In 2019, the International Ski & Snowboard Federation ‘FIS’ and the International Federation of Ski Patrollers ‘FIPS’ teamed up to enhance snow sports safety among youth worldwide. To achieve this goal, a kids’ snow safety course was developed known as the ‘Junior Ski Patrol,’ which merges key mountain safety fundamentals such as avalanche safety, CPR, and first aid with fun.
A total of sixteen national associations are members of the FIPS and have offered Junior Ski Patrol courses this year across the globe. Member associations are:
- Argentina – Asociación Argentina de Instructores de Esquí, Snowboard y Pisteros Socorristas
- Australia – Australian Ski Patrol Association
- Canada – Canadian Ski Patrol
- Chile – Patrullas de Ski de Chile
- Finland – Finnish Ski Area Association
- France – Association Nationale des Pisteurs Secouristes Professionnels
- Italy – Federazione Italiana Sicurezza Piste Sci
- Japan – Ski Association of Japan
- Norway – Alpinanleggenes Landsforening
- Romania – Asociatia Nationala a Salvatorilor Montani din Romania
- Serbia – Mountain Rescue Service Serbia
- South Korea – Korea Ski Patrol System
- Sweden – Swedish Lift Areas Organization
- Switzerland – Seilbahnen Schweiz
- United Kingdom – British Association of Ski Patrollers
- United States – National Ski Patrol
In the U.S., the ‘Junior Ski Patrol’ clinics take on a special focus, as several were held specifically for girls and non-binary kids and were led by a crew of female patrollers. Salt Lake City based association SheJumps offers ‘Wild Skills’ courses, camps, and workshops, which teach young girls survival and technical skills for outdoor adventuring.
As part of the Wild Skills series, SheJumps this year offered Junior Ski Patrol days in partnership with several resorts, such as Aspen Snowmass, Fernie, White Pass, Bogus Basin, Sun Valley, North Mountain Resort, Burke Mountain, Big Sky, and Mt. Hood Skibowl. The goal was to emphasize the opportunities for women in a predominately male-oriented industry. Beth Olsen, an ambassador and event coordinator for SheJumps, believes that young girls need role models to bring women to Ski Patrolling, which is why female Ski Patrollers led the clinic.
Patrollers came from several ski areas, including a contingent of Buttermilk Mountain’s female patrollers known as the ‘Buttermilk Biscuits’ who helped, for example, at the Snowmass program. One of the Biscuits, Liz Bergdahl, hopes that mentorship programs like Wild Skills Junior Ski Patrol days can help bring more diversity to Ski Patrolling. “It’s equal opportunity to men, women, LGBTQ, everyone,” Bergdahl said, “So that’s exactly what this is all about, and that’s the message we want to get out there, is, ‘it’s a job for everyone.’”
Throughout the day, the attendees were introduced to the various aspects of a Ski Patroller’s daily life, such as first aid, mountain safety, toboggan use, weather and avalanche basics, and avalanche rescue.
“I think having female role models in predominantly male spaces is really important because unless you see yourself in a position, it’s hard to realize that you can be in that position. So that’s why I’m super excited about days like today, because we get female patrollers from multiple mountains together and you really see the breadth of experience and passion that we have as female patrollers across all four mountains.”
– Jen Klink, Snowmass Ski Area Patroller
Meanwhile, in Sweden, Ski Patrol Sweden staged nine Junior Ski Patrol events, which also offered a special program to include children with intellectual disabilities. Swedish Junior Ski Patrol events were held in Åre, Himmelfjäll, Tänndalen, Björnrike/Vemdalen, Hundfjället, Kungsberget, Riksgränsen, and Hemavan.
Kids from the local town were invited to their nearest resort and given a full day of snow sports safety. The full-day event covers things such as the FIS 10 Rules for the Conduct of Skiers and Snowboarders, how to act in case of an accident, respecting and reading avalanche warnings, use of the transceivers, use of safety equipment such as the rescue toboggan, CPR and much more. Each event was led and controlled by Ski Patrol Sweden with the assistance of local ski patrol teams.
It is fantastic to see all these efforts in raising awareness around mountain safety around the globe and trying to increase female participation and diversity in Ski Patrolling.