Should We Pay Ski Patrollers More?

Miles Clark |
Telluride Ski Patrol.
Telluride Ski Patrol.

Ski patrollers are the most important people at any ski resort.  The services they provide are beyond value.  Patrollers perform avalanche safety, save lives and limbs, reset boundaries ropes and signage after every storm, decide what can be skied each day, answer an onslaught of questions, work long hours, handle high explosives, rope people off broken chairlifts, fire canons, train dogs to save you, and ski like demons.  Patrollers spend everyday on the mountain making sure you’re as safe as possible.

Squaw Patroller throwing avalanche bomb. Squaw throws more avalanche bombs than any other ski resort on Earth.
Squaw Patroller throwing avalanche bomb. Squaw throws more avalanche bombs than any other ski resort on Earth.

What’s fascinating is that we don’t pay nor treat ski patrollers very well here in the US of A.

Most ski patrollers in the USA make about $10 per hour their first year and hopefully make about $20 per hour once they’ve been around a long time.  They generally receive no benefits, no holiday pay, and have to work over 48 hours per week to acquire overtime pay.

Utah ski patrollers using a Howitzer to clear avalanches.
Utah ski patrollers using a Howitzer to clear avalanches.

Most ski patrollers are only employed about 4 months per year.  It’s a big job with huge responsibilities that requires a big sacrifice.

Considering all that patrollers do for us and for ski resorts, do we think we should pay them and treat them better?  What can ski patrollers do to improve their situation?


Last March, Telluride ski resort’s ski patrollers voted to unionize.  They voted 47-1 in favor of unionization.  Telluride joins Crested Butte, Steamboat, and The Canyons as unionized ski patrollers.

Is this the first step towards improving pay, benefits, and treatment of ski patrollers is the USA?  We certainly hope so.  We’d love to see ski patrollers compensated and treated fairly for the work they do.  They’re the most valuable people on the mountain.

Telluride ski patrol.
Telluride ski patrol.

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113 thoughts on “Should We Pay Ski Patrollers More?

  1. Unless you are a member of the National Ski Patrol , as i am, or a private patrol, all you might notice is a patrol jacket as it whizzes by you. . Most skiers and boarders are oblivious to patrollers and rightly so. I many areas the only time you might notice a patroller is at the scene of an accident. This is as it should be.
    Many of us are volunteers (38,000 NSP in the US) with full time jobs elsewhere or are retired. So we don’t have to depend upon an income from patrolling. Those who are full time patrollers are worth more than their weight in gold.
    Each day we are on shift, we are on the slopes well before dawn and depending on the area, may not leave until closing.
    Why do we do what we do, and keep coming back?
    Four themes reoccur:
    1. Love of the sport
    2. The spirit of helping others
    3. Teamwork and camaraderie
    4. Lifelong friendships
    As a member of our volunteer patrol we do have certain benefits. But if you join only for those benefits you will be very disappointed.
    Our Eastern Pa patrol is like an extended family. We love what we do and who we do it with. It isn’t so much an obligation, more so, its time being spent with people you want to be with rather than have to be with. It’s fun, hard work, and invigorating.
    That is why a common thread is a 20-50 year volunteer patroller “career”..
    Many things in my life have changed over the past 50 years. My NSP membership has not.
    Our “pay” is quite high and mostly intangible.
    It’s is those intangibles that keep us coming back year after year after year.

  2. Steven’s Pass patrol just voted to unionize in April 2019, currently negotiating a new contract. It is an important step to pushing for better wages etc. Its not an easy process, but it might be the only way for patrolling as a life style to survive. And for your local mountain, this means more experienced individuals to inhance safety and help all mountain operations run smoothly.

    Mostly want is important is keeping patrollers around for long enough to have a highly trained patrol, which requires them to be able to afford to live in expensive mountain towns. A highly trained, experienced patrol helps the entire mountain run more smoothly, and yes this is true for all departments on the mountain, not just patrol. The real issue is corporate greed. No one is patrolling to get rich, the seasonality and unpredictability will always require passion and dedication for the job itself. But the hazardous work, extensive training, and skills required should not fall into the minimum wage job category.

  3. I spent 15 years as a pro patroller, including two seasons in NZ. Its simply the best job this kid from Colorado could ever hope to have. And I knew going in, that it would mean been half-broke most of the time, and on the other end, retirement was going to be a long way off. There was an old patroller at one of the resorts around the time I started, and he told me early on – you can play early, and pay later, or you can pay early, and play later. He was a retiree from IBM who retired at 52, and spent the next 25+ years as a pro patroller. He was absolutely right – we chose opposite paths, and now, 20 years after leaving patrolling, I have a very comfortable life, some awesome photos of great friends doing nutty stuff, and absolutely no prayer of retiring for another 15 years, when I reach 70. But I’ve got some great friends, and loads of wonderful memories. I had no illusions about life as a patroller – so in answer to the question, its supply and demand. The paycheck is only a fraction of the way you’re compensated in that job. Choose it, or move on.

