Category Archives: Colorado

Vail’s Park City Resort Ski Patrol Votes-in Union

Members of the full-time paid ski patrols at the recently-combined Canyons and Park City resorts voted to unionize on 14 December. (Listen-in on interview with Ski-Patrol.net Cofounder, Mark O’Connor, and Park City Mountain Resort COO, Bill Rock, on local NPR affiliate KPCW). The vote was close, with 97 voting in favor and 94 opposed to joining Local 7781 of the United Professional Ski Patrols of America (UPSPA) union within the AFL-CIO’s Communications Workers of America (CWA). Park City Opening Day 2015-

The Park City and Canyons resorts were officially combined at the end of July to form what is now the largest US ski resort. Fifty-million dollars has been committed to capital improvements for joining the resorts and upgrading the associated infrastructure. The combined resort has been re-branded as “Park City” (PCMR) with new tagline “There is only one. Park City.”

The question now is whether Vail Continue reading Vail’s Park City Resort Ski Patrol Votes-in Union

Ski Patrol Unions: Isolated Occurrences or the Latest Trend for Ski Patrol Organizations?

Patrollers at Telluride are the latest to organize a union, bringing the count of unionized “Pro Patrols” at large resorts around the US to eight. Telluride patrollers, in a 47 to 1 vote, joined the ranks of Colorado’s Crested Butte and Steamboat, and Utah’s Canyons Resort in February of 2015. Those resorts are represented by the United Professional Ski Patrols of America (UPSPA), operating as Local 7781 of the AFL-CIO’s Communications Workers of America (COA) union. 2015 Unionized North American Ski Patrols

Patrollers at Aspen SkiCo’s four resorts, Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk, have been separately unionized since 1986 as the Aspen Professional Ski Patrol Association (APSPA). The Steamboat Professional Ski Patrol Association voted in a union in a December 1999, 44 to 12 vote. Canyons patrollers unionized in April of Continue reading Ski Patrol Unions: Isolated Occurrences or the Latest Trend for Ski Patrol Organizations?

NSP and 10th Mountain Division Legend, Earl Clark, Dies at 95

Ski industry pioneer, Earl Ervin Clark, died on Sunday, 28 December, at his home in Littleton, Colorado. He was 95 years old. 10th Mountain Division

Clark, a Londonderry, Vermont native and long-time Colorado resident, became a member of the Rocky Mountain Division of the NSP after World War II. He served as volunteer Patrol Director at Arapahoe Basin on weekends after leaving active duty with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. He also served as a patroller at Loveland, Berthoud Pass and Winter Park. He was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 2001. Continue reading NSP and 10th Mountain Division Legend, Earl Clark, Dies at 95

Ski Patroller Among Worst Paying Jobs in America

A recent study by Ski-Patrol.net found that Ski Patrollers, Lifeguards and others involved in recreational protective service work (“Patrollers and other RPS Workers”) are among the lowest paid workers in America. Data for our research came from the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, a reputable source, so we decided to take a closer look at the statistics to see if we could determine why that is.

After all, “paid” patrollers are highly trained workers with certifications across a number of skill areas, many of which are re-certified annually. It seems illogical that their compensation would rank somewhere near the bottom of the pay scale for American workers, below parking lot attendants and just marginally above wages that waiters and waitresses “claim” on their tax returns. In fact, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, over 97% of all US professions have higher compensation than Patrollers and other RPS Workers. Recreational Protective Service Professionals, Median Hourly Compensation

It’s important to note that 90%+ of ski patrollers that are also National Ski Patrol members in the US take no compensation for their work, and do not appear in this category of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The compensation of those 20-25,000 or so patrollers Continue reading Ski Patroller Among Worst Paying Jobs in America

Ski Area Management Magazine “Outs” National Ski Patrol Acrimony

Ski Area Management (SAM) magazine has published the first article in a two part series, “Rescue Me: The National Ski Patrol has been through years of turmoil. Can it be saved?”, which proposes to explore the acrimonious multi-year battle between various factions of the US National Ski Patrol System, Inc.’s (NSP) membership. The battle has resulted in NSP vs. NSP civil litigation on two occasions over the past 8 years. SAM

At first glance the SAM series appears to be an attempt to explore solutions to problems that have been plaguing the organization since 2005. The two warring factions are largely comprised of a majority of NSP’s senior leadership on the one hand that propose that a small group of vocal and well organized members are wasting the time of senior leaders on issues that are of little strategic importance to the organization or the majority of its members.

