Bryan Mountain Nordic Ski Patrol wins national award

photo by Brian Stephens | (L to R) Bridget Johnson, Rocky Mountain Division Awards Coordinator Barbara Florey, identity unknown at press time, and Lin Ballard.
photo by Brian Stephens | (L to R) Bridget Johnson, Rocky Mountain Division Awards Coordinator Barbara Florey, identity unknown at press time, and Lin Ballard.

by Christy Parrott
Bryan Mountain went up against nearly thirty thousand ski patrol members across the US and parts to Europe to win the National Nordic Ski Patrol of the Year Award for excelling in community outreach, volunteerism and maintaining safety across the continental divide, from Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort to areas in the front range, such as Brainard lake and Boulder. Bryan Mountain patrollers aid with both in- and out-of-area terrain, protecting nearly 70 miles of skiable track and 110 miles of pure backcountry terrain.
Founded in 1974 by 12 members, Bryan Mountain was the first Nordic patrol at Eldora Mountain resort. The nationally recognized ski patrol has grown by 50% over the last three years, largely in part to the expansion of backcountry terrain and the highly sought-after Avalanche and Mountaineering Level 1 and Level 2 courses, taught by some of the most prestigious and experienced patrollers within the National Ski Patrol. For example, medical director, Michael Dobersen, says of founding member Lin Ballard, “She’s modest, but she’s one of the experts of avalanche rescue. She understands the physics of snow. She’s a national expert.”

“I like skiing,” Ballard explains of her passion. (She’s been a ski patroller since 1964.) “I saw a need for a presence in populated areas. A lot of people that go into areas, such as Brainard Lake, aren’t necessarily hurt. They get lost.” Ballard explains that with more people using better equipment on the mountains, there’s higher risk for outdoor enthusiasts to get turned around, because they’re venturing into places they previously couldn’t. Thus, the need for trained patrol volunteers increases yearly.

With over 80 members and ages ranging from 18 to 70+, Bryan Mountain fills the need for ski patrol and develops newer member’s skills through a mentoring program where senior patrollers, such as Ballard, have stepped up to partner with new members, ensuring education and training. “The training to become Outdoor Emergency Care certified takes over a year,” Dobersen explains. As a doctor specializing in forensic pathology for the last 30 years, Dobersen still had to add specific education beyond his physician training, to become a fully-qualified member of the ski patrol. “You’re essentially EMTs in the backcountry,” Dobersen explains. Bryan Mountain focuses not only in adding new members but also strengthening their instructor numbers in every discipline, adding 9 new OEC instructors and four new Mountain Travel Rescue instructors this past season, alone.

Bryan Mountain patrol puts their training to use beyond the slopes and off shoots. Bryan Mountain assists with the National Forest Service to keep outdoor enthusiasts safe in all outdoor activities. “A lot of Bryan Mountain volunteers patrol mountain biking areas, or assist in automobile accidents. It’s like you’re on autopilot, just doing what you have to do,” Dobersen says. Bryan Mountain challenges members to expand their skills and training to include protocols for search and rescue, partner with local SAR crews, utilize satellite phones, SPOT tracking units and work closely with the USFS on trail maintenance and map awareness. Additionally, Bryan Mountain conducts training for Boy and Girl Scouts, elementary schools, mountain clubs and rescue groups. They also offer support for bike races (road and mountain), 5K fun-runs and national junior white-water raft competitions.

Anyone interested in joining should know that the Bryan Mountain Nordic Ski Patrol team defines themselves by their “Magnetism, spunk and contagious positive energy.” Dobersen assures, “We’re always looking for new members. Perks include free skiing and serious bragging rights as being a part of the nation’s best. (They even partner with Special Forces.)”

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