  4. I am a long-time volunteer… not paid. I ski patrol because I love the camaraderie and the mission, and the joy of early morning first runs…… But I made a living doing something else (high school counselor). I wanted to be a paid patroller, but I also wanted a wife, a child, a house, a pension….. In other words, I wanted a life. I respect paid patrollers, but I do not envy them. The resorts take advantage of them because they can… But even the waiting line of volunteer patrollers is growing very thin. The NSP demands more and more training, the resort strips away more and more of our “benefits”….. soon paid patrollers will be the only ones left! So far the resorts have survived paying what they do– at least in my area — is because of very young people who don’t care what they make, and some older and retired people don’t care what they make. What the future holds? Who can tell?

  5. As a ski patroler I think of it as being the police and ambulance crews of the mountain. Lately I hear more and more mountains in Pa not offering ski patrolers discounted or free lift tickets when going to other nearby ski areas. Some have strict policies that they won’t offer patrolers discounted/free lift ticket if its during weekend or holiday. Police, emergency personals of other areas, even veterans get discounts/free admission at food places, local events, and more. Why not give ski patrolers the same appreciation and priledges at other ski resorts? Whether its in Pa and other states.

  6. This is epidemic in the outdoor industry, guides, ski instructors, etc. are all taken advantage of. The outdoor industry relies on low skill, rapid turnover and cheap labor. We need to professionalize the field work and pay sustainable wages.

  7. I’d reframe the question as “Should Ski Patrollers Demand More Pay and Better Benefits”.

    If only there were a way for workers to unite together and organize together and together collectively bargain for more pay and better benefits …

    “Union workers continue to receive higher wages than nonunion workers and have greater access to most employer-sponsored employee benefi ts; during the 2001–2011 period, the diff erences between union and nonunion benefi t cost levels appear to have widened.”
    Source: “Diff erences between union and nonunion compensation, 2001–2011”,

    “Stevens Pass ski patrollers vote to unionize”, By Jefferson Robbins Apr 23, 2019

    “Park City Mountain Resort ski patrol union, Vail Resorts reach labor contract”
    News | February 6, 2019, Carolyn Webber Alder,

    “The association, which is made up of ski patrol and mountain safety personnel at Park City Mountain Resort, announced the two-year labor contract on Tuesday. The agreement includes a base wage increase and a compensation package for employees with specialty skills. …

    In a vote, 97 percent of the approximately 200 association members voted in favor of the agreement.”

  8. When you purchase a ticket, ski resorts should also let you provide a tip to the employees. The tip would be divided up between everyone that works at the ski hill (ski patrol, mechanics, groomers, etc.).

  9. Interesting article and commentary. Fact is- recreation/entertainment industry jobs simply don’t pay well because plenty of folks will do it for the perks. You’ll find the same at airlines, cruise ships, hotels, theme parks, etc.

    Our mountain has a few pros for days and ALL NIGHTS and WEEKENDS handled by us VOLUNTEERS. It’s probably the hardest working, coolest team of folks I’ve ever met, and come from ALL walks of life. Many doctors, EMTs, heads of businesses, teachers, welders, electricians, IT, housewives, students, you name it. Most of us train LONG and HARD, work in whatever conditions are out there, help guests, save lives, and regrettably can’t help save one occasionally.

    The toll on equipment, body, and sometimes mental strain, is rough. HUGE props to those who do it daily, and sad for anyone who may have had the misconception they could get rich doing it. As told my candidate year “It’s the most expensive “free” skiing you’ll ever find.”

    Point is- our crew does it for the love of snow, our mountain, serving our guests, and the camaraderie of other patrollers. That, and the occasional powder day, is our pay, and nearly 200 of us show up year after year, many for decades on end, to do it.

  10. Sounds like you like your job…so stop complaining. If you want to make more money work for ski school where bringing in money is more valuable to the resort than spending money throwing bombs. Your arguments, some sound, some sour grapes…. are ok. The industry is the way it is….once again supply and demand. You supply because of your desire to ski patrol and they take advantage of the number of ski patrollers available to keep the prevailing wage where it is…this is 3 rd grade economics.

  11. Funny reading all these comments some trolls I even posted just to get a rise.
    Remember its still a choice.
    Yes everybody on mtn deserves raise esp when u know what mgmt compensation is, reality is cost, expense non revenue producer.
    Start charging per rescue like I mentioned last year just like emt paramedic ambulance service, then becomes value added revenue center.
    Q. How do you know if a patroller is at the party?
    A. He’ll tell you.
    Q. What does a ski patroller and firefighter have in common?
    A. They both want to be firefighters.
    JK of course. Those guys and ladies are the ‘bomb’ for mtn ops.
    Thanks for keeping us safe and saving lives as you do.

  12. I am a 5th year pro patroller, and I whole-heartedly agree that Patrols need to make more money. I have worked in Tahoe and thrown hundreds of bombs on a fat year, as well as in New England where you are just punished with ice and rain. I’ve made 12.75 & 10.00 respectively per hour.

