Editor’s note: Breckenridge ski patrol veteran Matt Krane has agreed to write some semi-regular posts with updates from the mountain and some thoughts on the daily the life of a ski patroller. I’m hoping he may even be willing to answer questions from readers, so feel free to post any questions in the comment area or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Matt Krane
The tremendous amount of snow which the Breckenridge Ski Area has received since late October has staff mountain-wide very busy with the largest Thanksgiving week opening possibly in history.
Just two weeks ago during Ski Patrol’s four-day fall orientation, we were climbing lift towers in shirtsleeves. Opening day was a powder day with hike-to skiing in the Front Bowl. We opened the T-bar less than a week later on a sunny day after 20 inches was measured on our upper snow stake. The base was truly amazing; those 20 inches skied like 30 inches; every other turn in the Bowl was a ‘cougher’, and there were hundreds of smiling faces, incredulous that so much incredible skiing had been opened so quickly. The accolades and thank-yous we received in line, in the huts, on the hill, myself — working on ropes on the T-bar line — were a great boost to morale.
So much work goes into a big, early opening like this, not the least of which is avalanche control work, which then begets rope work, sign deployment, and more rope work.
Our excitement over the terrific amount of early-season snowfall was severely tempered this with the news that Wolf Creek Ski Patrol Director Scott Kay was buried in an avalanche during control work and died after 1.5 hours of resuscitation efforts failed. He leaves behind a wife and two boys, aged 6 and 8. Kay was a U.S. Marine veteran of the first Gulf War. The entire Ski Patrol world has been touched deeply by this event, and the collective heart of the BSP goes out to the Kay family and the greater Wolf Creek family.
Meanwhile the work goes on. We’ve called back to work everyone, including the new people hired after last April’s Patrol hiring clinic. Normally, the rookie crew doesn’t expect to be called until after the first week of December. Our crews have been decided, the work of expanding our terrain multiplies, and the day-to-day challenges of maintaining our already opened terrain coupled with emergency medical care pulls our folks in and out of the loop all day long. Our work is not easy, we look out for one-another, we can get cold up high during long control routes, but when we have a day like last week’s T-bar opening, it’s more than worthwhile.
If you have any questions, feel free to step inside any of our huts. Remember to respect all of our closed sign and rope lines. They are there for your protection, and closure violations are not taken lightly. Happy Thanksgiving from the BSP.
MattKranePhoto-Architectural/Interior/Landscape Photography, Breckenridge.