National Safety Month: Mountain Tips and Ski Patrol FAQ

January is Safety Month and an extra-special thank you goes out to all the hardworking Ski & Safety Patrollers. Your dedication to early mornings, long nights, cold days never goes unnoticed. So join us this month, and every day in saying “Thank You!” to all the hard-working patrollers out on the slopes.

Each week throughout January we focused on different safety tips for the trails, lifts helmets, and more. We ask everyone on the mountain to review these safety topics each week of Safety Month, as a reminder that the mountains are our home, and it is everyone’s responsibility to Know The Code.

Have you ever wondered how to become a Ski Patroller? You’ll find our interview with Stratton’s Ski Patrol Director, Chris Schilling covering how to become a Stratton Ski Patroller, his favorite trail, the best tips for beginners and other questions submitted through our National Safety Month Instagram Stories.

National Safety Month at Stratton

On Mountain Awareness

  • Stay in Control. Space Not Speed. The more people that are on a trail, the slower you should go.
  • People Ahead Have the Right of Way
  • Stop in a Safe Place Where Others Can See You
  • Look Uphill & Yield When Merging
  • Observe & Obey All Signs and Warnings
Stratton Ski Patrol

First Timer and Beginner Safety

  • Wear a helmet- Your head will thank you!
  • Stretch and warm up properly before pushing your personal limits or skill level.
  • Wear an extra layer and keep your face covered up
  • You may get tired today, so take breaks and stay hydrated.
  • Take it easy late in the day when you begin to tire; this is when most accidents happen.
  • Be aware of changing weather and snow conditions
  • Plan your run before you go!
  • Know the code, because it is YOUR responsibility
Chair Lift Safety

Lift Safety

  • Always lower the safety bar when riding the lift. It’s Vermont state law
  • Sit all the way back in the chair
  • Remove your backpack when riding the lifts. Place it on your lap or next to you when the room is available
  • Know how to use lifts safely. When in doubt, ask for help from the lift attendant.
  • When loading/unloading a chairlift with small children, ask the lift attendant for assistance
  • Be sure to slow down when approaching and entering lift mazes
National Safety Month

Helmet Safety

  • Always make sure your helmet fits properly. When in doubt, ask a patroller or stop in one of the fine Village shops to ask a professional
  • Helmets have a lifespan. Helmets need to be replaced every few seasons to ensure maximum protection
  • Always buckle your helmet when riding
Stratton Ski Patrol

Patrol Signals & Safety

  • Never leave the scene of an accident. Send someone to call ski patrol and wait for their arrival.
  • Slow down over knolls or blind spots to ensure you can avoid any unseen objects or people
  • When in need of Ski Patrol, cross skis in the snow above you.
  • Always follow directions from Ski & Safety Patrol when they are signaling upcoming slow zones and accidents.

National Safety Month Interview with Stratton’s Ski Patrol Director Chris Schilling

How do I become a Stratton Mountain Ski Patroller?

To become a Ski Patroller, you will first attend a ski tryout the season before you are ready to patrol to evaluate your skiing or snowboarding ability. From there, a series of certifications are needed over the summer. This rolls into the Ski Patrol refresher in the fall, before you become a candidate through your first season. Once you learn and the three tiers of being a patroller, Medical, Skiing and Mountain Ops, you will earn your cross and become a Patroller. Read the bullets below for a complete timeline of the path to becoming a Patroller.

