Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Skiing - 01/23/07 Skiing - 01/23/07

Another beautiful, but less boring, day in paradise, skiing this afternoon at Keystone. Again, the first couple of hours were mostly spent doing nice high speed carving turns on mostly empty runs as I patrolled looking for anyone skiing faster than I, or, more importantly, injured or needing help. Not a lot of speed control needed on days like today.

We had a lot of Mountain Watch on the mountain today, though I really didn't see many of the others doing speed control either. Ran into a bunch of them on a wreck about half way donw Schoolmarm ridge. And somehow, checking my radio, I managed to lose my whistle. It took me months to find a plastic whistle with a ball inside. Before that, I had to use a metal whistle with a ball, or a plastic one w/o. The metal one was a lot better, but it has the tendency to stick to your lips on really cold days. So, a plastic one with ball inside is optimal. The problem is that outside ski patrol usage, there isn't a lot of call for them, and so they are hard to find. Usually, I have it clipped to my jacket, but was wearing a radio harness today, and clipped it there. Somehow I dislodged it as I worked my radio as I skied by the wreck.

The next run, I heard of another wreck in the smaller terrain park, and went there to help, closing the third jump on the jump line. Maybe not needed here - the two big jump lines in the bigger park do need to be closed for accidents, since they have very blind landings. Luckily, Mountain Watch dispatch is pretty close to the top of the A51 terrain park, and we are getting a lot more agressive about sending people to assist whenever we hear or or see accidents there (partially I think at my urging - last year I happened to see the patrol pick up a BLS pack at the top of the Peru lift and got a lot of kudos for calling in backup for shutting down a jump for a major back/neck/head injury - I repeatedly suggested after that that we get more agressive, and our dispathers have). This one wasn't too bad - it did require a long (back) board, but not O2, etc.

Then, about 2:20, I was riding up with Guest Services, and a call came on our radios that the River Run gondola was being shut down at 3:15 (it turns out for maintainence). I was stopping at PHQ (patrol headquarters) to warm up for gang groom anyway, and went through the Summit House looking for anyone in street clothes to tell them to download early, if they didn't want to ride the Summit Express chair down.

As with Monday, we were overmanned for gang grooming, so I was posted to the top (PHQ) for any help that was ultimately needed. But today, Patrol was stretched thin, and we volunteered to help them. I was asked to sweep Frenchman for gang groom. That fired off about 3:45, so was unable to have my hot tea and warm up. I did have time though to go back upstairs and tell the food and beverage people the why for the gondola shutdown (they were all in street clothes, and so were appreciative of my warning).

I then Helped the patrol at the top of Frenchman pull the rope and set the signs, and then headed down, tailing the last people on the run. I then pulled the rope at the French Connection (the cutover from Irishman about 1/4 of the way down). Then, I ran into a complication - a woman walking down with her snowboard. Her two male companions were riding slowly down with her. Obviously, we wouldn't get down in time at that speed. I sent the guys down, and skied slowly with her for awhile. Then, about half way down, I ran into additional traffic coming in on 3rd Road from Wild Irishman. The patrol shutting that off was late. But he showed up then, and I left the woman walking down the treeline with him, and followed the rest of the guests down, clearing the run about a minute before the grooming machines showed up to head back up Frenchman. I helped the closure at the bottom of Irishman/ Paymaster, and then headed up Montezuma to help on top.

I got there in time to meet the grooming machines as they reached the top of Frenchman, and helped them through the traffic at the top as most of them went over to the "dark side" for their night of grooming. Usually, I would then run drag (ski rear escort) for the four machines heading down Schoolmarm ridge for the terrain parks. But today, I decided to check Frenchman, and found the French Connection closure still up. Pulled that, skied to the bottom, back up, and down the ridge to our dispatch to turn in my radio and check out.

I make it a habit of skiing slowly down Schoolmarm my last run of the day looking for hurt or injured guests in need of assistance. This also keeps me a bit safer, as that is the most likely time to be injured.

About 3/4 of the way down Schoolmarm, as the trail opens up and a lot of trails run into together, for the last time, I saw a guy sitting on the snow with his board off. I skied up, and saw that his face was bloody. He didn't think that he was that hurt, but somehow I thought he was wrong. So, over his resistance, I called the patrol on my cell phone and told them where he was, etc. I then started asking him questions to determine his alertness, and when he didn't know the day of the week it was (he kept saying Saturday), I called PHQ again and told them he had reduced alertness and was a bit flaky.

A ski patrol showed up, and I told him my observations. I then left him with the patient, and went to direct traffic. Three more Mountain Watch showed up on their final sweep and joined in, one with traffic control, and two directly helping the patrol. He called for a long (back) board rig (toboggan), and another patrol showed up with that. As the four of them were putting on a neck brace, strapping him to the backboard, taping his head to it, etc., a third ski patrol showed up, on her final sweep to the bottom. Aparently, about this time, they activated truama at the medical center at the bottom, due to the patient's increasing flakiness. Also, apparently, his pupils weren't right either. Both evidence of some head trauma.

The patrol were soon off with the patient, on their way to the medical center. In cases like this, the patients aren't given a choice - they aren't released until seen by a ER physician. The four remaining Mountain Watch cleaned up the (now frozen) blood. Luckily, we no longer have to bag it in biohazard bags (though I do carry some), as any pathogens are supposed to die w/i ten minutes in this environment. Nevertheless, it still has to be cleaned up, so I gave two pair of gloves to another MW, and he filled the one pair with the big clumps (wearing the other pair). We then buried the rest. And then, we were done, almost an hour after I signed out. (I will adjust my time tomorrow).

It is times like that that make Mountain Watch worthwhile. I may have saved that guy's life today. He was likely to try riding down on his own, and my guess is that the blood was building up in his brain as he sat there (as evidenced by his increasing flakiness, etc.) He would ultimately have been noticed, if not by a guest, then by one of the Mountain Watch who were about ten minutes behind me (and joined me at the scene), or by the third patroller, who was also making her last sweep down the mountain. The difference between us and the guests is that we are actively looking for this sort of thing, and they aren't. Ski patrol calls this "eyes on swivel". It takes a month or so every year for me to click back in, but I was obviously clicked back in for this. And my second call to PHQ, after I had determined the lowered alertness may have gotten patrol there a bit faster. After I dumped my skis at the MOB, I ran into the patroller who had shown up with the long board rig, walking back from the medical center. He is a paramedic, and was the one to activate trauma. He thought that I had done just fine, and that it was only when they had determined that the patient's alertness was lessening as they finished loading him that they knew that they had a real medical emergency.

And, that is why I work there - for the times when I do make a difference.

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