Skiing first tracks. Hucking bombs. Swooping to the rescue. As far as cool jobs go, ski patrol checks all the right boxes. But the day-to-day reality of what many patrollers readily call “a dream job” is not all blue skies and powder days. There’s real work involved (and, OK, a hearty dose of good times, too).
“A lot of people think that ski patrol is glamorous: you’re just out there skiing around, waiting for somebody to need you,” says Deer Valley Resort’s Ski Patrol Director Chris Erkkila with a good-natured chuckle. “But that is not the case. It is the grunt work and the behind-the-scenes work that takes up the majority of the time.” Each patroller wears a slew of hats, from first responder and avalanche mitigator to enforcer and educator to guest liaison and, in a handful of cases, dog handler.
At Deer Valley Resort, a team of 76 patrollers—most of whom are fueled by plentiful coffee—don the traditional red and prepare and secure six peaks and 2,026 acres of skiable terrain from early December to early April. On average, they handle 1,000 to 1,300 incidents—from stubbed toes to serious accidents—each year. While there are standard procedures to the job, every day is different.
Here, we follow patrol’s behind-the-scenes tracks, meet a few members of the team, and deliver tips from the slope-safety experts as Deer Valley enters its 40th season.