On the other side there is a loosely-coordinated group that fashions itself as “members’ rights” advocates attempting to force NSP senior leaders to re-focus on the strategic interests of the organization. They say the NSP has strayed in recent years toward a primary focus on the financial interests of resorts and other for-profit entities, and they would like to put the strategic focus back on skier and rider safety and care, and conservative actions to protect members’ rights in support of that strategy and protecting the NSP’s non-profit status.

There is certainly truth to Continue reading Ski Area Management Magazine “Outs” National Ski Patrol Acrimony

Ski Patrol Legend, Curt Chase, Dies at 91

Longtime Aspen resident, Ski Patrol pioneer, 10th Mountain Division member and skiing instruction legend, Curt Chase, died in early June at 91 at his Colorado home. Chase, born on 3 October 1922 in Manchester, NH, lived and worked in Aspen for more than 40 years.

Curt Chase

Chase was a member of the University of New Hampshire ski team in the 1930s. He was also recruited by the National Ski Patrol in its early years to join the 10th Mountain Division and became a survival training instructor for the US Army in 1943. He later organized, trained and directed the Aspen Ski Patrol in 1946. Continue reading Ski Patrol Legend, Curt Chase, Dies at 91

10th Mountain First Aid Film: State of the NSP Art Circa 1942

A few short 10th Mountain Division “ski patrol” first aid films have recently been published to Shutterstock. The videos show state of the art procedures for treating freezing and frostbite, and knee and ankle sprains, circa 1942 before the US entered World War II.

1942 Ski Patrol Video - Frostbite

National Ski Patrol (NSP) Founder, Minnie Dole, was instrumental in founding the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division alpine fighting force, after founding the NSP in 1938 at the urging of NSAA (National Skier Association of America, not to be confused with NSP’s main partner 75 years later, the National Ski Areas Association) President, Roger Langley. During the height of the 10th Mountain Division’s build-up, its training grounds were located near what is now Continue reading 10th Mountain First Aid Film: State of the NSP Art Circa 1942

Wolf Creek Patroller Colin Sutton Killed in Backcountry Avalanche

Wolf Creek Ski Area Patroller Colin Drew Sutton was killed in a backcountry avalanche incident on 4 March 2014.

March 2014 Conejos Peak Avalanche Scene

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), Sutton was in a group of four patrollers from Colorado’s Wolf Creek that were transported via helicopter to Pt. 12,505, which is approximately one mile west of Conejos Peak, and around 16 air miles SE of the Wolf Creek area where they typically Continue reading Wolf Creek Patroller Colin Sutton Killed in Backcountry Avalanche

Breckenridge Ski Patrol Blows Up “Leo’s Pot Shack” After Inside Edition Report on Colorado Stoners

The Breckenridge Ski Patrol obliterated “Leo’s Pot Shack” following an Inside Edition report pointed out some of the safety risks posed by the now quasi-legal use of marijuana on some Colorado ski slopes. This follows the legalization of marijuana by Colorado voters in late 2012. The video below shows the shack as it was reportedly being blown up by the Breckenridge Patrol.

Continue reading Breckenridge Ski Patrol Blows Up “Leo’s Pot Shack” After Inside Edition Report on Colorado Stoners

Vail Founder’s Grandson Killed in Chutes Avalanche

The grandson of Vail’s Founder was killed in an avalanche in out-of-bounds terrain at the East Vail Chutes. Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) investigators were diverted from their study of a 2 January slide at Breckenridge, where there were no injuries, to the Vail scene.