    I have never worked at a resort that uses any volunteers, and personally, I see more benefit in having FT paid patrollers. We know the conditions day to day, we know the mountain much better than a volly. Sure a volly might be a doctor, but a volly doctor may not be the one you look at when a patient is stuck in a very steep or dangerous area- nor would they be as likely to want to ski some extreme terrain if it’s just a part-time gig for them for fear of getting hurt and impacting their main career.

    I see more and more people like “risk managers” and HR directors, that barely ski, directly interfering in patrol in a way that puts the public in danger. 0 degrees and gusts to 80 on the ridge causing insane wind loading and completely unpredictable cornice formation even 2 hours after ski cutting? Roads are closed, too? Sure we will stay open regardless of the opinion to close for dangerous conditions coming from seasoned 20 year patrol veterans because corporate says so…

    I see budgets being cut for sleds that are falling apart. I see corporate heads telling patrollers to “never take a black diamond unless you have to”, to stick to marked terrain regardless of certain public skiers poaching areas, this leads to terrain unfamiliarity and lowers skiing ability pre-requisites. Seeing patrol as a cost, and not an asset is a mistake. A skilled patrol will save a resort multi-million dollar law suits from deaths that would 100% happen otherwise.

    I think compensation should be higher, and benefits better. I’m not demanding health insurance for a seasonal job, but c’mon. I have put so many core shots in skis because I had to just walk over exposed rock with a patient in the sled, and the resorts don’t even give you free repair work. Not to mention the few hundred bucks every 2 years to recert your EMT.

    All of it is fulfilling when you truly get to save a life, but resort administrations need to smarten up about commensurate pay. No OT for 48 or 56 hours is ridiculous.

  13. Lift ticket prices keep going up yet resort workers pay is not even close in percentage raise.
    Why does patrol also need to rely on volunteers to get the job done?
    I have always thought they need to be paid more.
    Also the whole BS of you get to ski all day…..
    10 bucks an hour to live in a ski area doesn’t afford much of that “lifestyle!”

  14. In the early sixties at Vail, we actually made pretty good money and OMG did we have good times. Life-long friends were made. A couple of years ago, number of us got together at Vail for the patrol’s 50th anniversary! Most of us have slowed down or died, but we still know how to party…….

  15. Are ski resorts required to have ski patrollers? Whats the difference between a large pizza and a ski patroller

  16. I’ve patrolled for over seven years (not a lifetime, but a while) and I don’t understand the issue of pay. This has to be something that you love, as there is no way to ever make this work as a monetarily supportive career. This is a seasonal job!
    At my hill we have sixty five volunteer patrollers and only four paids. I am a volunteer apl, I put in countless hours of training (even in the off season), three eight to ten hour exams every year, I pay ten to fifteen thousand dollars a year for food, lodging, gas, etc,. I love it! I don’t regret doing it for a second! And I will continue for as long as possible, pay, or no pay!

  17. The most “Important”? I beg to differ. There are many other people doing many other jobs at a resort that are equally important. Such an attitude makes many patrolers narcissistic and difficult to deal with.

  18. Im ski patrol dow in south america(Chile), and the ski resort pay to us less the $10 usd hours and we work more the 10 hours a day for 12 days followed.

    but i belive every single patroller , really like this job because we wish to wear our ski boot in the morning and go for another lovele day of sking¡¡¡¡

    and of course we would like to get more money for the same job¡¡¡ we save life every day¡¡ even if the coustumer they can´t see us.

  19. So many comments…… When I retire I will be looking for a large mountain with snow mitigation and a job as patrolman..
    credentials as follows
    NSP Certified number 159
    NAF COURSE 2014

  20. Red mnt resort is unionized and it hasn’t helped our wage but has helped in many other ways.

  21. Ha! Patrollers reset boundaries and ropes after every storm! Suuuuure. I guess you don’t ski in New Mexico.

  22. 10 years a pro. A manager years ago described ski patrol as the invisible front line, when the guest meets the patrol they’re already having a bad day. I did it because I liked being first on, last off the mountain good days and bad. I never missed a chance to make a turn while getting my work done and grew to love the challenges.It’s not all powder, it’s skiing all conditions. Most of the work is unglamorous, humping bamboo and rope, frost routes at -40 and about a 1000 wrecks a year. The people I worked with went on to be paramedics, nurses, teachers, pilots, firefighters and generally excellent people. I started as a ski bum and grew into a decent patroller but you gotta love inclement weather.

    The patrol at the resort I used to work at now has a non-skiing leader, a non-skiing manager, and patrollers that openly brag that they’ve never skied a single day off. The skis piled at the door of the top patrol hut are saddening.

    Ride Hard Take Chances

  23. I definitely believe certain ski areas NEED to pay their ski patrollers more than they currently do, as well as hire more. When rope lines and signs are buried and unmaintained for weeks at a time because the entire crew is working avalanche mitigation and injuries, and much of the crew is disgruntled because they are paid $9-11 an hour, changes need to be made!

