A-Basin man named Colorado’s top ski patroller | VailDaily.com

A-Basin man named Colorado’s top ski patroller

Special to the Vail DailyTony Cammarata

SUMMIT COUNTY – When Tony Cammarata took his first outdoor emergency care class in Massachusetts, the 22-year-old was simply looking to ski.

Cammarata said he never would’ve predicted he’d be Colorado Ski Country USA’s 2010 ski patroller of the year. But here he is, 15 years later, being honored by friends and colleagues for his top skills and heroic efforts

“To be recognized by the top people in my profession is incredible,” said Cammarata, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s assistant patrol director.

And with more than 200 days in his ski boots this season, the Frisco resident said he loves every day he spends at A-Basin, his home away from home for the last 13 years.

“I planned on coming out here for a season or two, got a job as lift operator at A-Basin, and the rest is history,” he said. “I just never left. I love it just as much now as when I started.”

“(Tony) represents everything that’s good at the Basin,” said Alan Henceroth, A-Basin’s general manager. “He can handle every situation up there, and he’s some one that all of us look up to.”

Saving lives

Becoming ski patroller of the year isn’t Cammarata’s only honor this season. He recently received the National Ski Patrol Purple Merit Star for his role in saving the life of 15-year-old Canadian ski racer Richard Long during a 2007 training event.

“When we got to him, he didn’t have a pulse and wasn’t breathing,” Cammarata said, noting that 99.9 percent of the time someone with this type of injury won’t revive. “It was the most incredible team work I’ve ever seen. … Everybody did what they’re trained to do.”

The teenager spent weeks in the hospital with a skull fracture, brain injury and internal injuries.

Cammarata also said this type of situation makes his job worthwhile.

“The rescue was the pinnacle of my career,” he said. “That was 15 years of training in the making, and it mattered for one guy. It’s something I think about every time I get on a chairlift with that uniform. If that could happen again, I better have my A game.”

During the off-season, Cammarata remains connected with the medical field as a paramedic and employee at the local hospital. He works at A-Basin full-time, year-round.

“(Cammarata’s) greatest assets are his communication and leadership skills,” said Tim Finnigan, director of mountain operations at A-Basin. “Combine that with his great sense of humor, he really connects with customers and employees. That makes A-Basin a great place to be.”

After more than a decade of work at “The Legend,” Cammarata still can’t picture himself working anywhere else. He considers himself lucky to be apart of A-Basin’s tight-knit ski community and would love to work there indefinitely.

“I know how much the ski area means to all the local folks and everywhere,” Cammarata said. “I consider it an honor to be a steward of that place, to take care of it. I like being part of the tradition, the long line of people who saw how special it was. I can’t imagine doing it anywhere else.”

“I’ll park cars, flip burgers, bump chairs, anything for the greater good of the ski area,” Cammarata added with a grin.

Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at crow@summitdaily.com.

Support Local Journalism