Volunteer ski patrol puts recruitment on hold

Canadian Ski Patrol members participating in toboggan handling training. Photo-Jean Strong
Canadian Ski Patrol members participating in toboggan handling training. Photo-Jean Strong

There will be fewer volunteer ski patrollers this year on Sun Peaks’ slopes.

Paul Blackett, patrol lead for Canadian Ski Patrol (CSP) at Sun Peaks, is not convinced that’s a bad thing.

“They’ve (Sun Peaks Resort Corporation) got a new director of risk management, Marc White, a new patrol director and a new patrol supervisor and, with new faces up there, they want to do things a little different,” Blackett said.

“This year, the focus will not be on getting new people up to speed. It will be concentrating on dialing in returning people.”

There will be about 35 volunteers this season, none of them new recruits. Last season, there were 45 volunteers.

“What they’ve requested, and it’s probably just a one-off, is no new recruits at Sun Peaks. Let’s just work with the 30 or 40 returnees we have,” Blackett said.

Sun Peaks News was told some wishing to volunteer had been turned away and others, more-junior volunteers, were being let go.

“Anybody that is let go, they’re let go for a reason,” Blackett said. “It’s not, ‘You’re let go because we have no room for you.’

“There were people coming in late wanting to join, people calling me on Sept. 30 who wanted to patrol. Well, it’s too late. That’s got to happen in August, when we get our ducks in line for the upcoming season.”

With no BC Ambulance service available, it’s often up to ski patrol, paid and unpaid, to respond to emergencies.

“The more numbers we have, the more we can offer,” Blackett said to SPIN last year. “These are people that have full-time jobs and other commitments, so getting people out for their shifts is always a tough push.”

Blackett expects new recruits will be accepted next season.

“This season, it’s all about rebooting to make sure everybody is on the same page,” he said. “We get some fairly serious accidents on the mountain and we want to ensure there is the highest level of response to accidents and incidents involving the skiing public.”

Strong intermediate skiers and snowboarders have been encouraged to volunteer in the past, with advanced first-aid and toboggan training courses offered.

Volunteers receive a season’s pass in exchange for about 14 work days, which usually run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“When you get new faces after so many years of things being stagnant, you’ve got to expect some things are going to change,” Blackett said. “Whether it’s change for good or change for the worse, you have to wait things out.

“I know some people have been reading into it more than what is probably there. I don’t see it as a bad thing.”

Last year Silver Star Resort near Vernon, B.C. replaced all CSP patrollers with several paid patrollers citing an operational decision to evolve the patrol.