    1. At least one of the four ski areas I was thinking of got theirs this week! And no union needed!

  24. Snowmakers are the most important people on the mountain. We hike thousands of vertical feet a night to make snow while the mountain is bare to build the base. We walk over slipperiest ice, fall, slide down the hill and get up to do it again. We walk or sled over avalanche conditions weeks before ski patrollers even look at the mountain. We dig hydrants out-the same ones every night. They are usually a few feet deep and there are hundreds of them. If you wanna thank anyone, thank a snowmaker. They go through hell and back for $10.00 an hour so that you can enjoy your resort.

    1. I agree Snowmakers are an important key to the hill and work in dangerous conditions. I have lost friends both as snowmakers and as patrollers. I’m not arguing that snowmakers don’t do dangerous work, but if your hill has snowmakers running around in avalanche terrain with an unstable snowpack before the hazard has been mitigated you may want to take a step back and talk to your management…that is poor practice. As a snowmaker you’ve got look out for your buddies back but as a patroller you’ve got look out for your buddy as well as everyone else on the hill. They are both dangerous and physically demanding but I don’t think snowmaking holds a candle to patrolling as far as what who should be compensated. The skill set of a good patroller in leaps and bounds above a snowmaker.

    2. Boost your ego much? If you work at a mountain with legit avalanche terrain then it likely usually snows enough that your job is secondary and not necessary. Unless you’re in Tahoe, in which case I feel for ya after the past four years. And yeah you guys are tough, but dangerous doesn’t mean most important. Man made snow is worthless without lifties, lifts won’t run if they’re buried in avalanches, and when it doesn’t snow no one will ski without snowmakers. I don’t think any is more important than any other, each has their own place in the resort operations.

  25. So, lets make the case for a wage commensurate to the job,,
    medical care credentials and staying current
    able to ski in all condition with a toboggan , hay bales, EMS bags, chains saw, large stacks of bamboo not to mention hard dense ice, deep……deep deep powder. Aurgh! in the rain, snow, sleet and sunshine/hig exposure for skin cancer and exposure to avalanches to other natural disasters
    people skills under adversity and sometimes people under the influence
    good judgement/creativity for rescue
    calculated risk taker for others benefit
    physically fit and able to perform athletic endeavor all day long
    willing to put ones self in harms way for others
    lift evacuation, snow science and its application to safe skiing
    Now go to some sort of state job service and find some for 4 hours on a Saturday…good luck.
    What is the strategy for raising your value…..Lets put our thinking caps on for this because this is important and without a strategy nothing will happen. nr

  26. Have u ever skied those lines? Seriously cause i’ d be even more in awe of u than i am already

  27. I’m on Treble Cone Ski Patrol, Wanaka, Nu Zeeland. we joined a union about 10 seasons ago and its been great as far as better pay, job security and other benifits. Cheers fellow patrollers!

  28. Holds a gun to patrollers head for signing up for low pay. Hero factor seems to compensate well 4 some

    If its a ‘passion’ job, (stupid mgmt term) then shouldnt they b hosting passion parties?

  29. Yes its right,guys deserve a better care of,I remember the patrol in Jackson Hole in most snow storm days patrollers got get up at list T four o clock do an Avalanche control for instance
    Personally thank you at Keystone resort for assistance during my accident ,well done which get me on foot quicker to thank you
    I m supporting you in this way,faith for improvements

  30. Imagine you are laying in the snow with a broken femur. You’re going into shock and the most direct route to the helicopter is down an icy mogul run. The patroller that literally has your life in their hands is an experienced, highly trained medical professional. He probably paid for many of his supplies out of his pocket. She has to spend DAYS in refresher and pay dues and course fees to stay certified. Then this person is going to take you in a 250lb sled down a run that many people won’t ski. They WILL get you safely to the helicopter, even if it means bad knees, a sore back, and they ruin their skis because the toboggan ruins over them. They hey no extra comp for this. And the stocker at Costco had better pay and benefits.

    Ski patrol let’s will never be compensated enough for what they do, and most of their hard work is invisible. So next time a patroller helps you, consider making a generous donation to their patrol. Most are non profit. The money will benefit an awesome program or buy extra supplies and the patroller will know they are appreciated.

    1. Let’s not exaggerate now. The sleds are not 250lbs. And if you are running over your skis with the toboggan then you are doing it wrong.

  31. All patrols should be encouraged to unionize. It’s a scary and intimidating process to start up. But you shouldn’t be afraid to let your voice be heard. Goals can be accomplished through the union. For any patrols interested in starting a union; reaching out is the first step. Get in touch with unionized patrols. Contact canyons, steamboat, crested bute, or telluride patrols and ask to speak to a union rep. They can give you all the advice you need to get the ball rolling, but it starts with you.

  32. Lots of misconceptions about the job from people that are outside of it. I guess that stops when they brake themselves and we are the one coming to help them out. Ski patrollers are specialists in mountain public safety and prevention, they practice pre-hospital medicine in inhospitable environment, ski like demons because they need to stay strong and in-tune with the terrain and the conditions, they handle high-explosives daily to trigger snow avalanche putting their bodies on the line…not for the fun of it , but because that’s the job (ie what needs to be done when you are a professional ski patroller). My point being: if these are normal job expectation from society on ski patroller, patrollers are justified in asking for better wage/benefits.

