Wild Mountain Ski Patrol welcoming infusion of youth

Young Adult Patrol members Sam Ward (left) of Mounds View and Taylen Peterson (right) of Forest Lake practiced their toboggan handling skills this past February with Ilsa Bastiaens of Mahtomedi on the sled as the “patient.”

During a meeting of the Wild Mountain Ski Patrol in October of 2017, assistant director Matt Haberman noticed a preponderance of silver and white hair among the patrollers.

All that “snow on the roof” got Haberman thinking. 

A year earlier, 15-year-old Izzy Vazquez had asked to join the group, due to her strong interest in health care and love of skiing. The aging patrollers were delighted with the skills and zest she brought to their operations.

So, why not try find a few more Izzy’s?

“It was then that I began a dialog with Jeff Olsen, our patrol director, about bringing in young people to our patrol,” Haberman said. 

After a few texts and dialogues on the project, the duo decided to go ahead. They started to brainstorm it in January of 2018 and got moving with two Open Houses for young adults that fall for the purpose of recruiting teenagers.

Young Adult Patrol currently has 10 members, supervised by Brad Peterson of the Wild Mountain group.

“Young Adult Patrollers develop not only emergency skills,” said Haberman, who supports the group along with Jeff Olsen and Craig Johnson. “They also develop greater confidence, leadership, quick problem solving, seamless teamwork skills and a deeper understanding of collaboration.”

Along with helping people, YAP members get credit for volunteer hours for their National Honor Society requirements, college credits, college admission, and a season pass.

Wild Mountain Ski Patrol has over 100 experienced skiers and snowboarders who receive training in advanced first aid and rescue skills.

The YAP takes the same training as the adult members — an 80-hour Outdoor Emergency Care course (first aid) and a 70-hour Outdoor Emergency Transportation course (ski and snowboard skills, evacuation via toboggans and chairlifts). 

YAP members, said Peterson, “inject the Wild Mountain Patrol team with renewed excitement and energy.” Wild Mountain still holds two Open Houses each fall to find more of them.

Peterson, who has served on “high-calibre” teams at 3M and the University of Minnesota Medical Center, said the kids get to learn from an extraordinary team of talented, experienced people, such as Cheryl Runde, teaching outdoor medical skills.

About Vazquez, Haberman said, “Her brilliance, skill and maturity made her a template and role model for those to follow. She brought validity to the fact that young adults are quite effective on our patrol.” The St. Paul resident is now 18 and remains with National Ski Patrol.

Following in Izzy’s ski tracks are current members (listed with their high schools) Taylen Peterson of Forest Lake, Claire Landberg and Samuel Ward of Mounds View, Ilsa Bastiaens and Alex James of Mahtomedi, Tyler McDrew of Centennial, Jackson Runde of Princeton, Miles Hanson of Andover, and two who preferred not to be named. 

James and Bastiaens, who are cousins, were invited to join by an uncle who’s a patroller at Afton Alps. 

“I loved the idea and agreed without a second thought,” said James. “I have been ski racing for many years and have seen the patrollers around, and I was very excited to join them.”

Helping people, learning new skills, making new friends, and getting discounts on passes and gear make it worthwhile, James said. The testing was “nerve-wracking” but made him ready to patrol. “I will continue to learn as I go, knowing no one else is better prepared (than patrollers) to save the day.”

Landberg joined because she’s fascinated by medicine and loves to ski. She was recruited by Cheryl Runde after the medical instructor treated her for a knee injury in December of 2018, and eagerly accepted.

“As I went through rigorous training to become a certified patroller,” Landberg said, “I found that I have a strong passion for it and I really hope I can patrol out West in the future. I’ve also met some of my best friends through the program.”

Her highlight was the day she passed her outdoor emergency transport test, earning eligibility to take toboggans down the hill. While celebrating with the customary snacks and a mini-party, a serious injury occurred to a skier.

“Me and the other YAPs, who were all present, got to throw on our jackets and work together on treating the patient. It was really cool working side-by-side for the first time after training together for almost a year. It was a very rewarding end to the patrol season.”

Her main hope for the program is getting more teens to patrol and more ski areas to start or expand YAP programs.

McGrew, 15, an Alpine skier who loves being “on the hill” in any case, said he joined YAP to absorb experience in the medical field. “I have not decided a career path but I see the benefits that you gain from things such as basic life support or CPR and first aid skills.” His favorite experience so far was the skills test-out day which he found “helpful and fun.”

Taylen Peterson, Brad’s daughter, had an emergency rescue situation at Northstar Stables in Stacy this summer where she was able to help a woman she saw suffering from a seizure on a picnic table, surrounded by panicked adults. 

As reported in The Lowdown, Peterson moved the woman from the table to the ground (so she wouldn’t fall), checked for neck injuries (none), and lifted her head to open her airway, while speaking with a 911 operator after the Northstar owner handed her the phone. A helicopter arrived but was not needed by that point, and the woman was driven to the hospital by EMT’s. 

“The owner kept thanking me and asking me how I knew so much,” she said. “I told her I’m a ski patroller.” 

For more information about the Wild Mountain Ski Patrol and the Young Adult Patrol (YAP) program, visit wildpatrol.org.

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