Tips for Landing a Ski or Snowboard Patrol Job

Tips for Landing a Ski or Snowboard Patrol Job








If you enjoy help­ing peo­ple, and get­ting paid to ski or snow­board sounds like a sweet gig, then you’re a prime can­di­date for the Nation­al Ski Patrol (NSP). This elite orga­ni­za­tion is com­prised of more than 27,000 skiers and snow­board­ers, and new recruits are wel­come to apply for paid and/or vol­un­teer positions.

But if you want to boost your chances of land­ing a per­ma­nent job with the NSP, here are a few pre­lim­i­nary steps to take.

Tip #1: Study up

2Every ski and snow­board patroller must be cer­ti­fied in both basic and wilder­ness first-aid, and first responder/EMT course expe­ri­ence will only improve your chances. All of these cours­es are read­i­ly avail­able in most siz­able towns and cities lying with­in rea­son­able prox­im­i­ty to ski areas, and many resorts offer them as well. But these are just the beginning.
The NSP-man­dat­ed Out­door Emer­gency Care (OEC) Course and Chal­lenge lasts any­where from 80 to 100 hours, depend­ing on the expe­ri­ence lev­el of the student(s). The OEC explores top­ics such as treat­ment for com­mon injuries, high-alti­tude con­di­tions, wilder­ness extri­ca­tions, and avalanche recov­ery using writ­ten mate­ri­als and sce­nario-based exer­cis­es. Stu­dents must pass sev­er­al exams, as well as a final eval­u­a­tion at the con­clu­sion of the course; the course typ­i­cal­ly costs $300, but the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is valid for three years. To beef up on your ski patrol knowl­edge, check out the var­i­ous online cours­es offered by the NSP (log-in name required); they are rel­a­tive­ly inex­pen­sive ($10–20), and the top­ics they cov­er will be reit­er­at­ed dur­ing the OEC.

Tip #2: Get in shape

2No-brain­er, right? But accord­ing to the NSP, the trick is con­di­tion­ing your body away from the slopes. ‘Pre-sea­son con­di­tion­ing’ at home or a local gym is the best way to ade­quate­ly pre­pare for the phys­i­cal demands of ski patrolling. Dave Mer­ri­am, head coach of the PSIA and AASI Demon­stra­tion Teams, warns against ini­tial­ly get­ting in shape by ski­ing or snow­board­ing — regard­less of your skill lev­el. “These are demand­ing activ­i­ties, and if you haven’t con­di­tioned your body accord­ing­ly, you tire quick­er, become sore more eas­i­ly, and also stand a greater chance of get­ting injured,” he says.

Mer­ri­am notes that out­door activ­i­ties in gen­er­al require aer­o­bic train­ing to con­di­tion the body for long-dis­tance trav­el and help pre­vent fatigue-relat­ed injuries. How­ev­er, he adds that ski­ing and snow­board­ing are also anaer­o­bic activ­i­ties because they fluc­tu­ate between intense ener­gy out­put and pro­longed rest peri­ods. For this rea­son, aspir­ing ski and snow­board patrollers should build their aer­o­bic and anaer­o­bic strength. One way to accom­plish both goals, he says, is to incor­po­rate brief sprint ses­sions into long runs, and then fol­low with a rest peri­od. In addi­tion to these rou­tines, he rec­om­mends exer­cise activ­i­ties that con­di­tion the body for con­tin­u­ous ski­ing and snow­board­ing, such as hill- or stair-climbs, cycling and inline skating.

Strength and flex­i­bil­i­ty train­ing are also cru­cial. Dave Man­net­ter, a mem­ber of PSI­A’s Alpine Demon­stra­tion Team and the head staff train­er at Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Mam­moth Moun­tain Ski School, urges patrollers to focus on all major mus­cle groups in the upper body (chest, back, shoul­ders, arms) and legs (calves, quads, glutes and ham­strings) in order to effec­tive­ly build strength. “It just makes sense that the stronger you are, the less you have to try to hold your­self up to make the moves,” Man­net­ter says. For increased flex­i­bil­i­ty, many patrollers uti­lize the INFLEX pro­gram pio­neered by Adri­an Crook. This course builds five core com­po­nents of flex­i­ble move­ment: focus, bal­ance, strength, range of motion and longevity.

Tip #3: Under­stand the responsibilities
Michelle Longstreth, a ski patroller at Wash­ing­ton’s Crys­tal Moun­tain, recent­ly blogged that her job entails much more than sim­ply cruis­ing the slopes and look­ing for injured peo­ple — though that is typ­i­cal­ly the pub­lic per­cep­tion of her pro­fes­sion. “We pro­vide first aid and trans­port injuries to the base area,” she wrote. “This is maybe our most high-pro­file job, and one where we inter­act the most with the ski­ing pub­lic. Help­ing an injured ski­er or rid­er is the most reward­ing part of the job.”

How­ev­er, she notes that addi­tion­al duties include secur­ing perime­ter rope lines; rais­ing or low­er­ing tow­er pads; cre­at­ing and installing warn­ing signs; and, when nec­es­sary, per­form­ing avalanche blast­ing tech­niques. While ski and snow­board patrollers do spend their days on the slopes, the job is hard­ly recre­ation­al — so appli­cants should not expect a paid win­ter vacation.

For more infor­ma­tion, please vis­it the NSP offi­cial web­site.