Celebrating 25 years of helping injured skiers

A team of emergency physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists work alongside Ski Patrol in their clinic. Photo SPIN.

From bruises to cardiac arrest and everything in between, even the most careful skier isn’t immune to injury. Ski patrollers have always played an important role but at Sun Peaks a special relationship has elevated patient care.

Twenty five years ago after a serious accident on the mountain, then emergency nurse Marg Kosolofski came to an agreement with the resort to create and manage another team of volunteers add to patrol services.

The Emergency Medical Response Team (EMRT) was formed. Kosolofski, Maureen Kelly and Tony Plant worked together, travelling to other resorts with similar programs to learn what they did and didn’t want in their program.

One rule they set at the start and have stuck to is that all volunteers will be emergency room physicians, nurses or respiratory therapists. Kosolofski said it was important to have members with the most relevant experience possible. Some paramedics volunteer on the mountain as well to elevate patient care. 

Over the years, Kosolofski said, they were able to improve patient care, create standing orders, work closely with Royal Inland Hospital (RIH), offer pain relief, add advanced protocols and training for patrollers and, most importantly, turn bad visits into positive experiences.

“Comfort is important,” Kosolofski said. “We want them to be well taken care off from undressing and getting their ski boots off and keeping them warm…no patient needed to have discomfort anymore.”

The program has expanded from 11 members to 57. Dr. Keith Hutchison has been involved from the start, volunteering to be on call while he skis at Sun Peaks on his days off.

“It provides a good service to the community and visitors,” he said. “It’s developed into a very solid program with a bunch of very dedicated emergency physicians and nurses.”

Hutchison said he likes having the opportunity to make a difference and reduce pain. He’s been on countless calls, from sedating patients to reducing dislocated shoulders or hips.

Reflecting on her time in the program, Kosolofski fondly remembered relieving pain and saving lives. She added she was also proud of guidelines and manuals she assisted the resort in creating.

Current program co-ordinator Jillian McKinnon said it also helps emergency room workers destress in the mountains.

“A lot of us ski together and respond to calls together. It’s an excellent way for us to bond, have fun and collaborate in a different setting.”

On top of helping the volunteers McKinnon added it’s invaluable to the resort.

“Most guests at resorts are seen at patrol then transferred to hospital,” she said. “At Sun Peaks we are able to assess, treat, and act as a liaison between patrol and RIH. If our doctors are not on the hill we will still receive orders, we just call our doctors at the hospital and they’re happy to help. We can give reports to our RN’s so everyone is on the same page. It’s a pretty invaluable and unique program.”

An event will be held in March to celebrate the program’s anniversary.