  33. Old ski patroller. I work at a resort that sees on average 1.6 million skier visit and uses on average 150,000 lbs of explosives a season. I can “move” 4 miles north and work at Wendy’s and at entry level make 13-14 $ an hour. Vs. Entry level patrol here @ 10.30. I dk how old you are but this industry is vastly different than it used to be and being monopolized as we speak.

  34. i’m pretty sure it’s the paying guest that’s the most important person on the mountain. Otherwise there would be nothing to patrol, would there? Before you decide to get high minded in your quest for compensation, keep in mind that many patrollers do it for free as volunteers. Push the resorts too hard in low snow years and you’re going to find yourself replaced by the many people that would gladly do the work for nothing. Should patrollers be well compensated? Absolutely. Just be realistic about your expectations before you price yourself off the mountain.

    1. Nonsense, If you want to see a mountain fall to shambles let the volys run it. They just come to help out with coverage on the hill. The difference between what a pro knows about what’s going on around the hill and someone who is there once a week is indescribable. The guys there 5 days a week have their finger on the pulse of everything happening from small pockets of potential instability to every rock on the hill. Even our part time pros are there strictly for med coverage. You clearly don’t understand the scope of what we do to keep you safe if you think we can be outsourced by volunteers…we appreciate what they do but it’s hardly the same thing.

      1. Funny, where I patrol, there is no difference. I’ve done both. Paid and volley have identical skill sets in terms of medical, knowledge of ops, mountain, risk management, and more. Ironically, MANY of the pros have been trained by the volleys, and in many cases, the volleys are the ones with the higher skill sets. We all work together as a team to get it done. The only difference is that the pros get paid (an indescribably obscene low rate of pay, and the volleys don’t get financial compensation. If your volley’s aren’t up to the job, maybe it’s time you spent some time bringing up their standards; it’s good for everyone. With your attitude, I’m fortunate that I don’t patrol with you, you don’t seem to be a “foxhole” person. That’s a shame.

      2. Shame on Pro Patrolled to think that just because a person is a volunteer that they are less knowledgeable than the “Pro Patroller”. I know several doctors who are volys. Your greed is causing your ignorance to shine through. Oh, and an after thought, while you most likely ski free as a benefit, the general skiing public will have to pick up the cost of unionizing. Increased costs for lift tickets, food concessions, rentals, etc. So much for family skiing.

        1. The point he’s making isn’t about the volleys medical knowledge,
          Drs usually don’t know anything about glide cracks or repelling? Hell when was the last time you Hurd of a dr doing a fitness test

      3. You are so ignorant to say Volunteer Patrol is less qualified than “Full Time.” At my mountain all of our Certified Patroller’s are volunteers and the majority of us Senior Patroller’s are Volunteers. We train and work just as hard and are just as qualified. All of our S&T Trainers, Evaluators, etc. are also Volunteer.

  35. There are no easy jobs at a ski area. So for me to value one department as more important than another is an inane concept. And while I believe that everyone should be compensated for their worth, in an industry that runs for 3-5 months a year, entirely dependent on the weather that is a proposition that is not responsible to the growth of the sport. Say we pay, just the patrollers, their worth as if this was a year-round position and add a surcharge to the ticket price we will end up with less people working as patrollers due to payroll costs and even worse, less that are willing to join the sport due to even higher prices. This is a sport for passionate people who love winter. Those of us who work at a resort or local hill do it because we love it. It is a lifestyle, not a living. Unfortunately the business models for growing the sport / industry rely upon those of us who care and are willing to give our time for a free pass and gas money.

    1. pay ’em per carnage, direct charge the patient, then you’ll see who really wants to get there first…

      add a portable credit card reader like Square to the list of mandatory equipment, ‘we also take apple pay’

      1. That sounds like you are reverting back to the days of the ‘fire mark’ – an emblem telling the firefighters you were paid up and entitled to receive fire fighting services. Maybe a patch on their jacket or a sticker on their helmet like vehicle registration? But SP does more than rescue. Prevention and early recognition is key. You are the smoke detectors of the mountains!!! Be safe!

  36. So many comments and all so true. 15 years paid, 20 volunteer, certified examiner over twenty. The only one that cares about your passion is you…..if your are a patroller. The others that care about you are the ones who need you in there moment of despair. Beyond that each organization see the patrol as an expense. Catch 22, therefore they want you to work for poor wages , get you to do it because of your passion for the job and of course the skiing, your comrades and especial in the crisis that you thrive on. In the end it is the best job on the planet and that how they get you. Supple and demand still drives your wages.They supple you have to demand….good luck with increasing your value without a unified front. Oh yeah, when I retire guess what I am going back too.?????? nr

  37. Typically gets paid much more than a professional ski patrol and doesnt have half the diverse skill set and life saving medical training.

    If a jourmeyman crapenter makes anywhere from $25-$35 p/h
    with typically no emergency first aid training then a veteran patroller should make at least that plus hazard pay for handling explosives and performing lift evacuations.

