Patrolling Mt Bachelor NONSTOP!
As deep winter snows of Central Oregon slowly recede to the upper reaches of Mt Bachelor, the lower mountain begins to teem with the goings on of what is rapidly becoming nearly a nonstop operation. Following the industry trend to expand ski area operations into a year-round mountain resort experience, Mt Bachelor has installed a downhill mountain bike park in addition to the sightseeing, food and beverage offerings, hiking and Frisbee golf options that have long been in place. Increased activity on the mountain requires additional Patrol coverage and a shift in the methods Patrollers use to assist the variety of user groups recreating on the hill. Patrollers have traded their skis and boots for full face bike helmets and body armor in order to respond to guests in need of assistance.
Finding ways to alter existing practices and policies proves to be an evolutionary process. The ease of winter mountain travel and transportation of the injured, becomes apparent when snows melt and guest extrications become more time consuming and laborious. Swapping out toboggans and snowmobiles for trucks and quads proves to be considerably more difficult and Patrollers are forced to alter their expectations of typical response times and ultimately the elapsed time to get patients to definitive medical care. Patrollers are also finding that the nature of summertime injuries differs from those that our winter skiers and riders sustain. There is a marked increase in “road rash”; abrasions and lacerations that require our patrol med packs being stocked with considerably more bandaging and wound irrigation materials.
Even though the snow is no longer falling, the summer Patrol is still required to keep a keen eye on daily weather activity. Frequently, the mountains will experience afternoon thunderstorms which require intensive storm tracking and often temporary suspensions or closures of lifts. When the lifts close due to lightening activity, all departments must work together to spread the word and potentially evacuate guests via vehicles on slow and bumpy service roads. From an operating elevation of 7800’, patrollers have an excellent vantage point to spot and report wildland fires resulting from these storms and subsequently have a beneficial working relationship with the Forest Service.
What we Patrollers have learned through this evolution is that we will need continue to adapt our practices and our expectations, as our plans of a year-round resort expand to include zip-lining and other tourist activities. One aspect of summer patrolling that remains a constant is construction and maintenance of on-hill equipment, updating training materials and taking care of all the chores that get neglected in the midst of a busy winter ski season, because before you know it we will locked into another deep, snowy winter of ski patrolin’!