particular — opening one’s eyes to what’s important, and what makes life worthwhile. A warm house, I think, is really good to have. And quality nourishment. So I’ll keep eating those cranberries, and whatever else is brought up. But I’ll also have my vegetables so I can endure the next powdery day as well as the first.

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