Injuries of 2016/2017 Season


Like any activity, downhill skiing and snowboarding can be dangerous and accidents do happen. There are many ways to minimize these risks such as helmets, but ultimately there will always be risks.

This year I have seen my share of accidents and in this post il go over a couple of the more interesting accidents, but first, some that I wasn’t there for. Earlier this year, Mr. Joe Zuiches A member of the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol passed away after the detonation of a hand charge while conducting avalanche control. This unfortunate tradgety demonstrates that not only beginners get hurt but professionals do too and even with years of training accidents can still happen.

Early in March, Jackson Hole ski instructor, Natty Hagood was skiing with his roommate and friend, when the first run of the day took an unexpected turn. As they were skiing through the trees, Hagood ventured too close to a tree and paid a hefty price. At first he thought his chin strap had slid up but he soon realized it was much worse. He had been empaled through his lip and cheek by a branch. Being a ski instructor he knew to alert local ski patrol to immobilize the remaining branch and transport him to the bottom of the hill. From there he travelled to the hospital where it was surgically removed. Below are photos of his injury.



There is obviously not a need for avalanche control here, and we haven’t had a fatality that I know of, but there has still been some interesting cases. To start, this year after a couple of drinks, a customer travelling at high speed, caught an edge, leaving his leg visibly broken and off at a weird angle. The responding patrollers immobilized the leg using a splint which held the limb in place and transported the patient to the bottom to meet the ambulance. Even the liquor couldn’t numb the pain especially considering an almost 30 minute wait for the ambulance. The outcome was unfortunately a fracture of both bones in the lower leg.

Just this past week, I was asked by an instructor for some help, as I walked out of the patrol room there was a young girl with blood dripping down her chin, coat and onto the bench she was sitting on. Without shedding a tear she explained that she had hit herself in the mouth with her ski pole when it  got stuck in the snow. Fortunately her teeth were okay and with only a small cut on her lip and one inside her mouth she went back out for a couple more runs after some pressure to stop the bleeding and ice to bring the swelling down.

Lastly the most common injury I have seen this year, other than bumps and bruises are suspected fractured wrists, especially in snowboarders. Each case differs in severity from  bruised or sprained to displaced fractures where the two ends of the bone are no longer in line. This typically requires surgery and the additions of metal plates to hold the bones in place.


Why Did I Become a Member of the Canadian Ski Patrol?

Many people ask why, as a student with another job, I would want to spend countless hours both training and working as a ski patrol. Well, after working at the Laurentian Ski Hill for the last 6 years doing almost everything from snowmaking, rental technician, teaching, lift operator and lastly the lift supervisor, I wasn’t able to enjoy the hill, and rarely got out on my skis or snowboard. This year I decided to make a change and get back to why I started working at the hill, my love of riding. This new position allows me to ski everyday I work, and meet/help lots of new people while I’m at it.

Another reason that Im glad I became a ski patrol is the knowledge and training I have received which allows me to be comfortable in my ability in almost any emergency situation, on the hill or off. I know that whether I’m on a ski trip, out camping, or even just hanging out with friends, I have the tools to deal with almost any situation that may occur. With recertification every year and an ever evolving curriculum, up to the current best practices, I have the peace of mind knowing that I have the training to help myself or someone else if I ever had too.

Now that Im almost done my first year I have learned a lot more about why most people patrol for years, many receiving 25 and 50 year awards each year. Not only does it provide you with first aid training and allow you to ski, but you become part of something bigger. The Canadian Ski Patrol system cares a lot about its members and holds many events through the year including skiing development days in Kicking Horse, BC, first aid competitions, and zone conferences and banquets. This all comes together to create a great sense of camaraderie throughout the organization. The organization also supports its members should something go wrong, there is designated patrollers with extra training in order to provide critical incident stress management. This is in place to help patrollers who may need help after a particularly tough accident. They also provide insurance and legal support for all members should they ever need to defend themselves or the organization in court.

Lastly, The Canadian Ski Patrol works closely with industry leaders to help test and advertise their products, in exchange members receive great discounts on many great brands. Although not the primary reason I patrol, it is defiantly a great benefit to someone on a students budget. These pro deals range from Arcteryx and Helly Hansen to Burton and almost 40 other leading brands. To learn more about what the Canadian Ski Patrol offers its members, Click here



What do Ski Patrol Carry?

Now that you have learned how to become a Canadian Ski Patrol, I’ll discuss what the job entails, starting with equipment. Being first on scene at an accident that could be several kilometres away from the nearest medical centre not only requires training, but also the equipment required to put that training to efficient use.

All active members must have their first aid kit on their person anytime they are actively patrolling. These kits are available in multiple formats to cater to individual preference, from back packs, vests and my choice, the bum bag/fanny pack. Each format has pros and cons and caters to different scenarios, the back packs are large making them useful for working in the mountains wear you must carry avalanche gear. Here in Ontario the vest and bum bags are much more popular as they are compact yet carry everything in a well organized manor.