Tony Seibert, 24, was killed in the Vail incident. He was the grandson of Vail founder Pete Seibert, and the son of Terry and Pete Seibert Jr. There were four others skiing with Seibert, one of whom was also injured. Continue reading Vail Founder’s Grandson Killed in Chutes Avalanche

NSP Searches for New Executive Director

National Ski Patrol (NSP) Executive Director, Timothy White, resigned from the NSP and the search for his successor is under way. White unofficially announced his resignation at an April meeting of the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) in Palm Springs. A rushed member communication came from the NSP National Office within a few days of the NSAA session.
Former NSP Executive Director, Tim White

White left the NSAA in 2007, where he served as Education Director, to join the NSP as Executive Director. His resignation was effective 31 July 2013, but he left around 15 May upon the appointment of Darcy Hanley, the NSP’s Education Director. Ms. Hanley now serves as NSP “Managing Director”, a temporary position, until a successor for Mr. White is found. The NSP formally announced its search for a new Executive Director on 27 June. Continue reading NSP Searches for New Executive Director

SkiCo Cleared by OSHA in Snowmass Patroller’s Death

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has cleared the Aspen Skiing Company (SkiCo) of any wrongdoing in its inquiry into the death of ski patroller, Patsy Hileman. Snowmass Ski Patrol SkiCo sources said in an Aspen Daily News report that they have no plans to change any policies in response to the incident.

Patsy Hileman, a 26-year veteran of the Aspen Ski Patrol, died in an avalanche on 30 December 2012 in the Ship’s Prow Glade, a permanently closed Snowmass backcountry skiing area. Hileman appears to have been skiing alone and inadvertently triggered a portion of the “crown” from a previous avalanche that pushed her off Continue reading SkiCo Cleared by OSHA in Snowmass Patroller’s Death

Colorado’s Worst Avalanche in 50 Years Claims Lives of 5 Industry Pros

Highlighting the danger inherent to backcountry boarding and skiing, five industry professionals were killed in an avalanche at Loveland, the most tragic Colorado incident in 50 years. All were part of the Rocky Mountain High Backcountry Bash, an event that was put-on to help fund avalanche safety and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).

2012 Loveland Avalanche Incident

According to a report from the CAIC, a backcountry touring party of six, on splitboards and skis, was caught in an avalanche in the Sheep Creek area near Loveland Pass. According to the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Department (CCC SD), the avalanche occurred on Saturday, 20 April 2013 at 1pm, on the north-northeast aspect of the Sheep Creek drainage of Loveland Pass, along US 6.

Four of the riders and one skier were killed. Each of those fatally injured was an expert boarder or skier, and was using the latest avalanche gear. Ski-Patrol.net analysis of CAIC data has found that 50% more people have been killed in the 2012-2013 season than the average of the preceding 3 seasons in Colorado. We have also found an alarming statistic that may be emerging in CAIC fatality data. While only 19.1% of skiers died (14 of 73) after being caught in an avalanche over the last 4 seasons, 37.93% of boarders died (11 of 29) after getting caught in an avalanche. Continue reading Colorado’s Worst Avalanche in 50 Years Claims Lives of 5 Industry Pros

Ski Patrol Volunteers Stuck in Legal Limbo

A new Denver Post report highlights the legal limbo that well-informed ski patrollers find themselves in when participating in rescue operations beyond the boundaries of resorts where they serve the skiing and boarding public.
Backcountry Patrolling
While many resorts allow their volunteer and paid patrollers to participate in rescues outside area “boundaries”, some Colorado resorts are washing their hands of the liabilities resorts may otherwise bear – even notifying paid patrollers that they are “off the clock” when they participate in off-piste rescues, working as “volunteers”. Back country public safety officials at the local, regional and national levels are now scrambling to plug that risk gap so patrollers are able to do their dangerous work without bearing the universe of liability, life and health risks personally Continue reading Ski Patrol Volunteers Stuck in Legal Limbo

NSP Responds to Denver Post Report on Resort Accident Investigation Conflict of Interest

The NSP has endorsed a response to the series of articles published by Denver Post reporter Karen E. Crummy. An NSP member news release on its Web site directs patrollers to a response by Dan Whiting, Chief Accident Investigator at Wolf Creek Ski Area, and NSP Executive Director Tim White has released an official NSP response. Both are posted on the “Club Colorado” blog. The YouTube video that accompanied the Whiting response is included here. The NSP and Wolf Creek responses, however, appear to miss the “conflict of interest” point of the Post series.