  • Annual Ski Tryout late March to evaluate your ski or snowboard ability.
  • At the annual Ski Tryout, you will spend an afternoon taking runs and different ski drills with the Senior Ski Patrollers and toboggan operators.
  • You will be evaluated on your skills at the tryout. If you ski at a high enough level or show promise of hitting a certain ski ability, you will be considered for the next step of patrolling.
  • Once accepted, you will have to complete your Outdoor Emergency Care course. This is a lengthy course that runs the duration of the summer, May through September. It is mostly online, but take commitment throughout the entire summer as some in person classes are held.
  • Come Fall, there is a two day Ski Patroll refresher. Here you will meet your coworkers, senior members of the team, and other candidates enrolled in the same process as yourself.
  • During your inaugural season, you are known as a “candidate.” Candidates do not wear the ski patrol cross as they learn the ropes, drop the ropes, learn how to maneuver to toboggan, naviagte the mountain, respond to emergencies and more. 
  • Throughout a full season, you will learn the three major tiers of patrol work Medical, Skiing, Mountain Ops. CPR, splints, testing fresh powder runs (for safety reasons only of course), signage, setting bamboo, and of course, testing fresh powder runs.
  • Once your process is complete, you are officially a Stratton Ski Patroller.
Stratton Ski Patroller Josh Rosenblum snapped a photo from his sweep, a favorite part of many Patroller’s day. Photo taken Sunday, January 30, 2022.

What’s The Favorite Part of Your Day?

The favorite part of my day has to be the sweep at the end of the day. “Sweep” is when the patrollers go down the trails one by one to make sure all the skiers and snowboarders are off the trails. We systematically close each trail for the day, and thus the mountain. A sweep includes picking up signs, netting, putting ropes up, but most important, it’s a time for reflection. “Everyone else is off the trails and the Patrollers get in the last view of the mountain for the day. You get a moment to reflect on your day. What were the wins, what did we do well, what could we have done differently? All of this is happening while cruising under the setting sun for the day. Peace of mind at its finest.”

How Long Does It Take To Sweep The Whole Resort For Closing?

Anywhere from 30-45 minutes to complete our sweep at the end of the day. There are a few factors to this like number of open trails and acres, signage to collect and staff size are a few factors that add variations to this number, but with our systems and crew, we usually complete this in a pretty timely manner, while enjoying every turn under a setting sun.

Are There Specific Patrollers That Cover The Glades?

With a Patrol staff like ours, everyone is fully equipped and talented enough to ski and ride the glades. Our patrol staff can clock in and out any day and the skills never change, it’s a true testament to our staff’s skiing ability, teamwork and work ethic. With that being said, when the glades are open, you bet there are some of us who are putting our names in the hat twice that day to ski the gladded terrain. Me being one of them!

Best Tips For Beginner Skiers On The Mountain?

If I had to sum it up in one simply; don’t go to the summit right away. Start slow, take your time, take a lesson, and be patient. A lot of new skiers and snowboarders go right up to the top when they see a Green Circle from the gondola. Conditions can vary up there, it can be windier, colder, a different snowpack, not to mention it’s a long way down for a beginner. I suggest spending at least 2 full days on the lower mountain. Start in the Learning Zone, ride all the terrain, spend a full day on Tamarack and American Express. Complete a top to bottom run from mid-mountain without falling or stopping, then head up and test your skills down Mike’s Way when you’re ready. You have a lifetime to enjoy the mountain, don’t rush up there and bite off more than you can chew or make yourself nervous.

Favorite Trail?

It has to be Squirrel’s Nest. I may be a little biassed on this one because I cut that glade, but man, when the snow is good, that’s where I am dropping in.

How Can We Support Ski Patrol? Do You Guys Sell Merchandise?

If you are interested in supporting Stratton’s Ski Patrol, stop by the First Aid room in the Carlos Otis Clinic. Here, not only will you find hats, hoodies, and t-shirts, but you can also make a direct donation to the Stratton Ski Patrol Fund. This fund supports and empowers the local community through scholarships, the JISP program, EMT Courses, obtaining certifications for young patrollers that cannot afford the onboarding, the Stratton Foundation, and more. The Stratton Ski Patrol Fund goes directly to the local community to create opportunities for others. Stop by the First Aid room to learn more!

Check out our other blog posts including The Snowmaking Questions You’ve Always Wanted To Know

Published January 30, 2022 by Andrew Kimiecik