Friday, March 30, 2007

Ski Season (#10) winding down Ski Season (#10) winding down

Looking west this morning from the top of Keystone Ski Area. The camera would have to be aimed a couple of degrees to the right to see where I am right now in Dillon along that lake in the background.

Yesterday was a blizzard, and today was supposed to be one too. Probably the last one of the regular season this year. But the prediction of 90% cloudy and 80% chance of snow doesn't look all that realistic today.

I am getting a bit sentimental right now. We have three more days (including today) of the Mountain Watch program at Keystone, and the last almost five months have flown by. Each season seems to get just a little bit better. And seems a little bit shorter.

Most of the volunteers will be back next year, and we seem to be picking up some each year, so the program is actually growing. We took a big hit four years ago when moved from Guest Services to Ski Patrol, and it has taken that long to build back the momentum we had. But the organizational switch turns out to have been really good for the program - we integrate better and better with Ski Patrol every year, without losing some of our guest services functions.

The problem is with the paid staff. We got a bunch back this year from the previous year, plus we had the same supervisor and lead. But we don't expect that this coming year. Our supervisor has married and is moving away. The lead and a bunch of others are trying to move up to the Ski Patrol, and if they pass their skiing test tomorrow, should be at the top of the list next year.

The program has matured a lot over the last four years. As I noted above, it has become an integral part of Keystone Ski Patrol (KSP). We do what they don't want to do (like traffic control and closing runs) happily. And as importantly, our daily staffing needs often nicely complement theirs. In particular, we have a lot of availability after about 3 p.m. when KSP is sweeping the back mountains, and thus have taken an ever increasing role (now lead) in "Gang Groom", where Keystone grooms part of the front of the mountain between 3 and 4 most days for night skiing.

One of the things that has really been impressive this year is how much Mountain Watch has become proactive. If an injury is called in on the western side of the front of the mountain, we are often first on the scene. This is esp. true in the A51 terrain park, where it is often necessary to temporarily close park features until an injury can be transported. I am not the only MW who monitors the Patrol channel for just this reason, to get an idea of what is going on as to injuries. Of course, we also probably pick up at least half the injuries on the Green runs on the front before they can get called in, as we constantly cycle through those runs looking for trouble.

My worry is that it is going to be hard to duplicate our successes this season next year, given the likely paid staff departures. We do have some very talented younger guys expecting to try for the lead position, and that should help a lot.

So, I will ski hard and work hard the next three days, and then probably only ski once or twice after that this season. Hopefully a nice finish to a great season.

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