Ski patrolling is a job that many snowboarders and skiers dream of having. I mean, being paid for skiing or snowboarding on the slopes is an exciting privilege.
You get to breathe fresh air in the mountains and spend a beautiful day doing what you love. Who wouldn’t want that?
But you might wonder why we rarely see snowboarders working as mountain rescuers. Are snowboarders allowed to be ski patrol on any slopes?
Well, the truth is that snowboarders can be ski patrols on the slopes, but not many ski resorts allow them to do so.
Most ski areas prefer to employ experienced skiers as ski patrollers on their slopes. This is why you may not see many snowboarders patrolling in the mountains.
So, what is the basis of such decisions and preferences? In this article, we will explore the responsibilities of ski patrollers to help you understand why there are not so many snowboarders controlling avalanches and doing emergency rescues on the slopes.
We’ll also delve into the requirements of joining the ski patrol team to help you see whether you qualify to be one of them. It could be time to look for that extremely exciting job!
Responsibilities of a Ski Patroller
Ski patrollers play a crucial role in keeping skiers and snowboarders safe in the mountains.
Most people think of ski patrols as skiers who rescue injured slope users and guide lost people on the slopes.
However, the responsibilities of ski patrol go much deeper than that, and there are several activities they engage in while you enjoy riding on the slope.
Not only do they respond to emergencies, but they also maintain trails and ensure that slope users ride on safe terrain.
Here are the key responsibilities of ski patrol:
- Identifying hazards on the slopes so they don’t harm skiers and snowboarders riding on the mountain.
- Maintaining trails and monitoring the snow conditions for safe riding.
- Responding to accidents, injuries, and any medical emergencies.
- Helping skiers and snowboarders who lose direction on the mountain and assisting them to boost their ability.
- Controlling slides to manage avalanches and prevent accidents and injuries.
- Marking unsafe areas and providing details of opened and closed trails.
- Warning reckless skiers or snowboarders to promote the safety of all slope users.
As you can see, smooth and effective running of ski areas highly depends on ski patrol. They play a vital role in ensuring a safe and favorable environment for guests and other employees.
The National Ski Patrol
Founded in 1938, the National Ski Patrol is the world’s largest and most well-known winter education organization.
The nonprofit organization focuses on providing education on winter safety, outreach, and approving activities related to outdoor recreation and winter safety.
It registers skiers of different ages, ranging from young skiers of at least 15 years to older skiers of 65 years or older, depending on their ability and strength.
If you are ready to become a ski patroller, you can contact your local ski patrol director and ask for a chance to participate in the applicant-screening day.
This mainly happens several weeks before the skiing season starts, as there is a lot of preparation needed to get the ski area ready for skiers and boarders.
Why Some Mountains Don’t Allow Snowboarders to be Ski Patrollers
Up to this point, you must have realized that all of the responsibilities of ski patrol can be handled just as well, whether you are a skier or a snowboarder.
In my opinion, this is true to some extent, and your form of riding shouldn’t necessarily dictate your ability to handle the tasks of a ski patroller.
But why do many ski resorts allow only skiers to be the ski patrol on their slopes? Here are a few reasons why this happens:
The Existing Stereotypes about Snowboarders
A big part of the reason behind restricting snowboarders from ski patrol has to do with the many existing stereotypes about snowboarders.
As many skiers will tell you, snowboarding is a new invention, and it began to acquire many labels as it gained popularity across the world.
Some people labeled snowboarding as the ‘rebel sport’ since many snowboarders just don’t seem to pay attention to ski etiquette.
With this historic friction, some skiers still think there is a lack of understanding between the two sports, which may result in frustration on the slopes.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that snowboarders are rude and treacherous people.
I have many snowboarder friends, and we have never had trouble riding on the same mountain.
The thing is that such stereotypes still affect most ski resorts, and that’s why they won’t deploy snowboarders to act as ski patrol on their slopes.
Avalanche Control Can Be Dangerous for Snowboarders
Ski patrolling involves activities like controlling avalanches. To deal with an avalanche, the ski patrol has to move up the mountain.
If a snowboarder is a part of the ski patrol responsible for avalanche control, it means that they have to remove their snowboards and replace them with snowshoes.
