The Places I Go: Responding To My First Ski Patrol Call

My name is Corban and I’ve been a professional ski patroller for 4 years. It is a truly amazing job and I would like to share a story with you today. This is a story about love, murder, jealousy, and fast cars. Wait, that’s the wrong story. This story is actually about my first incident as a certified alpine ski patroller. 

The year is 2018 and my class of ski patrol candidates had been training for 3 months. We had learned everything from first aid and toboggan handling, to rope lines and safety fences. Ski patrol is responsible for all medical events and the general safety of the mountain. That means that we have to set closures and signage to mitigate risks across the mountain. My class had just taken the on snow scenario tests for our medical skills the week before and passed. That was the last thing we needed to sign off, and we were all welcomed into the patrol with open arms and red jackets (only certified patrollers get to wear red jackets).

About a week later I was skiing across the mountain feeling like I was on top of the world. I had a bunch of new skills and a crisp clean red jacket that told everyone I was a certified patroller. As I was skiing a call came over the radio. There was a report of an injured skier near the Rocco ski lift. I was really close to that location so I stopped skiing and got on the radio with dispatch. I told them I was on the way and he marked me as in route. 

When I got on scene I did a quick survey and saw a child about 8 years old with no skis laying on the ground. When I skied up to the child his mom greeted me. The mother said her son had fallen and wasn’t getting back up to ski again. She also told me he was mostly nonverbal and had autism. It was at this moment the difficulty of the situation really set in. It’s hard enough to work with kids and even more so when they are unable to communicate. I also knew that many times children with autism had different reactions to pain. Sometimes they were hypersensitive and other times these kids could power through just about any kind of pain. I approached the child named Tim (real name not used to protect privacy) and started asking some questions with his mom present. I asked what happened and the mother explained he was skiing along and a bump in the snow threw him out of control. He crashed pretty soft and wasn’t going very fast (he fell on our bunny slope). I asked him what hurt or to point to what hurt and he looked at me like I was crazy. At this point I knew I would have to take a different approach.

Tim seemed to get louder or whine when he was in discomfort so I told him I was going to sweep his body for any injuries. I told him to let me know when something hurt. At this point Tim decided it was time to stand up and he tried his hardest but when he put pressure on his left leg he would start to tip over. I put a stop to this right away and started to assess the left leg. There was no obvious deformities but when I pressed in the mid femur area he was very tender and started to whine rather loudly. At this point my toboggan with medical supplies arrived on scene and I told him we were going to take him to the patrol room for additional evaluation. I placed Tim’s left leg in a splint and he took a fun toboggan ride down the rest of the mountain.

In the patrol room we were able to cut Tim’s pants off and found a little deformity and bruising in the area of his femur. We applied a little bit of traction and Tim seemed to relax. At this point I was almost positive there was a fracture in the femur and we called our local ambulance service for a transport. When the ambulance service arrived they administered some narcotic medication to Tim who seemed to be very grateful.

About a week later we called to follow up with Tim’s family. They said he did in fact have a femur fracture and was in a large cast. While I did feel extremely bad for Tim, I was proud of myself for making the right judgment call on the hill and immobilized in the correct body part after a crash. To this day I don’t know if I’ve had a call that was as difficult as treating the kid with autism who had broken their femur on the bunny slope. On the bright side most of my incidents have seemed like a cakewalk especially when my patients can talk to me and tell me where they’re hurting.

Being a Ski Patroller is an amazing job and I cherish every second of it. Some days when I’m tired or don’t want to go to work I’ll look back on incidents like this and remember how grateful Tim’s family was. It really helps me get going in the morning and remember why we put on the red jacket.

Did you like my story about being a Ski Patroller? If you wanna hear more stories like this subscribe to my blog and let me know down in the comment section below. I’m always happy to answer any questions you may have in the comment section or through direct messages on any of my social media platforms.

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