    I say unionize on a national level, petition congress to pass legislatiom for standardized protocol.

    Add the extra cost of paying more to the sale price pf the condo cause those are the exact ski resort customers that patrol is providimg the main service to.

  38. Most important job at the resort? Well one could argue that. It wouldn’t even be a resort if it weren’t for the lift mechanics/lift builders. Lift Mechanics on average have a much higher injury risk factor. The knowledge required is comparable if not greater than that of a patroller. Not to mention if a lift mechanic makes a mistake, lives lost will likely be just as great as an inbound slide, with considerably higher accountability. Ever opened a high voltage cabinet? That sh*t is no joke. Ever rigged a haul rope splice? One error and it’s good night friends and co-workers. Declaring one mountain job over another as “most important” just points out that the author has very little idea of what goes on behind the scenes of a resort. All the jobs in Mountain Operations are the most important. The patrollers wouldn’t have anyone to patrol if the plow driver didn’t clear the roads so the guests could arrive. Ticket sales…well without them nobody gets paid. Don’t assume that because one job is more heroic that it is more important. There are plenty of dedicated, knowledgeable, underpaid, and risky jobs at any mountain. That’s what a team is. If your quarterback has no one to throw to he suddenly stops being a quarterback now doesn’t he?

    What’s the difference between a ski patroller and god? God doesn’t think he’s a ski patroller.

  39. Most valuable on the mountain?

    I’m a ski patroller and my young teen son told me this joke.

    Q – How do you know if there’s a ski patroller at the party?

    A – He’ll tell you.

  40. You can’t be doing it for the money, It was never there to begin with. So it’s the free pass to ski where and when you like. what else can you say about it. It is what it is ………

  41. Very long overdue. These people are proffessionals at every level. Even the rookies at most resorts come in with extensive first aid and avalanche training. Starting wages lack of good benefits are pathetic examples of the industries inability to recognize the skill and effort these people put into their profession. Many of the patrol I’ve worked with have gone on to be PA’s,nurses,Dr.s,healthcare proffessionals and business proffessionals and owners. Some have died on the job (avalanches,explosions) I think I witnessed an unusual number of suicides in the proffession as we’ll. For many ski patrol I’ve worked with, they see it as a career, and the longer they are at it the better they become, but there are only less than a handful of position that pay anything close to a living wage. I say pay them what they are worth, take 10-15$ tag it to the ticket price or require patrol fees for service and or allow riders to purchase insurance with all proceeds going to the ski patrol. That my thought

  42. Yes, ski patroller should be paid more.

    But, ski area management shortsitedly see ski patrol as a “non-revenue producing” department. Until their thinking comes around not much will change in MHO.

    1. Worse, they not only see us as “non-revenue producing” (extremely short-sighted), they actually see us as a “liability” because there’s a real chance we’ll get hurt, and that means Workmen’s Comp expenses to the mountain.
      It’s tough when management has such a recto-cranial inversion type of mentality……………….

  43. is there in the world that requires a more varied and life saving skillset while having to perform on skis and often in inclement weather?

    Underpaid is an understatement

    Takes a special individual to do what they do while putting up with all kinds of crap including under apprecation and meager compensation

    Would love to see someone like andy worth try it for a season at entry level pay and no other hidden bennies, wonder how long he’d last?

  44. If all patrol can’t make $35 per hour like any decent carpenter, it’s a foul up somewhere.

  45. 7th year pro @ ~$10/Hr. New England Resort – Its a great job if you can afford to do it. Low wages some what off set by perks. (season passes for kids, deals on gear) Where I work, volunteers are a critical part of the puzzle. “Our job is better than your vacation”

    1. 10-4! on my eleventh year coming up and this year I got to pay for my own CPR recert. too! WooHoo! Ski industry is making it rain on pro patrollers!! “Be different on your own time” – Z

  46. YES we have to be paid more ! 1850€ per month for 50 Hours a week ! We have big responsabilities, Life people. We play with explosives, it is not innocent. And when you talk about the subject with your boss he says :” be Happy you do a passion job !”


  47. Not even real sure why this is a question. These people make our playground a reality. I would like to make known that I am not a patroller and some of them grind my gears somtimes but they deserve to make more than they do.

  48. While I agree that patrollers are underpaid for the work they do, the same argument can be made for many positions at the ski area, or the workforce in general. If their wages go up, you can be sure the ski area will just jack up lift ticket prices. Not many people are doing it for the money. For them, it’s a good winter compliment for summers spent raft guiding or firefighting, maybe a stepping stone to a career in EMS. I’m sure they would appreciate a tip.

  49. Good on those patrolers who unionized! Patroling can be dangerous thankless job. I’m confident they are not pay enough for their hard work & great risk to personal safety! That being said…….
    With organized labor comes responsibility. As previously mentioned, many ski area employees work for the ‘benefits’…… ski passes & mountain lifestyle. This lifestyle is, for some, not in harmony with the requirements that come with labor contracts. I’m not sure some ski area employees are interested in the sacrifices to lifestyle. yes i’m talking about smoking pot, drug testing, required training, security clearances for ammunition & weapons, union dues, accountability, etc. etc.
    It will be interesting to see how this all evolves in the industry. The time has come to properly honor these safety professionals!!
    I am so grateful to patrolers!