Otherwise, they may not be able to move uphill with ease.
On the other hand, skiers may not need to remove their skis to climb the mountain. They can attach climbing skins to their skins and use an ice axe to ascend efficiently.
Another issue with snowboarders is that their boards lack an emergency release mechanism.
If you are caught up in a small avalanche and have your skis on, the bindings will release your boots, allowing you to fight your way out.
Unfortunately, snowboards do not have this safety feature, and it can be hard for you to battle your way out when caught up in an avalanche. The boards might actually pull you to ride under the snow.
But this shouldn’t be a major problem because avalanches are rare and are not the only aspect of ski patrolling.
There are so many other things that the ski patrol team engages in to keep people safe on the mountain.
Some ski resorts allow snowboarders to be ski patrollers on their slopes, but they refrain from responsibilities that can be dangerous such as controlling avalanches.
What Are the Advantages of Snowboarding Patrol?
With all the risks and rejection, you might wonder whether snowboarding patrol has any advantages.
Surprisingly, snowboarders have a few merits over skiers when it comes to ski patrol and keeping the slopes safe for users.
Many people feel that it’s easier to pull a toboggan when wearing snowboards than when you have skis on. The reason is that the position your snowboard gives you feels more natural for toboggan handling.
Even so, you only enjoy this benefit when pulling a toboggan down the mountain. If you have to pull a toboggan on a flat surface, then you need to remove one foot from the snowboard to be able to move forward.
Another benefit of snowboarding patrollers is that their boots are more comfortable walking in than ski boots.
So, if you want to move faster to handle an emergency, you can remove your snowboard and walk on your boots. This will save you from the frustration of struggling with your board on tough terrain and ensure that you get there in time.
How to Become a Ski Patroller
Whether you want to volunteer or search for employment, becoming a ski patroller is not always an easy task.
But this is not to discourage you. If you love the idea of ski patrolling, good training will set you up for success.
All you have to do is look for an intensive ski patrol course and acquire the necessary knowledge and skills.
But before you embark on finding your best ski patrol course, it’s important to know the essential requirements.
Ski Patrol Requirements
For any ski resort to accept you as an employee or volunteer, you need to meet several requirements and qualifications.
They want to be sure that you can be able to keep their slopes safe and cater to the emergency needs of their guests while out there.
And since some ski patrolling activities may expose you to life-threatening circumstances, you need to be well-trained to be able to deal with potentially dangerous situations.
Here are some of these ski patrol requirements:
1#. Should Be Able to Ride Around the Mountain with Ease
Whether you are a skier or a snowboarder, you should be able to get around the slopes with ease. This means that you should be good enough for your sport to become a ski patroller.
Remember, ski patrolling involves keeping people safe on the mountain, and you cannot do that if you are unable to navigate the mountain.
You should be able to get from one point to another efficiently since some situations are emergencies and need an immediate response.
When accidents happen on the slope, you may be responsible for delivering the necessary equipment and supplies to take care of the injured person.
And in such cases, you cannot afford to be slow when a life is at risk.
To know if you are an excellent skier or snowboarder, you can try to ride all the terrain on the mountain. This way, you can assess your experience level and see whether you qualify to become a patroller.
2#. Should Have Medical Certification
One of the most important skills that patrollers have is treating injured individuals and effectively providing first aid when needed.
As a patroller, you should have the necessary medical certification to ensure that you can take care of medical emergencies whenever they arise.
Most ski resorts employ patrollers who have an Emergency Medical Technician license. Others as for the National Ski Patrol’s Outdoor Emergency Care Certification.
The ski patrol course to take should equip you with the appropriate first aid provision skill.
3#. Should Have the Relevant Ski Patrol Training
Another essential requirement for becoming a ski patroller is having relevant ski patrol training.
You should head to the ski resort to receive training before you are deployed to the mountains to monitor the slopes and save lives.
During the ski patrol training, the trainers will assess your skiing or snowboarding skills to know whether you are fit for the task or not.
If you have good ski/snowboarding ability, your chances of being hired are higher.
The training will also refresh you with first aid skills and train you on how to perform your daily tasks like checking and mitigating avalanches.
