Down near the Alpine Lodge, I grab a quick coffee after having dealt with First Aid calls and general maintenance of the ski area all morning. Having received over thirty centimetres of snow the night before and over eighty centimetres in the past four days, the trees dotted all along the resort are covered in a hard rime, converting them to the iconic snow ghosts of Mount Washington. However, with this also comes the task of clearing the boundary lines and bamboo of the same ice, thoughts of unfinished areas go through my mind as I make my way towards the Eagle chair. Just moments earlier, the avalanche control team had given the go ahead for opening of the Outback after a long early morning of concentrating on making sure the front side of the mountain was safe for the public.
As we load up, a call over the radio echoes another report of a rider down on the Sunrise side. Despite not being in the best position to respond to the request, I call into dispatch with my number and location, never knowing if everyone else is already tied up. Thankfully, a patroller having just unloaded the Sunrise chair is able to respond and another is standing by with a Toboggan, just in case. As the radio chatter dies and we're given the okay to stand down from dispatch, two more patrollers ski below us on the Eagle lift line, bundles of bamboo in their arms and various lengths of rope attached to their backpacks. And yet another task that was laid out at our morning meeting comes back to me: due to the amount of snow we've received over the past few days, the lift line approaches dangerously close to skiers head just above Powder Face and a boundary will need to be put in place until a Pisten Bully snowcat can get in there and clear some of the snow away.
"Hard life, skiing all day, hey?" pipes in one of the members of public on the chair with me as the patrollers below us continue to carve their way down.
I laugh and nod, because in all honesty, it's somewhat true. Instead of having to walk down office hallways to head to meeting rooms or return to our cubicles, we're lucky enough to get to ski or snowboard between and to our jobs. Sometimes this will be five quick turns before stopping, other times, cycling to various parts of the mountain. Sure, on slower days where there hasn't been a whole lot of new snow or on days where there are few members of public on the mountain, we may get in a few more turns than usual. But on days like today, the addition of all this new snow and an eager public wanting to get lap after lap in, there always seems to be something to do. The moment you think you might be done with your task, another call from dispatch goes out over the radio requesting for additional patrollers to help out on something else.
As we unload, I bid everyone on the chair a good day and check the time at the unload. 1:50 PM. Perfect timing to relieve the other patroller for the bump shift at the top of the Eagle. Always having someone high on the mountain at our various bump shacks allows us to have a reserve of patrollers who are able to respond to all locations on the mountain if needed. As an added bonus, this shift at the top of the lifts grants us the opportunity on colder or wetter days a much needed respite to warm up or dry off. Today, it gives me enough time to grab a quick bite to eat and make a few notes of tasks that will need to be done for tomorrow, as well as go through our rope evacuation kits to make sure everything is in working order.
And almost as if time has fast forwarded, patrollers start piling into the bump shack as the few remaining patrons get their last runs in and the lifts slow to a halt. The run sweeps are divvied up between those who are available, and today, I get to head to the Top of the World and make sure it's clear before heading into the West Basin. After radioing down to let everyone know that the area is clear of public, I dive down and begin to hear the tell tale call of the end of the day ringing throughout the mountain: "PATROL SWEEP, MOUNTAIN IS CLOSING".
And as we all zig-zag our way back to the First Aid room, the sun slowly sets behind us and the terrain around Mount Washington starts to dim. Another day of work almost completed on the mountain and exhaustion starts to set in as we pile around to do our end of day meeting. Unfinished tasks and new jobs are added to the Hill Coordination sheet for the next day, making sure nothing gets left unfinished or overlooked. Another day on the mountain awaits us tomorrow. Another day where we get to put our skis and snowboards on for a living.