Once you have picked the container its time to fill it up, the Canadian Ski Patrol have certain requirements outlined below:

  • Eight triangular bandages
  • One tongue depressor
  • One roll of one-cm adhesive tape
  • One pair of scissors (not pointed) or penknife
  • One pencil (not a ball-point pen)
  • Six eight by eight cm dry sterile dressings
  • Six safety pins
  • Non sterile exam gloves
  • Barrier device (CPR Mask)
  • One non-metallic whistle

While these are the requirements many patrollers including myself carry extra gear that we find helpful. The Extra gear that I carry includes:

  • Multitool
  • Lighter
  • Extra ABD pads and blood sponges
  • Lift self evacuation kit (rope, carabiners, belay device and harness)

Other than what we carry on us we also have extra gear located at the top of each run which stays with the toboggans in whats called a trauma bag. Firstly the toboggan is what we ski patrol use to bring injured customers down the hill if they are immobile. In the toboggan there is two different sized splints used for immobilizing lower limbs due to possible fractures. There is also blankets for obvious reasons and a spinal board, the spinal board is used anytime there is a suspected spinal fracture to completely immobilize the patient for transport to hospital. In the trauma bags there is the required straps for using the spinal board, cervical collars (neck braces), more blankets and sterile dressings, and lastly an air way kit consisting of oropharyngeal airways and a suction device to open and maintain an airway. Lastly most hills now have at least one AED on site just in case it is needed.

The Business of Skiing in Ontario

Hello Again,

This week I’m going to discuss the business side of the ski industry. In recent years the ski industry in Ontario has been struggling, causing many areas to close their doors. The existing hills are constantly working on new ways to bring in new customers and many are relying on government grants and support just to remain operational.

The ski industry in Ontario is ever changing and complex, and entirely weather dependant, no matter how well prepared you are you can’t change the weather. More ski areas are failing to meet their financial needs and shutting their doors.

Below is a chart using the data compiled by Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners Ltd for the Ontario Snow Resorts Association, Canada West Ski Areas Associations and Atlantic Ski Areas Association. They recorded data from 47 alpine ski areas around the country and publish the results in the hopes of creating a stronger industry.

Canadian Average Ontario Average
Employment 124 full time

78 part time

1 employee per 8.5 skier visits

71 full time

211 part time

1 employee per 8.3 skier visits

total employment 847 full time and 2530 part time at the 12 recorded areas

EBITDA/ Skier Visit $18.56 $4.78
Prices Average season pass price is $1210 requiring 15 days of use to break even based on the average daily rate of $80.90. Average season pass price is $768 requiring 17 days of use to break even based on the average daily rate of $44.
Profit before taxes $973,000. $75,000
Carrying Capacity 3580 skiers per day per hill 2345 skiers per day per hill

As you can see Ontario ski areas are struggling to stay afloat with EBITDA of only $4.78/ skier visit compared to the Canadian average of over $18. Pair this with the increased staff, lower prices and less skier visits and its clear why they’re struggling. The good news is that with only a 35% utilization rate there is a lot of room for growth. If Ontario ski areas focus on attracting new customers and look at raising their prices than hopefully there will be alpine skiing for years to come throughout Ontario.


How to Become a Member of the Canadian Ski Patrol

This winter I had the opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for a couple years now, become a member of the Canadian Ski Patrol.

Alpine skiing and snowboarding is a winter past time enjoyed by millions of people in Canada alone. It is a great way to stay active over the winter months and view the beauty that the Canadian landscape has to offer. But what happens when, all doesn’t go as planned and you end up injured half way down the hill? Thats what the members of the Canadian Ski Patrol train for.

The Canadian Ski Patrol has been helping provide first aid and rescue services since 1941. They are a non profit organization of over 5000 volunteers from close to 230 ski areas who provide 260 000 hours of service. For more information click here.

To become a member I had to do the following:

1.The first step in becoming a member of the Canadian Ski Patrol is to get in contact with your zone, (Algonquin Zone if in the North Bay area) or contact the hill you wish to patrol at.

2. After signing up you I started my training in early September and get started on the 60 hour minimum, advanced first aid course. During this training I received health care provider level CPR, oxygen administration/artificial respiration, slings and bandaging, spinal injury evacuation techniques and much more.

3. After finishing the training you must pass a 100 question, written exam with a mark of 75% or higher.

4.Pass a comprehensive practical test including multiple scenarios up to current standards.

Thats the end of dry land training, to finish my training, and become a fully certified  patrol you must pass on hill training, which includes a few more steps.

5. Pass a ski/snowboard ability test, which include varied techniques on all available routes.

6.Last but not least, toboggan training. I had to learn how to evacuate an injured customer who is unable to get themselves down the hill. This includes an additional 6-8 hours of on hill practice until the instructor is satisfied in your skills.