4#. Must Be At Least 16 Years Old
Most ski areas will only accept skiers or snowboarders at least 16 years of age to become ski patrollers on their slopes.
The reason is that ski patrolling involves many physical demands, and someone less than this age may not be able to handle such responsibilities.
Nevertheless, the National Ski Patrol allows members of at least 15 years, and those below 18 years are required to register as Young Adults.
They have a Young Adult Patroller (YAP) program that provides an educational structure for young adults about 15 to 17 years.
Through this program, the young adults receive incredible training that prepares them to become reliable ski patrollers in the future.
5#. Must Be Fit and Resilient
Ski patrollers should also be in good shape since skiing and snowboarding are anaerobic activities requiring strength and flexibility.
If you are not fit enough for the sport, you may not be able to handle the responsibilities bestowed on you as a ski patroller.
So, Do You Have What It Takes to Become a Ski Patroller?
Ski patrolling can be tough, and sometimes it involves working in very challenging conditions.
You may also have to ski/snowboard for more hours than other regular skiers and snowboarders, depending on whether you work as a volunteer or full-time patroller.
Volunteer patrollers in ski areas work part-time and are allowed to patrol for one or two days a week.
Their responsibilities vary, but they usually include assisting injured or ill skiers and helping where first aid is needed.
Full-time ski patrollers work full-time and are paid to patrol the ski area for the entire week. Along with helping in accidents, full-time patrollers also help in avalanche control, among other patrolling tasks.
Let’s talk about a few things that will help you decide whether you have what it takes to become a ski patroller.
The Ski Bum
When you are a young skier, you always think that it would be fantastic to have an opportunity to ski all the time.
But then the reality hits you. You ski for only a few hours, and you feel exhausted.
Volunteer patrols usually ride once or twice a week, which can be about 8 to 12 hours.
On the other hand, paid ski patrollers work full time. They usually ski or snowboard five days a week, with 8 to 12 hours per day.
If you would really enjoy skiing a lot on the slopes, then you can look for a job as a ski patrol. Sure, you will have some responsibilities to complete every day, but you get to ski as much as you want.
Overall, volunteer patrollers can ski for around 100 to 200 hours throughout the ski season, while paid ski patrols will ride about 400 hours.
This is a lot more hours as average recreational skiers ride for about 100 hours or even less in the course of the ski season.
First Responder to Injuries
If you are a ski patroller, it means that you’ll always be the first person to respond to emergencies. Ski patrollers are responsible for providing first aid to injured skiers and snowboarders on the slopes.
Every ski patroller should be able to respond immediately and give temporary care to injured skiers and boarders on the mountain.
The success of first aid depends on the skills a ski patroller has and their ability to apply their knowledge to caring for injured skiers and snowboarders.
When an accident happens on the slopes, ski patrollers assess the situation and administer their knowledge and skills as needed. However, their main aim is always to keep the slopes safe for skiers and snowboarders to prevent accidents and injuries in the first place.
Mountain Rescue Specialist
When you are a ski patroller, you are the mountain rescue specialist. So, you must be really good at what you do, from skiing to attending to injured skiers.
Your skiing or snowboarding ability can be tested to the limits since you have to constantly ski around to ensure safety on the hill.
Apart from being an expert skier and an excellent first aider, you should be able to cope with the challenges of being outdoors on the icy hill.
New patrollers also need on-snow training to help them develop specific skiing and toboggan handling skills. They need to master incident site management, evacuation tools use, and ski area safety procedures.
All these are essential for allowing the skier or boarder to do their ski patrols with maximum safety and effectiveness.
This way, they can take care of skiers with serious injuries after a bad fall or collision due to reckless skiing, handle a toboggan properly when loaded or unloaded, and manage avalanches efficiently.
All in all, you should keep in mind that each ski area will have a set of its own challenges. Most resorts on larger mountains usually have more challenges and troubles for ski patrollers to deal with.
Activities of such mountains include searching for a missing skier or boarder, rescuing injured persons, evacuating lift lines, controlling avalanches, and more.
As mentioned earlier, ski/snowboarder patrollers must be physically fit to be able to carry out all their responsibilities on the slopes throughout the ski season.