    1. Union or not, patrollers already can’t smoke pot and in many places they do get drug tested, they all have a huge ammount of required training, every single one of them that uses explosives must have some level of security clearances, and in this litigious day and age, everyone is accountable… Yes, they would have to pay dues as something new if they unionize…

      Pro patrollers that dedicate a good chunck of their lives to the job deserve more. They would more than likely be paid like fire fighters if they had a large tax base to support such a wage. Maybe after we fix this little global warming problem, we can work on getting more money. 😉

  50. I suggest the patrollers do a walkout/strike on a powder day, that’ll get their attention…

      1. Wrong. Walkouts equal fired in low pay low skill jobs. The Canyons had a successful contract holdout.

  51. simple supply and demand. the moment one patroller decides its not worth it and steps away from n dollars per hour, then another one will backfill him/her. people never get paid what they are worth…they get paid exactly what they negotiate.

  52. Great Article. Don’t forget most are certified in some sort of medical training, explosive certifications and avalanche certs AAIRE, etc. All take time and $$

  53. Interesting — do you know what they are paid in the Alps — I have always assumed that they are well paid as they obviously have to be highly trained / experienced — They are also working as Paramedics so their pay should reflect their level of first aid qualification . Hadn’t thought about the seasonal aspect of their work , not sure what the guys over here do in Summer although I think some work on road protection putting up cables and wire to stop boulders and land slides onto mountain roads .

    1. Hi guys ! To reply to RayKeighley about ski patrollers in the Alps, especially in France where I work, there are big differences between resorts. For a small resort, and this is the minimum legal wage for a junior ski patroller, we are paid about 10 euros (~$11US) per hour, all allowances included (meal, ski equipment,…). In bigger resorts wages are really better, maybe 15-20 euros per hour ($16-22US) and some provide ski equipment. I guess wages in Switzerland are higher.

      1. i’m the CEO of swiss patrollers ass. Discussions here are very similar. The range goes from 20 Euros to 30 Euros max. There’s no legal minimum wage. Smaller areas pay less. Most of the patrollers are seen in different jobs during summer. It’s hard to recruit people for a seasonal activity in general. At the time patrollers were mostly farmers. This has changed over the last decade. People are highly trained in national and regional courses. The directors are allowed to pass a federal exam. They are mostly part of the board of the companies. My suggestion: one deserves a decent pay at the end of the month. As mentioned in some of the comments patrollers should never forget to see the beauty and the daily challenge in their job. Helping injured people is prob one of the most fullfilling jobs on this planet. Not to forget the awesome surroundings we all spend our days in.

    2. Such an odd debate. Ski mtns are for profit businesses which have an obligation to provide living wages and safe working conditions to their employees. The concept that patrollers dont universally receive health care benefits and that burden is pushed onto general tax payers to pad the margins of ski conglomerates is unacceptable. The ski industry is a luxury leisure business and is based on the shoulders of employees. There isnt a magic technical innovation just mother nature and the smile and warmth of employees. Im not a patroller, rather a corporate exec who compensates my employees fairly oh also patrollers have sledded my kids off the mtn in times of needs. Pay em fair, give em benefits, have vail’s stock price a dollar lower (i hold their shares and would be fine with it).

  54. My father was a volunteer at Mt. Hood for years. Before that at Mammoth, and Mt. Ashland. He always spoke highly of the group of people doing the job and the volunteers . They work crazy hard and should be compensated appropriately

  55. Not to take anything away from Patrollers, but there are many departments at ski resorts in the same boat. Most notable that are taken for granted I would have to say are Snowmakers and Groomers. How can you pay someone $9/hr to operate a $250k machine?? Or in a snowmakers case, same pay, and stand over a hydrant with 1000 psi, praying it doesnt blow up in your face. The fact remains, we live and work at ski resorts for the “benefits” of skiing for free, and living in the mountains.

    1. Maybe you work for the “benefit” of skiing for free, but I work to save lives, and I’m more than willing to say, the benefits don’t generally outweigh the risks.

      1. If saving lives is your main reason to work, go work in the ER in any major city. Lots of work for you with good pay.
        I patroled for many years and finally had to stop as I couldn’t afford the things in life I wanted. It was a hard choice, but the fact is there are 20 people behind you that would love to go skiing for work. Simple supply and demand.

