Monday, January 21, 2002

Patrol tends skiers' safety

Volunteers also assist injured

By William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. — It's Friday night, and the hills are alive with skiers. With hundreds of skiers — both novice and experienced — navigating the 18 slopes at Perfect North Slopes ski resort, the odds are there are going to spills and tumbles.

        On this particular night, when 7-year-old Pavan Kota falls and hurt his leg, it isn't long before he's surrounded by several skiers clad in rust and blue color jackets.

        The experienced skiers put the Villa Hills, Ky., boy on a rescue toboggan and pull him across the snow to the first-aid station.

        "Our job is 98 percent customer service, 1 percent cop and 1 percent EMT,” says Steve Weisbrod, a member of the National Ski Patrol that over sees the slopes at Perfect North. “Stay safe and have a good time, that's what it's all about.”

  • Mission Statement: The National Ski Patrol, founded in 1938, is a federally chartered nonprofit membership association dedicated to serving the public and the mountain recreation industry by providing education services about emergency care and safety. The group has 28,500 worldwide.
  • Requirements for membership: 1. Association with a local patrol as an alpine skier or snowboarder, nordic patroller or auxiliary patroller. 2. Ability to log a minimum of 10 patrolling sessions each year with your local patrol. 3. Complete credentialed courses and annual training, refresher and continuing education in Outdoors Emergency Care, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, skiing and toboggan handling, (except for auxiliary), and other local patrol training requirements.
  • Information: (303) 988-1646 or
  Source: National Ski Patrol
        During its season, Perfect North offers all-night skiing (until 3.a.m.) on Fridays and Saturdays. And there are always a group of ski patrollers on duty to encourage safe skiing and handle ski-related injuries.

        There are about 120 National Ski Patrol members — ages 18 to 70 — at Perfect North, six of whom will be working at the Winter Olympics, says Mr. Weisbrod, 55, of Modest, Ohio.

        “All are volunteers. Some are doctors and nurses, but most of us have the (200 hours of) outdoors emergency medical training,” he says. “Mostly we do it because it's a lot of fun.”

        Inside the first-aid station, veteran ski patrollers Gordon Gavin and Marlin Tatman examine Pavan while his mother and 9-year-old brother look on.

        “There's no swelling or extreme discoloration,” says Mr. Gavin, 52, of Okeana, Ohio, who is a 28-year member of the ski patrol.

        “He was doing fine,” Naja Kota says of her son's first attempt at skiing. “He was doing so well that I encouraged him to go again (before he fell).”

        Mr. Gavin and Mr. Tatman, the crew chief supervising the patrollers, decide to place a cardboard splint on Pavan's knee and advise his mother to consult a physician if Pavan experiences any pain the following day.

        “I think he'll be OK,” Mrs. Kota says. He'll say (tomorrow) "can we go skiing again?'”

        About 9 p.m. it's time for Mr. Weisbrod and other patrollers to monitor the slopes as they are shut down one at a time so they can be resurfaced to allow for smoother skiing.

        “We kind of resurface and recondition the snow,” Ken Truschler, 28, of Brookville, explains as he drives a large snow grooming machine with tank-like treads down one of the ski slopes. “It gives it a nice texture for the skiers. It freshes it up.”

        As Mr. Truschler starts down another slope, he pauses to allow Mr. Weisbrod to shepherd a young skier out of harm's way.

        When the ski area closes for the night, the snow groomers go to work again, getting the slopes ready for the next day — but not until ski patrollers check for stragglers.

        “We ski every slope,” says Mr. Weisbrod. “We make sure nobody's out there.

        Overnight is also when it “snows.”

        There are 180 snow guns situated throughout the ski area that produce the necessary white stuff when Mother Nature fails to do so.

        “We pump a maximum of 7,000 gallons a water a minute for the snow making system,” says Rudy Rudisell, night manager and snow-making supervisor. “We pump over 100 million gallons of water for snow making in a season.”

        About 10:45 p.m., shortly after Rod Childs takes over as ski patrol crew chief, there are two injured skiers in the first-aid room.

        Pam Davis, 40, of Sunman, Ind., was able to hobble in to have her left knee examined.

        “I tried to wedge stop. I heard something pop,” she says as ski patrollers try to determine the severity of her injury.

        A cardboard splint and ice pack are placed on her knee and she is advised to see a physician if pain persists.

        Shandin Davis' injury appears to be more severe. Mr. Davis, who is not related to Pam Davis, was brought in on the rescue toboggan after he fell and landed on his shoulder. The patrollers fear he may have a broken collar bone, so an ambulance is called.

        With the injured taken care of, it's time to put on the skis again. “Our primary goal is to have people ski safely,” Mr. Childs, 62, says as he heads back out on the slopes.

        If you have a suggestion for Night Watch, call William A. Weathers at 768-8390; fax 768-8340.


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