International Ski Patrol Day 2023

ski patroller skies off on a flat slope with warm light on piste

February 10, 2023 marks International Ski Patrol Day, celebrating the ski patrollers who keep resorts open, safe and fun. So, to show our appreciation, we talk to a few patrollers from around the world to find out their stories and what it takes to be one. Aside from the job, what unites these guys is a relationship with Helly Hansen. The Norwegian brand creates uniforms for mountain professionals, from national ski teams to mountain guides and patrollers, at more than 200 resorts worldwide. Beyond kitting out these pros, HH works with them to test and develop technical, performance apparel that works; for skiers, by skiers who spend their lives on the hill.

Happy International Ski Patrol Day, folks.

fmeale ski patroller in red looks into distance on a norwegian, warmly lit slope/piste

Astrid Raaen, Norefjell, Norway

Why did you choose to become a patroller?

My brother worked as a patroller, so I had an insight into the work and for me it was the emergency care side of the job that appealed. 

Favourite part of the job?

It’s got to be the people I work with. From all the jobs I’ve had, the work environment at Norefjell is by far the best, and you get to help a whole host of people, from children to adults. And getting a Thank You email or text is really rewarding.

Hardest part of the job? 

Not being able to give the amount of care that you know the person needs. At Norefjell, ski patrollers can’t give out painkillers or carry out certain procedures, which can be hard to watch, waiting for paramedics to arrive.  

Most important piece of kit? 

Our outer gear, as we work in such diverse weather conditions and environments. Keeping warm and dry throughout the day is essential for us to do our job well. From a medical aspect, we use the vacuum splint a lot throughout the season

Most common rescue at Norefjell? 

Most of the rescues we make are either on the slopes or the snowpark. On busy days with fresh snow, it tends to be the newcomers we have to rescue. And on the less busy days it’s often the more experienced skiers going to fast.  

Kevin Giffin, Fernie, Canada 

Why did you choose to become a patroller? 

I started out as a lift operator and thought that the patrollers had the coolest job on the mountain. So here I am… 

Favourite part of the job? 

Skiing! If anyone tells you differently they are lying. There are so many great things about the job, but ultimately being up on the mountain for 10 hours a day and skiing for much of that is my favourite part.  

Hardest part of the job? 

I know that doing first aid is part of the job but I don’t like seeing people’s ski vacation ending prematurely because they’re injured.  

Most important piece of kit? 

Our transceiver, shovel and probe.  

Most common rescue you make at Fernie? 

We have five big bowls and each bowl is divided by a ridge. These ridges have some cliff bands in them, so we sometimes have to rescue people out of these areas.  

If you weren’t a patroller you’d be…  

SAD! This is my 19th season as a ski patroller at Fernie and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

patroller in red jacket stand sunderneath sign holding skis of which the bases read 'danger' in black on yellow

Jim Wood, Glenshee, Scotland 

Why did you choose to become a patroller? I’ve been skiing since I was seven or eight and live about eight miles from Glenshee. When the previous Ski Patrol Chief retired in 2021, I saw the opportunity to combine a sport I enjoy with a challenging job. No two days are the same and the demands and variety make it a role that every day has its interesting moments, and of course you get to ski! 

Favourite part of the job? The variety of the role, from setting out in the morning to check the conditions on the slopes – Has fresh snow fallen? What’s the avalanche risk? – to dealing with incidents. Working with the public to provide a service that hopefully improves the quality of their skiing day and gives them a positive outcome to their visit.  Best part of the day is always last run when you have the resort to yourself (almost) and you are able to enjoy the scenery and sunsets. 

Hardest part of the job? Like most resorts, we can suffer mild weather and working outdoors all day in the rain and strong winds just make it miserable… 

Most important piece of kit? Walk-mode ski boots – so much of the job is actually walking about in ski gear! Ski boots with a walk mode make life so much easier. 

Most common rescue you make at Glenshee? Simple loss-of-control accidents, which can result in a variety of minor injuries from sprains to lumps and bumps, and although at the lower end of the injury scale, they still hurt and impact on our customers. Everyone needs a little TLC at times and being able to offer that service to folk can give them a boost and turn a frown upside down.  

