Summer is a great time to kick back with friends & family and reflect on our past season as we give our feet a nice break from our ski boots. It is also a time when many of us look ahead to the upcoming season and more immediate, the upcoming refresher season. During that process, the idea of offering an expanded training session surfaced. This article details how this process unfolded, our agenda for the weekend and some takeaways for those considering a similar offering to their patrols.

The idea for this type of event came from the Certified Boot Camp that Eastern Division Director John Kane holds each summer in Maine. It is an amazing camp that the division certified group holds. The weekend consists of many of the modules of the certified program, some high-level training, creative scenarios and great food & camaraderie with some amazing instructors.

The thought of taking the idea of this event and tailoring it to our entire patrol was born, now to plan it. The first consideration was whether our patrollers would be willing to give up an additional weekend in the fall to training. We still had our OEC refresher, CPR re-cert, and our lift evacuation training ahead. We are sensitive to the fact that we may be asking a lot of our patrollers as most of them are volunteers. The decision was that we would work up a syllabus for our weekend, present it to the patrol as an “optional” training and gauge their interest.  Turns out our patrol was quite excited to have this opportunity and nearly all were able to attend.

Our patrol leadership got together and mapped out our plan. We would have a skills day on Saturday followed by a simulation day on Sunday to put our skills to the test. We decided that we would have five stations for Saturday, September 29th:

  1. Ropes & Knots: Consisted of the most common knots we use on our patrol. We also went over rope coiling & storage, setting rope lines and appropriate knots & rope for different applications.
  2. High/Low angle rescue: Consisted of using our system for ascension to a chairlift and setting up and using a low angle (Z Rig) system with a litter.
  3. OEC Scenarios: Consisted of different calls we may be involved with, a refresher on the equipment used and best practices for extrication of an ill or injured guest.
  4. Lift Evacuation Skills: Consisted of the different skills associated with a lift evac. They included going over all the equipment used, setting ropes, anchors, line flipping, harnesses, and evac team responsibilities.
  5. CPR Skills: Consisted of the skills portion of the CPR re-cert for high-performance CPR.

Sunday, September 30th was our simulation and lift evacuation portion. Our plan for the morning was a simulated CPR event on the mountain with a real-time interface with our local EMS. Our local EMS carries a Lucas Device (automatic chest compressor) on their ambulance. Due to the difficulty in providing quality compressions on a guest in a moving toboggan, our current policy is to continue quality compressions until we have the Lucas Device to apply. EMS will deliver to the base area to a waiting patroller who will deliver it to the scene. Once applied and functioning correctly, we will transport the guest to our waiting ambulance.

Most of our Sunday was used for lift evacuation training. We used this opportunity to approach our lift evac a bit differently. Before this weekend, we discussed options for providing a safe training experience for our patrollers. As we are “training” we are putting our patrollers at height for work. Therefore, they need to be attached to a safety line at all times while at height. To accomplish this while also providing for the rescue chair/lift evac portion we will conduct in a real evac with our guest, we opted to try something new for us. Since our ascension system is on its own line we decided that incorporating that piece into our evac training would allow us the opportunity to train on that equipment while providing the necessary protection for our patrollers. Once raised up and into the chair, we would then send up our separate line with our rescue chair for evac. This allows us to keep the patroller on a separate line in a 5-point harness while allowing us to evac them as we typically do. As a takeaway, we are considering conducting future lift evacuation training without running the lift. We are looking at setting up multiple ascension kits and using these systems moving forward. It provides for a safe working environment, skill reinforcement and no lift operation.

We called this our “beta test” for our patroller school. It was well received by not only our patrollers, but our resort management was very supportive of this event. To kick off each day, we had a morning meeting to discuss the day’s agenda and hold a patrol business meeting. Our resort president/general manager Tim Smith addressed our patrol both days on pertinent updates at the resort, as well as, joining us in the training as he is also a member of NSP. On Saturday we were joined by New Hampshire Region Director Paul Kelly. Paul addressed our group in our morning meeting and stayed for the day to offer his assistance. On Sunday we had Division Director John Kane and his wife Deb visit to see what this patrol school was all about. John addressed our group Sunday morning and provided updates and Q&A on all things division related. He was also placed in a harness and hauled up to a chair to be evacuated, a great sport!

We had a great weekend and look forward to improving on it for next season. Big thank you to Tim Smith, John Kane, Paul Kelly and Waterville Valley Department of Public Safety for their continued support. Special thank you goes out to the Waterville Valley Ski Patrol as you continue to exemplify teamwork, desire to improve and your commitment to NSP and this amazing resort we get to call home.