NSP: When did you become a patroller, and what led you to start patrolling?
Keith: In 1991, I started patrolling to become a better skier and to ski for FREE. When I started, I was a volunteer and I had a decent job in aerospace working on the Space Shuttle program. I was caught in a Reduction In Force in 1994 and was invited join the ranks of the “paid patrol” that winter season. I was one of maybe six full-timers, as the other senior paid guys and gals were mostly paramedics and firefighters. Space Shuttle; meh? Paid to patrol; best job in the world!
NSP: What did you find most challenging about patroller training prior to becoming a patroller?
Keith: Overcoming the fear and anxiety of treating injured people (as well as, taking a fall in front of your fellow patrollers).
NSP: How many cups of coffee do you drink during a patrol shift?
Keith: Typically, I start on a 20-ounce cup heading up the mountain from home. Depending on morning chores or if there’s any avy control happening, I may not finish the first 20 ounces, or I may go for a refill. Cream or sugar? No thank you.
NSP: Powder or groomers?
Keith: Well, I work at Powder Mountain, not Groomer Mountain, so the answer is definitely POWDER. However, during long spells of high pressure it certainly is enjoyable taking a few “company cruisers” with a touch of wind in your face. If I’m with my six-year-old daughter, it’s a groomer day at this point.
NSP: What have you learned the most about yourself from patrolling?
Keith: I’m comfortable under pressure.
NSP: What do you find most rewarding about patrolling and being a member of the National Ski Patrol?
Keith: I find it rewarding when we can comfort guests who are suffering from an injury, separated from another member of their party or family member, or are simply just out of their element. You can see the look of relief come across their faces when you show confidence in what you’re doing and reassure them of a positive outcome.
NSP: Can you tell us more about your time as a patrol director?
Keith: I’m old, so I can’t say with certainty, but I believe it was the winter of 2004. Hands down the most enjoyable experience of the position is building the team and being involved in the camaraderie within that team. It’s an overwhelming position at times and can involve some babysitting occasionally, but what job doesn’t include a few bumps along the way? During those stressful times, I reverted back to, “Hey, I’m skiing for free,” and the stress melts away. Friendships and well-wishes for team members who have moved on continue for years to come. We’re brothers and sisters for life.
On the flipside, the hardest part of being a patrol director is passing that responsibility on to someone else. It was made a little easier for me as I hired my replacement years ago in his second full year as a patroller. I have confidence in his ability to take our patrol to the next level and am excited to observe his accomplishment along the way.
NSP: What advice do you have for patrollers responding to a scene or incident on the mountain?
Keith: You never know who you’ll be responding to when dispatched to a wreck scene. Keep feelings and emotions from personal relationships in check when working on friends and/or family members. Use your knowledge/training and work the problem. If the situation is too much to deal with, know when to pass the scene and or care off to someone else.