As a former ski area part owner and executive I find myself conflicted with my thoughts about ski patrol. However, as a reasonably intelligent person (maybe some would disagree) I believe there is an argument to be made that some rethinking has to take place about the care and feeding of our ski patrollers.
There is an excellent article in SAM, September 2015, which addresses this subject. The article, The Changing Role of Patrol, identifies the change that has happened since the ‘50-60s until now. When one steps back unattached to the current business model of a ski resort, the level of training requirement and commitment from a ski patroller merits reconsideration regarding compensation and stator within the ski resort community. In no way am I implying that their roles are not valued or appreciated, but times have changed?
Of concern is not only the compensation level but the ability to retain patrollers after they have had their ski bum fantasy fulfilled. The current model can be sustained if the inflow of new patrollers is keeping pace with those patrollers who are aging out. I am not sure that`s the case. NSP, NSAA and ski areas across the country are doing their best to bring new patrollers onboard. But no matter how you slice it, it is very difficult to support a couple or a family on a ski patroller`s wage. On the other hand, it is a challenge to see the ski area adding significant dollars to its cost without any guaranteed benefit. Yes, the retention of patrollers would go up, and maybe the number of patrollers could be reduced if the skill level increases significantly. Having said that, I am not sure skill is at issue in this conundrum. Gretchen Brugman of SAM has summed up the conundrum very well; we just need to look for the answer.