Ski patrolling, despite the fact that it looks like a job where ski bums are paid to have fun (ok, so sometimes it’s like that) is a real job. Part mountain rescue, part avalanche and explosive technician, part first responder and part front line guest service, patrolling can be difficult to define. But it’s one of the more challenging jobs in the ski industry and takes a special breed of person to do it.
The professional ski patrollers at Squaw Alpine ski resort have a long and storied history of being some of the best in the business. But more than that, they have some of the highest numbers of female professional patrollers on their rosters. As a patroller myself and being married to a patroller, I can attest that for better or worse, being a woman in what has traditionally been a male dominated profession has its challenges. Women have to work harder to prove themselves. But it’s changing, and the female patrollers at Squaw Alpine are helping to break down some of those barriers.
This year, those talented, skilled and mountain savvy women have put out a calendar. And no, it’s not what you think. It’s a calendar dedicated to the 13 women of the Squaw Alpine Professional Ski Patrols who are out there, every day, cheating death, saving lives and blowing stuff up.
I spoke to one of those talented women the other day and asked her a few questions about what’s like to be a pro patroller at Squaw Alpine. Crystal Winn has been on the Squaw Patrol for the last six years and said that what attracted her most to the job was the opportunity to work in the mountains on her skis. “There’s nothing like being on a ridge top in howling winds at 6:30 in the morning making the mountain safe for people to play.” Indeed. I can attest that those are the moments that make patrolling worthwhile.
I asked her if she had any advice for young women looking to become ski patrollers. “Go for it! Be confident in your abilities. Be strong. Be vulnerable. Be yourself. Ski a lot. Listen and learn. Act and teach. We as women are very lucky in our time to be able to go after the things we love, nothing is impossible, and the tribe of women patrollers are some of the best women you will ever meet.” Well said, Crystal.
The Women of Ski Parol Calendar is a stunning collection of these intrepid women in their element, doing what patrollers do. Shredding, climbing lift towers and generally being rad (maybe I’m a little biased, but come on, patrollers are COOL). Photos are all the work of renowned extreme sport and art photographer Keoki Flagg and are available for sale at www.squawalpine.com/womenofpatrol. All proceeds go to avalanche education initiatives in the Tahoe area.
Be safe, ski hard.