NSP WELCOMES BIKE PATROLLERS BY MELANIE HOOD, NSP MARKETING AND DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR, AND KEN KRAMER, NSP BIKE COMMITTEE CHAIR
WE ARE THE NATIONAL SKI PATROL, SO WHY ARE WE ADDING BIKE PATROLLERS TO OUR RANKS? IF YOU WERE ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN, IT MIGHT SEEM STRANGE FOR A COMPANY THAT IS SO STEEPED IN WINTER SPORTS TO BE EXPANDING INTO SUMMER OPERATIONS, BUT FOR THOSE IN THE INDUSTRY, IT IS A NATURAL FIT.
In fact, if you look closely, the National Ski Patrol has been gearing up for bike patrollers for years in small and big ways. In 1994, the National Ski Patrol board of directors voted to change WEC (Winter Emergency Care) to OEC (Outdoor Emergency Care). The change wasn’t just a shift in the name; the new book included summer and heat related injuries, as well as other non-winter references. This change immediately helped patrols that were beginning to work in summer and who were registering those patrollers on their winter rosters.
In 2014, the NSP released its first printed edition of a summer catalog. The NSP Summer Catalog features items patrollers use in the summer months, and the predominately featured items were bike patrol pieces. Since then, the NSP Online Store has widened the selection of items offered, and the NSP Pro Deals Page has added many new summer items to the mix. These decisions and changes were not just out of the blue; they followed our industry as it changed as well.
Another example of change within a changing industry was when the National Ski Patrol created a new strategic plan in 2015. This strategic plan names the resorts as NSP’s principal customers. Patrollers serve the skiing and riding public at the bequest of the area, and in order to better serve those areas we can and should be at service whenever the areas are open to the public. In the early 1990s, areas started looking at how to move from a one-season model to a multiple-season approach. Many areas have dropped the word “ski” from their name and are now just “resorts” or “areas.” Since the 2010s, many traditional ski areas have developed thriving summer businesses, from Windham Mountain in New York to Trestle Bike Park in Colorado (Winter Park Resort’s summer name) to Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico to Northstar California in the Lake Tahoe area. Business is growing in the summer months, and with that growth in visitors comes the need for year-round and summer-only patrollers.
In early 2017, the NSP board of directors created a committee to look at ways to incorporate bike patrollers into our ranks and how to partner with organizations already steeped in the bike community. First, the committee looked at what the NSP was currently doing with bike patrollers. For years, areas that had bike patrollers were only able to register bike patrollers on their ski patrol rosters, which meant that patrollers who were primarily bike patrollers had to have a classification of alpine, candidate, Nordic, or patroller (former auxiliary); bike was not an option on the patrol’s single roster. Also, patrollers who secondarily patrolled in the summer could not be included on a secondary bike roster or be classified secondarily as a bike patroller.
During summer 2017, the National Ski Areas Association created an industry Mountain Bike Responsibility Code, much like Your Responsibility Code for snow sports, which was widely adopted by the industry. The NSP Safety Team has created bandanas with the new Mountain Bike Responsibility Code that will be available through the NSP Online Store this spring for bike patrols to promote the Code.
In fall 2017, the committee presented a plan to the NSP board, and the board voted to make bike patrollers an official status and register a bike patrol. That means that an area can create a bike patrol independent of its ski patrol and register those individuals with a primary status of bike patroller. It also allows patrollers who serve their area as bike patrollers in the summer to have their patrol director add their bike patrollers as a secondary patroller classification.
In February 2018, the National Ski Patrol announced a partnership with the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). Working together, both organizations can help further efforts to grow summer operations. NSP can focus on helping guests, and IMBA can refocus on its core mission of expanding places to enjoy riding.
“We are very excited to be partnering with IMBA,” said NSP Executive Director Meegan Moszynski. “In 2017, the NSP accepted the first official bike patrol into the organization. The NSP recognizes that bike patrolling is an important part of our focus on serving our mountain resort partners, and IMBA’s experience with the National Mountain Bike Patrol and bike patrolling will prove invaluable as we work to further incorporate this important group of patrollers into the NSP.”
IMBA’s National Mountain Bike Patrol (NMBP) was officially founded in 1994 and now includes more than 50 volunteer bike patrol groups and 600-plus trained patrollers. These volunteers partner with land managers, landowners, and emergency personnel to assist at events, educate trail users, and monitor trail conditions. The possibility of joining IMBA’s current NMBP membership with the NSP makes sense for both organizations, as the NSP is the leading patrolling organization, and IMBA is the leader in mountain bike advocacy. IMBA’s NMBP Advisory Committee, led by Wade Hartmann, has been involved in the partnership since talks began in late 2016, is in full support of this direction, and is excited about the possibilities this presents for the growth of mountain bike patrolling. “Working more closely with the National Ski Patrol is a great opportunity for IMBA, and vice versa. Broad, diverse partnerships like these strengthen opportunities for both sports and both organizations,” said IMBA Executive Director Dave Wiens.
For those NMBP individuals and other bike ambassadors working in urban areas where advanced life support is just down the road, the NSP board voted in March to create a bike host unit and bike host membership This will allow NMBP members and others to become members of the NSP as bike hosts, which requires completion of an Outdoor First Care course. Host units can work independently or with a bike patrol at land management’s discretion.
So, where does the NSP stand now with regard to bike patrolling? The NSP Bike Committee is currently working with IMBA, the NSP board, and the Lakewood office staff in Colorado to create a clear and easy path for those patrollers on an IMBA National Mountain Bike Patrol to become members of the NSP and gain OEC or Outdoor First Care credentials. It is also creating an easy process for our current members to register on bike patrols. The committee is working on benchmarks and best practices for bike patrollers in general, and for those starting a bike patrol.
Many questions are still being debated, such as whether bike patrol becomes its own program or the skills needed to be a bike patroller fit into already established programs like Outdoor Emergency Transportation or Mountain Travel and Rescue. Does the NSP possibly create program standards like in toboggan handling and let areas create specific protocols, or do we not have general standards? If we do create standards, how do we create them?
As the committee works toward answering these questions and others, they are gathering information from current bike patrollers, both paid and volunteer, as well as members of the Lakewood office staff and our vast volunteer leadership groups at the NSP.
The NSP is proud to welcome our newest type of member and will continue to innovate and support them, in addition to the resorts they serve. +