Keep in mind that ski patrolling requires long days of work and performing physically demanding tasks. So, your body must be in great shape to respond to your duties as a ski patroller.
Q: Is There Such a Thing as Snowboard Patrol?
A: No, there is no such thing as a snowboard patrol. There is only a ski patrol. However, snowboarders can be ski patrollers.
Most patrollers are skiers, but patrollers on snowboards are becoming popular in many ski countries.
The National Ski Patrol also educates and approves snowboarders as ski patrollers who can handle toboggans and attend to injuries on the slope.
While snowboard patrols can be tricky when it comes to activities like controlling avalanches, it does have some advantages.
For example, it’s easier to pull toboggans downhill on boards than skis. Snowboard boots are also more comfortable and flexible for walking on the snow compared to ski boots.
Every mountain deserves good patrollers, and it doesn’t really matter whether they are on boards or skis as long as they can maintain a safe environment for slope users.
Q: How Do You Become a Ski Patrol Snowboard?
A: To become a ski patrol as a snowboarder, you can contact your local ski patrol director and secure a chance to participate in the applicant-screening day.
If your application goes through, you’ll be able to receive relevant ski patrol education and training.
You can also visit a local ski resort that you are interested in working in and see what their specific requirements are.
If you want to learn more about ski patrols and safe skiing, the National Ski Areas Association has everything you need to know about the ski industry, from statistics to the best ski areas.
Q: Can Snowboarders Go as Fast as Skiers?
A: Yes, snowboarders can go as fast as skiers can. However, not all boarders can ride at the same speed as skiers of the same ability level.
The reason is that skis are much easier to control when skiing at high speeds than boards.
Unlike snowboarders, skiers enjoy a better edge and independent suspension, which allows them to ride at high speeds and still stay in control.
To go fast on a snowboard, you would need to have more control skills. Otherwise, you may not be comfortable and might end up falling.
Some of the reasons why skiers go faster include:
– Skis are designed to ride forward smoothly in one direction
– Advanced skiers usually can glide over the snow effortlessly with their sharpened and waxed skis, resulting in a faster speed.
– Skis are quite narrower and normally get hotter on the base due to friction faster than boards. With a hot base, the skier can glide even faster than a boarder can, even if they started at the same time.
If you are a snowboarder and want to ride as fast as a skier, there are a few things that can help you. These include having a high-quality and well-tuned board, distributing weight properly, carving, and momentum.
Having a high-quality and well-tuned snowboard will give you better control and let you flex as you wish on the slope.
While beginners will do just well with lighter boards, experienced snowboarders need advanced boards with extra technical features for better riding and speed.
If you want to be direct and concise on the snow, your board should have sharp edges and fresh wax. This will translate to a higher speed.
Be sure to apply the pressure faster as you turn, as it will boost your speed by initiating momentum.
Another effective way to improve your snowboarding speed is by carving a turn. You can carve your turn by shifting between the heel and toe edges on the board.
When riding on a flat surface, you can maintain or increase your speed by propelling the snowboard, bending, and straightening your knees.
Q: Can Snowboarders Ski?
A: Yes, snowboarders can ski. If you are a snowboarder and want to start skiing, you can actually learn how to ski down the mountain within a day.
You’ll find it easier to gain balance on skis, but transitioning from sideway to forward riding can be quite challenging.
It can also take time for snowboarders to master the technical skiing skills and tricks like the Kangaroo flip and pistol flip.
Similarly, becoming a seasoned skier and making carves downhill requires a lot of practice and dedication.
While ski patrolling is all about having fun, especially for those who love riding on the snow, it can still be a demanding job, given that you have to stay on the slopes for more hours.
Ski patrollers also have many duties to attend to keep the slopes safe for skiing and snowboarding. They also need to be the first responders to accidents and injuries.
There are not many snowboarders who work as ski patrol, but this doesn’t mean they can’t.
Snowboarders looking to be members of the ski patrol team can always join, provided they have the necessary skills and qualifications.
If you are interested in ski patrol, you can visit the National Ski Patrol of your country and get the relevant training to become a member of the ski patrol family.