          1. Yes.
            As someone posted earlier, many of the patrollers have gone on to be paramedics, RN’s, Doctors. Anything they want to be. The Patrol world is full of incredibly talented people who could do anything is this world they would like.
            If your goal in life is to be a cook, you don’t go work at Taco bell and complain about the wages. Pros and cons of ski patrolling. Great place to live, great people all around you. Pay, not so much.
            Patrollers are not the only ones in this situation. All mountain staff are under paid. Patrollers (as stated in earlier post) just feel they are the most important, which is far from the truth. Lift mechanics rarely ski, snowmakers, groomers work in the middle of night. Lift ops, marketing, HR (that has to deal with Patrollers) all work just as hard and I would bet they feel like it is a team effort.
            This debate has been going on for years and the same group of people keep bring this up. The fact is, ski patrol has the best gig on the mountain. I miss it everyday, but never once did I think I, or my fellow patrollers were the most important people on the mountain. Far from it, most of the time I was thinking “man I’m sure glad I don’t have to sit in that lift shack for the next 3 hours on a power day”, or “good lord, that mechanic is covered in oil (while freezing), or “that would suck to be flipping burgers inside on this amazingly gorgeous day” .
            Enjoy the place you live, enjoy the best job on the mountain, enjoy the wonderful people working and living around you. If you can’t afford, move. Plenty of jobs out there for people with the skill set of patrollers.

        1. Hey “Old Patroller” – As a former Pro Patroller/Avalanche Controller I find your comments not only offensive, but cowardly as well. Why would anyone who was ever a real Patroller begrudge the Brethren of wanting to organize for better compensation and working conditions? Your comments sound suspiciously like those of corporate management or the outcast of your Patrol, if you were ever really on one.
          Sure there are other dangerous jobs in less beautiful surroundings, but most of those jobs are protected by Unionization and collective bargaining. Get a grip.

          1. I agree with you even older. To add to your comment, an earlier post on snow brains showed the astronomical lift ticket prices at colorado and california resorts upwards of 140.00. Resorts provide fine dining, and bring all the amenities of the four seasons to the mountain, you think that they would adequately compensate the patrollers they entrust to keep the mountain and participants safe?!?!?!

          2. Spoken like a true patroller! Anyone other than ski patrol knows that this is a team effort. I’m a lift mechanic and my job is wayyy more dangerous and demanding than patrol, sorry not sorry. If your in it for anything other than skiing you might wanna look into a different job.

          3. When was the last time a lift mechanic got killed doing their job?

            It’s obviously a team effort but to say something like lift Maintanece being more dangerous than avalanche control just shows you don’t know anything about the subject.

    2. Yep, Every dept at a resort think they are most important and most underpaid.
      It takes all to run a resort and work together. When these attitudes posted here are taking over, then some people need to find new jobs, and a Mountain Ops Manager needs to bring the team together. Remember folks, lift ticket sales, rarely cover mountain ops costs, so that person flipping burgers or squeezing kids into ski boots are just as important to generate your paycheck.

  56. er, ya think.

    Business model and business schools churning out MBA’s have changed the meaning of employee and how that relates to the balance sheet for 25+ years. Factor in liability and insurance costs and exposure and there u have it. Liability Manager makes 6 figure salary, go figure…

    Not an asset, but a payroll expense, must lower according to current business model. Their benefits come in tracking out runs on pow days prior to public access, we’ve all seen it these days, keeping us safer from post control releases I suppose.

    Props to pro patrollers, thanks for all you do keeping us safe for such meager pay and demanding work………, at times….

    1. at times? keep in mind that “dangerous terrain” you ski once in a while gets opened only after we head there first, before mitigation. we test it with our lives to make sure you don’t get buried in it. everyday. we may take a few turns now and then, but most of our time is spent out doing trail work, running avalanche drills, or sitting coverage in huts waiting for those horrible moments of fatalities or loss of limb function. At times? sheesh.

      1. I’m sorry, but what do you mean “we”? If you’re trying to convince me that you’re a patroller you’re going the wrong way about it, since none I know would remain “anonymous”. Who are you and what resort? Otherwise stfu and stop regurgitating the same “we have a dangerous job” BS. Plenty people have more dangerous jobs, and few have the same perks. Cry me a river. You chose to do it, and not one of the reasons to do the job is the money.

        1. You have no idea about what you are talking about . Next time you are sitting on a trail with an injury ,and you need the help of the ski patrol let them know how you feel about them . Go ahead I dare you .You probably think the same of opther first responders ,police ,firemen , ambulance tech ,and paramedics . Shame on you ,you are selfish and thankless .

        2. Ski patrol don’t have as many perks as you are imagining. They are risking their lives so that the public is safe. The Professional Ski Patrol deserved much higher pay. Take into consideration that they also (in several cases) live in affluent areas where the average income far exceeds the national average. Try to live in a ski town on $10 an hour.

      2. Haven’t seen too many ‘trollers’ bust the Eagles Nest, Fingers, Chimney, Easy street, Schmidtiots or other ‘dangerous terrain’ before I did.

        sheesh yourself……..

        1. So, as a self-proclaimed “ski god”, why aren’t you yourself out giving patrol a helping hand? I’m pretty sure they’d appreciate the help going into, and opening, terrain they apparently fear, but you do not. To boot, you might even get a comp, or two, for your omnipotence.

    2. I have a simple solution to answer the question of who’s most important on the hill: If the patrollers did not show up one morning, could they open the mountain?? Jus say’n . . .

      That goes for groomers, snow makers, & lifities also. We are a team.

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