ith the 2008-2009 ski season showing early promise of a strong year for cold (and even snow!), Liberty Mountain’s Patrol is gearing up for the coming year. This past weekend, patrollers and candidates alike returned to Liberty Mountain for the annual “On-The-Hill” refresher. The “On-The-Hill” (or “OTH” in patrol parlance) is an annual all-day meeting that takes place at the resort. The agenda included updates from Liberty Mountain management, training films, review of equipment, practice of more difficult emergency medical skills and lift evacuation training - all important skills that the patrollers work hard to maintain in order to ensure safety for everyone at Liberty Mountain.
The OTH refresher is actually only one of at least three pre-season training/recertification courses required of all patrollers. The others include the Outdoor Emergency Care or OEC Refresher where patrollers spend an entire day in training to “refresh” core emergency medical skills; and mandatory recertification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation/automatic emergency defibrillator recertification for the healthcare provider. The training does not end with this pre-season training. In fact, it’s only the start. During the season, you may see a crowd of patrollers in red jackets practicing skiing and/or tobaggon handling skills. Or a group may be clustered in the snow, either on-trail or off, practicing care or extrication of a mock “patient.” In each of these cases, patrollers are not only maintaining, but enhancing skills to ensure they are ready when needed in a real emergency.
This preparation does pay off in that in addition to the routine sprained knees, legs, wrists and arms, every season brings the potential for a serious accident. Regulars to DCSki.com’s forums will recall the discussion of an accident involving a lift attendant sliding down the icy part of the hill underneath the upper part of the Alpine Quad chair at Liberty a couple of seasons back. The lift attendant was seriously hurt in an icy, steep, off-trail portion of the Area, but thanks to training that patrollers go through, they were able to utilize special climbing gear and reach her quickly. From there, she was stabilized and transported to awaiting advanced life support paramedics. The lead patroller on that accident, Zach Marlowe, was recently honored with the National Ski Patrol’s William J. Gross Memorial First Aid Award for his actions that day.
Speaking of awards, Liberty patrollers learned of another honor bestowed upon them. At the OTH this past weekend, SnoTime, Inc. Risk Manager, Lonny Whitcomb, reported that Liberty Mountain had been awarded the National Ski Area Association’s (NSAA’s) Annual Award for Best National Safety Week Program. As some may recall, the National Safety Week Program was an effort by Liberty Mountain to help educate customers about safety on the hill and provided an opportunity to interact with ski patrollers and Mountain Safety personnel through displays and free hot drinks at the “top duty” station. Lonny flew out to the NSAA’s awards ceremony in San Francisco during the off-season to accept the award on behalf of Liberty Mountain.
In talking about the NSAA award, Lonny noted that “There is only a single Safety Award presented by NSAA, so we were competing against everyone in the United States, including Vail, Aspen and the other ‘big’ areas. It was a real honor for Liberty Mountain to win an award like this in such a competitive arena and it really was due to the hard work of the patrollers and Mountain Safety.”
With the Patrol recertified and ready to go, all we need now is the cold to stick around - and so far so good! With a little luck, the Washington D.C./Baltimore are will enjoy a fantastic (and safe!) ski season. See you on the slopes!
James "Jim" Chen" is a member of the National Ski Patrol and Assistant Patrol Director at Liberty Mountain ski area in Carroll Valley, Pennsylvania. Jim has been a member of the Liberty Patrol since the 1995-1996 season. Off the slopes, Jim is an attorney in Washington, D.C. where he counsels clients on transportation, innovation, safety and environmental areas.