| Russ Kelly

The Evolution of Ski Patrol

Since the beginning, ski patrol has and will continue to be one of the biggest parts of any ski resort. From ancient Monks rescuing lost travelers in the Alps to 2021 where drones are now joining the Aspen Mountain Rescue team. The will and desire to keep each other safe in the mountains will forever be tried and true. Ski Patrol in our day aims to keep up with the ever-changing ski industry. This will to evolve has led to advancements in some of the world’s greatest avalanche mitigation devices of our time. Most importantly, the will to provide safety and service to skiers has never been lost, past or present.

If we take a look back in time, helping one another traverse the alpine safely has been enforced for hundreds and hundreds of years. In the early 18th century, monks were the ones receiving the calls for help from lost or injured travelers stranded in the harsh weather of the Alps. One of their greatest tools was their dogs, more specifically the St. Bernard. Known as being one of the most loyal dogs of our day, the st. bernard was one of the biggest tools for helping rescue not only skiers but travelers alike from the harshest snowstorms nature has to offer. With their unbelievable sense of smell and tracking abilities, it made it easy to find people buried in the snow. From this point on canines could never leave this industry.

As the industry evolved from its historical past, the drive to create a safe environment in the mountains continued. Way back in 1938 in Stowe, Vermont, when the president of the National Ski Association, Roger Langley convinced the founder and leader of the Mt. Mansfield Ski Patrol to form a national ski patrol as some type of alliance between them. The organization established the education that is used at 98% of ski resorts today.

Throughout the years, avalanche mitigation and ski patrol tech have been constantly evolving to keep up with the ever-advancing ski industry. As the equipment advances, so does the safety, rescuing techniques, and emergency care methods. One of the latest and greatest developments in ski patrolling today is the installment of the Gazex exploders. Even though it sounds like the name of a nuclear bomb out of WW1 it is one of the greatest pieces of tech to hit the mountain safety scene to this day. The machines were first implemented at Crystal Mountain, WA, and even the colorado department of transportation! Clearing the mountain in a matter of seconds is a huge advantage in patrol practices. This system has completely reimagined the way ski patrol handles heavy snowfall. “[Gazex] allows us to trigger avalanches via computer and set them off at times that are best suited. With explosives, ski cuts, or any of these tools, we are testing the stability of the snow. It does keep us out of harm’s way a little more.” (Kevin Hickey, Alpine Meadows Ski Patrol).

Whether you’re a monk or manning an avalauncher, one thing remains the same- the will to maintain a safe mountain environment for people like you and me to enjoy.

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