Jan 14, 2013 1:53 PM by Lindsey Gordon (Helena)
MARYSVILLE - Winter in Montana means spending times on the ski slopes for many folks, but some get more caught up in the activity than the safety, and that's where the ski patrol comes in.
There is some inherent danger involved with skiing and snowboarding, but that's part of what makes it so much fun, and there are ways to keep yourself out of harm's way.
People hitting the slopes should know their ability level, and also should be sure that they are skiing with someone, since skiing alone is always dangerous. Skiers should also make sure to know the mountain, and not go where they're not familiar with the conditions.
If there is a problem, there are always those "white knights" on snowmobiles, patrolling from the beginning to the end, every inch of trail.
"Patrol is really driven by a passion, that passion is to help people and also to enjoy the outdoors, enjoy skiing, boarding, or whatever it is that the patroller likes to do," said Parish Hartley with the Great Divide ski patrol.
The folks at Great Divide see between 60,000 and 70,000 people taking to the slopes each season, and the ski patrol will usually only come into contact with 120 to 150 customers, for anything from a small cut to a broken limb.
The ski patrol also make about 20 to 25 ambulance calls a season, but only see one or two serious injuries.
"More rarely we'll have something where you have to use a toboggan to get someone off of a mountain that has some kind of serious injury," explained Hartley.
"And sometimes those injuries are avoidable. Usually it's someone was where they shouldn't be, trying to do something that wasn't up to their skill level, and they get themselves into trouble," he added.
Luckily, people do what they're supposed to most the time and have a really enjoyable experience, but when a problem hits, the ski patrol is ready to swing into action.