In my first year of Ski Patrolling I went out for an early work mission…in a white-out blizzard and without goggles (because I was a rookie and had forgotten them in my other bag). I didn’t have poles either because I had to keep my hands free to carry a drill and build signs and fences. This is when my perspective on ‘danger’ started to change.
Because the most objectively dangerous parts of the job: skiing steep chutes, handling explosives, and working in extreme weather conditions, never felt like it. The most dangerous times were when I was skiing with hundreds of other skiers… all of us criss-crossing on the way to the base, to different chairlifts, or trying to keep speed up across the flats to reach a different trail.
The moral of the story is that unpredictability increases risk 100x. Compared to controllable factors which, although objectively more dangerous, are mitigated by body awareness, versatility, and patience – all qualities we can build and train in the gym.
One of the best parts about Ski Patrolling for me was the skiing (duh). We thought that we were the best skiers on the mountain. What with wearing cool red and black coats, sporting the wide, versatile skis, and having a radio at the ready – we looked pretty cool i’d say. What I would learn over the course of my 4 years on the mountain, is that you don’t have to be a good skier to be a great Ski Patroller.
Because Ski Patrolling is much more about CrossFit than it is about making picturesque powder turns. 90% of my time was spent sidestepping awkwardly uphill, while holding a bundle of bamboo poles on one shoulder, 3 coils of halfway tangled rope on the other, and sweating profusely as my goggled fogged up and I couldn’t see anything! In these situations, technique takes a back seat to body awareness, versatility, patience, and a working relationship with discomfort.
And if “A working relationship with discomfort” doesn’t describe CrossFit, I don’t know what does!