Ski Patrol Qualification
How to become a Ski Patroller?
In Every Resort around the world, you’ll find a Ski Patrol, Pisteur or Mountain Rescue, team. There is no defining body that regulates the qualifications needed, but every team requires the same level of training and experience. Some will come through a medical background, for others, it’s just a calling that leads them to Ski Patrol.
The main elements of any mountain rescue team are first aid, safety assessment, danger prevention and being a strong skier or boarder. At the Winter Sports we focus on the Canadian qualifications that are available. They are everything you need to become a Patroller and have the advantage of being taught in English. This for the medical first aid section is a huge advantage for the majority of our clients.
Before we move on to what you need to become a patroller, here’s a quick history lesson! In 1941 Dr Douglas Firth was approached by the Canadian Amateur Ski Association. Their aim was to provide first aid training and rescue to a group that could patrol the local ski hills. This led to the formation of the national charity, Canadian Ski Patrol (CSP).
Fast forward almost 80 years and Ski Patrol has become a standard and expected sight in all resorts in Canada and across the world. The Canadian Ski Patrol is a strong and well-respected volunteer organisation. However, most resorts now have their own Ski Patrol departments and pay patrollers for their work all season.
What do you need to become a Ski Patroller?
At a minimum, ski patrollers need a comprehensive first aid qualification, plus safety training. However, most resorts will expect Patrollers to have a range of experience and qualifications, all of which are covered in our Ski Patroller Training Programme.
It’s probably the most important part of the job. Skiing and snowboarding create numerous accidents, every day at every resort. As a Ski patroller, you’ll be a first responder and often first on the scene. You’re going to need a comprehensive first aid course that in Canada is known as Out Door Emergency Care. There are different levels but if you want to work professionally you need to be looking for a course that covers around 110 hours of training as a minimum. Anything less and you may still find options to volunteer and support Ski Patrol but to work, you need full certification.
You have to be honest with yourself, are you a good enough skier or boarder? We’re not talking about being a professional racer but you have to be confident in every terrain and every condition. You’ll be working with a large backpack and often controlling a toboggan, at times with an injured client onboard. You won’t be expected to instantly jump into these situations but you need to be realistic about your starting skill level. Before joining any course try to spend some time at the resort to get to know the terrain and even consider a preliminary ski course to get your level up.
Much of your mountain safety training will either be learnt on the job with the ski patrol or through a designated Ski Patrol Course. The first step for accreditation is getting your Avalanche Safety Training Level 1. The AST 1 gives you the starting blocks for assessing snowpack safety and is essential when going off-piste, something you will be doing as a patroller. Avalanche control and safety is an important part of mountain Patrol and is something you can specialise in. Those wanting to follow this path need to look to doing both their AST 2 and finally the Avalanche Operations Level 1.
The Right Personality
We’re not talking about a popularity constant at the bar in the evening, but you do need to have a good think about your character. Can you stay calm under pressure, are you good at working in a team? Are you ok with making decisions in high-stress environments, where you may be the first on the scene? If you are the type of person who gets easily flustered and can be indecisive, Ski Patrol is probably not for you. You have to be prepared to deal with some very difficult and emotional situations, especially with injuries involving children. Have a deep think if that’s the type of environment you want to be put in.
And Everything Else!
There are so many more elements for Ski patrol to learn. Ropework, toboggan handling, lift evacuations, avalanche control and general resort and mountain safety, but these are all elements that you will learn either on your course or through your Ski Patrol team. Having good knowledge of ropes and knots is a bonus, and if you’ve ever been into climbing and abseiling it’s definitely an advantage.
Canadian Ski Patrol Qualifications
The Non-Urban Emergency Care Level 3 (NUEC 3) is for professional (paid and volunteer) non-urban responders such as ski and mountain bike patrollers, search & rescue technicians and mountain guides who are tasked with providing emergency medical care.
The NUEC 3 is an accredited certification, taking place over 10-12 days, the program curriculum contains baseline knowledge and skill development objectives, derived from primary paramedic training program curricula with emphasis on the non-urban environment.
