Incorporated in 1981 as a non-profit society, the Mt. Washington Ski Patrol Association (MWSPA) held its annual pre-season training/skills assessment weekend at Mount Washington on Nov. 5-6.
An elected board of directors, in concert with training personnel and available resources, has set the maximum number of active members at approximately 120. Individuals wishing to join the patrol are directed to the MWSPA website and an online application. There is no limit on associate membership.
Many changes have taken place over the past few decades. Most notable is the skill level of new recruits, observed Paul Vroom, former association treasurer, president and 20 year NSP instructor.
There are currently four categories for patroller recruitment: Alpine Patrol, Nordic Patrol, First Aid Room (FAR) Attendant and Student Patrol (ages 16-19).
Over the past decade the MWSPA board and membership have raised funds to better equip the First Aid Room. Movable hospital beds, automated patient monitors, AEDs and other clinical equipment are a few of the additions which facilitate better patient care. MWSPA/FAR attendants work closely with the volunteer Doctors’ Association who have a representative on the hill every day.
Succession and recruitment are common challenges to many volunteer organizations. A major boost to address both challenges was recognized by the MWSPA board in 2011 when member and outdoor educator Jake Friesen proposed a Junior Patrol Program.
In 2012 the MWSPA board endorsed the proposed Junior Patrol program, the Vancouver Island Student Ski Patrol Program (VISSP), which is funded by School District #69 (Qualicum). Friesen has championed the program from its inception.
This program enables students to earn credits toward NIC’s Adventure Guiding Program. The maximum number of new juniors has been capped at 10 students per year; the program is now open to any eligible student in B.C. between ages 16-19 through an application process.
Pre-requisites include successful completion of a BC Occupational level first aid course and an annually renewed HCP-CPR ticket. Students complete a full school curriculum in addition to over 600 hours of VISSP program requirements and students may achieve 24-32 high school elective credits.
Junior patrollers, in addition to completing over 14 full patrol days at Mount Washington, add additional patrol days at Mt. Cain, Whistler/Blackcomb, Manning Park and Revelstoke.
When not on the slopes or attending regular classes, students also add Food Safe, Serving It Right, Level 1 Avalanche training and a snowmobile safety course to their expanding skill set.
Junior patrollers must team up with a senior patroller for their first year and thereafter until they reach 19 years of age. It is not just a one year ‘gig’ for every student, however, as reinforced by the seven juniors who returned as second-year patrollers this year.
One second-year junior, 17-year-old Erica Friesen, was elected to an MWSPA board director position. Vroom is confident of the patrol’s succession when the likes of Erica bring their incredible positive energy and superb leadership skills to the table.
With the recruitment of youth and high level professional health care workers, such as RNs, NPs, medical doctors, SARTECHs, PCP&ACP licenced practitioners, the future of the highly credentialed volunteer organization is ensured.
The MWSPA is currently funded by membership dues and supplemented by occasional donations. Individual members bear a cost of between $600-$2,000 per season, and one might ask “What motivates these volunteers?” The prevalent answer is, “Service.”
Members believe they can facilitate positive impacts on another person’s well-being. To learn more about the MWSPA, visit www.mwskipatrol.com