The Denver Post report criticizes the practice of resort accident investigations becoming de facto legal findings, and the fact that Ski Patrol representatives Continue reading NSP Responds to Denver Post Report on Resort Accident Investigation Conflict of Interest

Denver Post Publishes Scathing Review of Skier Safety

The Denver Post has published a three-part series of articles offering a scathing review of the skiing industry, with a focus on Colorado ski areas and “ski law”. Breckenridge Patrol

The first article, “Colorado system for investigating ski accidents raises concerns“, highlights the high degree of control that ski patrol and mountain management have over accident investigations on resort-owned and leased property.

The second in the series, “Colorado ski industry enjoys protection from law, waivers“, attempts to demonstrate that through effective lobbying, particularly in Colorado, resorts have been able to focus on limiting their exposure to liability through legislation, reducing the need for resort operators to Continue reading Denver Post Publishes Scathing Review of Skier Safety

Happy 75th Birthday NSP: Mission Accomplished?

Seventy-five years ago this week, two guys from Massachusetts met at the National Ski Races on Stowe’s Nose Dive trail and the National Ski Patrol (NSP) was born. 1938 Stowe Mens Nationals Cover

As the NSP enters its 76th year and reflects upon its legacy, ski patrollers serve a very different skiing population and group of industry stakeholders. In this article we explore whether the National Ski Patrol System has accomplished its mission, and pose the question, “Has the U.S. network of ski and alpine touring resorts now evolved to the point where it can more effectively assume the NSP’s mission to prevent skiing accidents and assist those sustaining accidents?”

The past may inform the future on that point. Continue reading Happy 75th Birthday NSP: Mission Accomplished?

Last First Tracks: Snowmass Memorial Held for Patsy Hileman

A memorial was held on 5 January for Patricia Mae “Patsy” Hileman of Snowmass Village, Colorado. Patsy, a 26-year veteran of the Aspen Ski Patrol, died in an avalanche on 30 December in the Ship’s Prow Glade, a backcountry skiing spot at Aspen’s Snowmass area. The memorial service celebrating her life was held on at the Elk Camp restaurant at Snowmass Mountain. Snow Mass Ship's Prow Approach

Hileman appears to have inadvertently triggered a portion of the “crown” from a previous avalanche that pushed her off the edge. She was skiing in a section of the Snowmass backcountry that is not explicitly open to the skiing public due to its inherent dangers. A previous avalanche at that location had been triggered with explosives by the patrol on 27 December 2012, three days before Hileman’s incident. While the avalanche was very small, it appears to have been of sufficient size to sweep Hileman, an expert skier familiar with that area, off the cliff’s edge. Continue reading Last First Tracks: Snowmass Memorial Held for Patsy Hileman

Thanks to a Few Friends and the Crystal Mountain Patrol, Emily Anderson Lives to Ski Again

Emily Anderson was enjoying one of the best runs of her life on more than 3 feet of fresh powder at Crystal Mountain in Washington on 18 December. Suddenly, everything changed. Emily could literally feel and hear a massive fissure form and break loose, triggering an avalanche. According to Emily, “You know, you hear a little pop when it starts to go.” Within seconds Emily was pushed into a tree and “encased”, unable to move in a seated position under several feet of snow. She had no transponder or avi air supply, and there was no indication that anyone had been on the trail. Ski Patrol “avi” experts know that only one in 3 survive under those circumstances. Emily noted in the ABC report, “I felt alone, like this could be it.” She added, “I’m very lucky. Everything about it went my way; that’s for sure.” Continue reading Thanks to a Few Friends and the Crystal Mountain Patrol, Emily Anderson Lives to Ski Again

Injured Copper Patroller Receives High Fives Foundation Grant

Long-time Copper Mountain Colorado ski patroller, Sally Francklyn, has been awarded a High Fives Foundation Winter Empowerment Program Service grant of $5,820 to help with her recovery from a traumatic brain injury sustained in a March 2012 backcountry skiing incident.

To continue raising funds toward her recovery, a “Super Sally Celebration” will take place at the Pink Garter Theatre in Jackson, Wyoming on 8 December 2012 from 6–10 p.m. The event will raise funds for the Teton County Search & Rescue, Jackson Hole Ski Patrol and those who have helped Sally in her continued recovery. Continue reading Injured Copper Patroller Receives High Fives Foundation Grant