If you weren’t a patroller you’d be…  Retired!

big sky female ski patroller rachel efta stands on mountain during sunset in black uniform

Rachael Efta, Big Sky, USA 

Why did you choose to become a patroller? I’ve always strived to be as responsible as possible in the mountains, with a good dose of respect to all of the ‘what ifs’ that the natural world can throw at a person. As I got more into backcountry skiing, I became fascinated by the enormous avalanche problem surrounding me. I took an avalanche course and an EMT course to be a better ski partner to my peers. I had never considered being a patroller, but a friend suggested it. I applied, got the job, and within the first month of work I knew that I had landed my dream gig

Favourite part of the work The work requires constant problem solving; from nuanced decisions, like how to maintain a comfortable body temperature in harsh weather, to life saving decisions in how to move most efficiently down a mountain with a patient who is very hurt or sick. This job is a moving meditation that forces you to stay present and make good decisions. Patrollers’ health and safety are on the line frequently in the field, which requires our team to have one another’s backs in a way that is not common in lines of work outside of emergency services. The bonds that are built over the years with a crew of very different people is extraordinarily rewarding.   

Hardest part of the job? The time commitment. We work four 10-hour shifts with three days off every week; however, days are longer if there’s a storm cycle coming in. Life doesn’t feel very well rounded during the ski season – my brain feels pretty monodirectional, which is a blessing while clocked in, but can be a curse when I’m taking work home with me.  

Most important piece of kit? My entire kit is important. Everything that I carry is intentional. A beacon, shovel, probe, avalanche airbag, first aid kit, food, water, and layers that keep me warm are all tools that I use to keep myself, my coworkers, and guests safe. I am a minimalist; everything that I put on my body and in my backpack has to prove to be useful. Something that I have come to need over the years is heated socks – when the average temperature of the place you work is 8 degrees Fahrenheit (-13C), cold damage is very real.  

Most common rescue you make at Big Sky? It’s helping guests who’ve gotten in over their heads out there, encouraging them through tricky terrain and assisting them if they have made the wrong decision and have put themselves in danger.  

ski patroller carves deep on perfect groomed corduroy

Martin Lentz Kicking Horse, Canada

Why did you choose to become a patroller? It came after years of competitive freeride skiing. I was looking to develop more well-rounded skills in the mountains and still be on skis everyday. I came to Kicking Horse for a freeride comp and was blown away by the terrain and the work that the patrol does to keep it safe.  

Favourite part of the job? The skiing! 

Hardest part of the job? Seeing people on the worst day of their season, injured. It feels good to be able to help but it always sucks to see… But it makes it better when you open up terrain and get to see people on the best day of their season! 

Most important piece of kit? Boots are definitely the most important. I spend 10 hours a day in ski boots for over 100 days a year. They have to be comfortable, but they also need to perform and be durable.  

Most common work you do at Kicking Horse? The most common work we are doing at Kicking Horse is avalanche control. Our entire upper-mountain alpine terrain is avalanche terrain and it takes a ton of work to mitigate the avalanche hazard. Something special about Kicking Horse patrol is that our entire team does avalanche control, there isn’t a separate avalanche control team.  

If you weren’t a patroller you’d… Still be skiing! 

Weirdest rescue story: One time, I physically carried a grown man out of one of our bowls. It was near the end of the day and he was highly intoxicated – far too drunk to ski. Given the time of day and where he was, a toboggan was going to be challenging to get him out of there. So I put him over my shoulder, fireman style, with his skis still attached and skied him out of the bowl. 

In support of ski patrollers everywhere, Helly Hansen will donate 5% of revenue from its online and select retail store, sales during February 9 – 11, 2023 to various organisations that fund ski patrol support and safety groups internationally. Helly Hansen encourages you to join the celebration and share how you’re acknowledging ski patrollers on International Ski Patrol Day, using #skipatrolday on your social channels. Learn more here.

A word from Helly Hansen:

“We’re honoured to be the brand trusted by professionals, and we’re grateful for all that they do to keep people safe while enjoying the outdoors,” says Oliver Flaser, Category Managing Director for Professional Services at Helly Hansen.

“In addition to the countless hours spent prepping and training each season to maintain their professional knowledge and expertise, our ski patrol partners also provide valuable feedback to help us continuously improve and evolve our kit. We’re proud to support International Ski Patrol Day again this year and, after seeing the outpouring of appreciation from skiers and snowboarders all over the world last year, we’re excited to keep the celebration and gratitude going alongside our local resort partners and their communities.”