By Sam Mestel
At 5:45, before the brink of dawn, I am awoken. I get my stuff on and leave the house as I head for the Otis first aid clinic at the base of the mountain, and what awaits is a long day of hard work. There I greet my friends, find out any news from the previous night and sign up for my daily morning trail-check. As I wander outside, and head for the American Express six-pack, I watch the fiery sun nestle over the dark horizon, as the gloomy morning comes alive with its first rays of light. The ride up to the summit is a cold one, riddled with wind and sometimes snow. When I reach the peak, I gather large rods of bamboo and any possible other materials that I might need to mark off any hazards that may be present on my assigned trail. The first run of the day, before any of the public has glimpsed the fresh slopes, is always the best. Although I am tempted to dig my skis into the supple ground and zoom down my trail, I ski down slowly in order to make sure that everything is in order. When I reach the end of the run and head back up to the summit, that’s when the day really begins.
Last spring my mom enlightened me about the ski patrol program at Stratton. She knew someone who had been involved in the program who couldn’t say anything bad about it. I was 15 years old, the minimum age for a junior patroller, and was told to meet up with a women whose name was Nadine. After learning everything I could about ski patrol and talking to a few people that had previously participated, I was slightly reluctant to doing it. That being said, I told myself I would at least try it and see how it went. During the refresher in November, I learned a lot of medical information as well as became certified for CPR. At that point, there was no turning back. When I awoke my first morning to go to ski patrol and actually experience the thrill of working at the mountain, I realized that it had been one of the greatest decisions of my life.
Working at ski patrol is something that I covet every weekend in the winter. Despite it being hard work, it’s extremely rewarding. My advice to people pondering joining both junior ski patrol and ski patrol is to have an open mind and try it. You may or may not like it, but it is a job for those who are both mentally tough and have passion for what they do. Whether it is backing a wreck or roping off one of the most important access trails on the mountain due to a burst pipe, I love what I do on the mountain and I strongly recommend it to anyone who is willing to exert him or herself.