Granite Peak has been closed since April, but its Ski Patrol is still celebrating its 75 years of service. Current and previous ski patrollers came together in Wausau Friday night to celebrate and reminisce about their love for the sport and helping others.
Those that came Friday are all apart of the more than 1,000 ski patrollers who have served Granite Peak since 1938. It was the third organized ski area in the nation and one of the first to become apart of the National Ski Patrol. The majority of patrollers are volunteer. Each season, individuals put in at least 100 hours of service. Over the years, the way patrollers care for patients has changed, but their love for helping others remains the same.
"When I first started ski patrol, it was a big deal to get a broken leg. Now, because of terrain features and stuff, we've upped the level of injuries, so now we have to be more proficient. Now have to be very good at assessing back injuries and head injuries," said Assistant Patrol Representative, Marcia Locher.
The sleds have become more streamlined and much more safe for patients. The manual has even changed going from the size of a passport to as big as a dictionary.
Locher said people start out volunteering because of their love for the slopes. One family has even passed down the service through the generations.
"I grew up with Grandpa skiing and Mom skiing and saw that they were having so much fun and I really wanted to follow their path and help people out and have fun while doing it," said Ahna Butt.
She started her service this past fall. Her mother started in 2003, and her grandfather started in 1966.
"There's a satisfaction in taking care of a patient, a satisfaction of getting them down into an ambulance and into a hospital. And it's a time of comradery. We're like firemen on a hill, we're like brothers and sisters," Ahna's grandfather, Conrad Favor.
Granite Peak ski resort is a very popular destination throughout the Midwest, but it wouldn't be the same without 75 years worth of help from the ski patrol.
Jim Dewerd has been with the Granite Peak Ski Patrol for 42 years. He said the experience is always fun.
"The best part of being here is being with your friends and training and helping people," he said. "We all enjoy skiing and I think that's one of the reasons we're here, but I think we enjoy taking care of the people, "
The more than 100 patrollers at Granite Peak have been taking care of people since 1938.
"They saw a need for ski patrol to help injured people off the ski hill," said Patrol Representative Granite Peak Ski Patrol, Joe Conrad. "Granite Peak was one of the first ski patrols that joined the national ski patrol."
This job, however sometimes that requires stopping shenanigans.
"We get the reputation sometimes of being policemen on the job, but that's really a pretty minor part of what we do," said Dewerd.
Patrollers main job is to help get injured skiers and snowboarders down to easier terrain.
"When we didn't have the nice groomed surfaces, we would see a lot of ankle and lower leg injuries," said Conrad "Now with the consistent conditions we have and with technology and ski equipment, it's changed a little bit.."
Patrollers put in an average of 200 to 500 hours each year, and it's all volunteer.
"We have young and old patrollers alike and from all walks of life and we all train the same and when we get out here and we put on this jacket and we're all the same," said Dewerd.
If you want to join the ski patrol... You can get on the candidate list at the patrol office. A ski and ride try out information session will take place in march. Chosen candidates will start training in the fall.
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