“The Ski Patrol’s relationship with Holiday Valley is close and long standing. They are an integral part of the resort, performing a very important function,” said Jane Eshbaugh, director of marketing at Holiday Valley.
The non-profit National Ski Patrol is a self-sustaining rescue organization, composed almost entirely of highly trained volunteers offering prompt professional services. Their presence on the slopes gives visitors to a ski resort peace of mind knowing their services are available and provided free of charge.
“When I started on the Ski Patrol at Holiday Valley in 1982, there were 40 or 50 patrollers. Holiday Valley was just getting started being open nights and was looking for night patrollers. I probably wouldn’t ski as much if I wasn’t on the Ski Patrol. I enjoy skiing and the camaraderie,” said Kevin O’Rourke.
It’s a win-win situation with ski patrollers doing what they love while the people on the slopes reap the benefits of their services. Ski patrollers love to ski and being on the Ski Patrol means they can ski for free, while at the same time providing an essential service for the resort. But it’s so much more than free skiing. Ski patrolling is very demanding work with high standards to meet.
Being a ski patroller requires being in peak physical condition. They are a group of dedicated, well-trained men and women who love to ski and are generously giving of self, time and money.
O’Rourke, at 53, considers himself “the young guy.”
“Like any other organization,” he said, “the patrol is losing people every year and it is getting harder and harder to find new members.”
Each Ski Patrol member pays annual dues and their own training fees. They must purchase and maintain their ski equipment and first-aid packs and pay part of the cost of their red and black uniforms.
The patrol purchases and maintains radios, rescue toboggans, specialized splints, oxygen and other first aid supplies and training materials. They also raise their own funds for operating expenses and give some of the funds back to the community through donations to local organizations.
For many years, the familiar Holiday Valley Ski Patrol sausage stand and beer tent has been an integral part of the Fall Festival scene. This fundraiser, along with a pancake breakfast on the slopes during Winter Carnival, is the organization’s only fundraiser.
Holiday Valley’s highly experienced Ski Patrol has over 110 members, 35 of which hold National Ski Patrol Instructor Certification, qualifying them to train and evaluate patrollers.
All patrollers must complete a thorough training annually. Every year Holiday Valley hosts first aid, skiing, snowboarding and toboggan handling, chair evacuation and other training events for patrollers from other resorts as well as Holiday Valley.
Ski patrollers are required to work two 4- to 7-hour shifts per week, with usually 30 patrollers on duty holidays and weekends and 15 on weekdays. These sentinels of the slopes rotate areas they patrol and are always in touch with their home base.
Mike Brown has been with the ski patrol for 53 years, 19 at Holiday Valley. His take on the ski patrol is “it’s a great organization that helps those who have mishaps on the ski hill. We have great cooperation with Holiday Valley. We make people happy to come back again.”
Ski patrollers are very necessary to the wellbeing of the skiers, and Holiday Valley’s Ski Patrol is the best there is, as attested to by anyone who has experienced a problem on the slopes.
Kristen Russo, patrol co-director, has been on the ski patrol for 17 years; her father was for 40 years and husband 10 years.
“The patrol carries a sense of family,” she said. “We all like to ski and love to help people.”