Modules address the injuries and illnesses that non-urban responders are likely to encounter, conditions that are typically not addressed – or lack the necessary depth – in other first aid training programs. Specific training areas are included such as responding at altitude, cold/heat related illnesses, disabled skier related injuries/illnesses, paediatric emergencies, common medical emergencies, treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, specific snow-sport injuries, behavioral emergencies, remote area extrications, non-urban cardiac arrest management, and the use of the specialized equipment needed for emergency care and transportation in remote environments.
The NUEC 3 is an ‘Advanced First Aid Training Level’ standard. These include (but not limited to) BC Provincial Emergency Program, the BC Emergency Medical Assistants Licensing Branch (in-part), Alberta Occupational Health and Safety, the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, Canadian Athletic Therapists Association. Many BC mountain resorts and search & rescue teams have adopted the NUEC 3 as their preferred first aid qualification for their membership.
Advanced Protocol Training has been developed to address the specific needs of patient care in-situ. Six advanced emergency medical protocol modules make up the Advanced Protocol Training Programme. These modules meet specific emergency response training needs not currently met under conventional programs available to non-paramedical responders.
Cliff rescues and other scenarios in which patients are in precarious and dangerous situations requires patrollers to perform rope rescue. The Rope Rescue module provides the foundation knowledge and skills for performing evacuation and teaches safe, efficient rescue skills. This module covers the essential first steps in developing ‘rope rescue’ competency – a requirement by many employers.
Ski Patrollers are responsible for the evacuation of chairlifts in the event of an mechanical breakdown or emergency. Aerial mechanised evacuations and self evacuation provide the fundamental and practical skills for performing lift evacuations at height and teaches safe practice on a real chairlift (rather than a simulated environment).
Patient extrication and evacuation via toboggans, wheeled litters (stretcher/rescue basket) and snow machines is common in an open mountain environmen. It is essential for ski patrollers to be well practiced in operating devices in a safe and controlled manner. This module provides practical training in use of equipment and devices.
Avalanche skills training provides the participant with essential skills and knowledge regarding terrain awareness and the nature and formation of avalanches. The module covers avalanche terrain assessment, snow pack formation, snow stability and avalanche danger assessment. Safety, self-rescue and the use of avalanche transceivers are also covered. The module follows the strict compliance with the Canadian Avalanche Centre (CAC) and the certification is recognised by sports schools and ski patrols across Canada (and worldwide).
It is essential for all Ski Patrollers to have a clear understanding of risk management and the ‘big picture’ with respect safety in the mountain recreation industry. This module covers the role of the individual within risk management and clearly goes the through the roles and responsibilities of the patroller. Risk management includes the understanding and requirements with an emphasis on accident investigation and prevention.
Incident investigation is especially important and critical to an organisation’s risk management programme. Accidents and incidents can be complex and therefore this training is essential for patrollers to enable them to perform investigations in a timely and safe manner. Thorough incident investigation enables an organisation to provide a high level of care to patients, whilst also being a viable and legitimate part of defence in the event of litigation.
Effective Communications & Customer Relations are an important part of the ski patroller job, as a customer facing role in resort.
Whilst providing emergency medical care is of hight importance, the additional daily routines and tasks expected of a patroller are diverse. These include (but are not limited to) recognizing and correcting safety hazards, continuously performing risk assessments and developing and implementing programs to ensure overall safety. This module includes a workshop covering effective customer service, focussing on communication skills and conflict resolution.
During major incidents, helicopter evacuation is inevitable. Helicopter orientation familiarises patrollers with a rescue helicopter and provides insight into a heli-evacuation. The module emphasises the safety issues associated with helicopter use as well as the issues that affect patient evacuation in non-pressured aircraft.
Covering location and orientation around the mountain using GPS and compass.
This module involves ‘putting it all together’ and is an essential element of training, especially for those aiming to work for ski or bike patrol following the course. Shadowing days are provided with Ski Patrol throughout the programme, and the training period ends with shadowing a Patrollers and Avalanche Technician (mentor) over a 12 day period as a Mentee.
This element of training is extremely important for future job applications. Throughout the programme you will be trained by experienced patrollers and mentored in a real-life scenarios achieving hands-on experience.