Junior ski patrollers learn emergency safety training and CPR in Vail | VailDaily.com

Junior ski patrollers learn emergency safety training and CPR in Vail

Vail's first-ever Junior Ski Patrol program wrapped up on Sunday, Feb. 25, with 20 local kids graduating and receiving CPR certification.

Kids from eighth through 10th grades were given a chance to go behind the scenes and learn what it means to be a ski patroller over the course of several weekends in January and February. In addition to the medical instruction, students received beacon training and learned about toboggan running and other operations the Vail Ski Patrol takes part in.

It was also a chance for the kids — who at that age are now starting to ski on their own — to gain familiarity of the mountain. From the ski patrol hut at Eagle's Nest, one group was asked the fastest way to get to the bottom of the Sourdough lift. The group determined taking Chair 7 to Chair 5 would be fastest; they quickly descended the catwalk toward Game Creek Bowl and expertly skied the most direct line to the chairlift — a steep field of moguls.

Sally Gunter, with Vail Mountain, said one of the main goals of the program is to create a younger class of safety ambassadors.

"We want them to help demonstrate what safe skiing looks like," she said.

COULD BE EXPANDED

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Homestake Peak eighth grader Tegan Wiens, 13, said his favorite part of the course was the lift evacuation.

"There's lots of different lessons and things involved," Wiens said.

Brian Judge, of Vail, said his son, Thomas, 14, has been hoping for a program such as this one to pop up in Vail.

"Thomas had written a letter in the summer to Vail Resorts, asking them if he could get more involved as a youth on the mountain," Brian Judge said. "He wrote about his brother who had passed away and what his goals are about being in the medical profession."

Thomas' brother, Tucker, passed away a couple years ago from a debilitating genetic disease.

"(Thomas) has learned an immense amount about the mountain related to safety," Judge said. "Hopefully there's a level two program for next year."

Gunter said the first-year program was free to all kids involved and was a test of sorts to see if the program can be sustained and expanded.

"Twenty students was about perfect for the first year and what we were trying to do," she said.

One of the four days took place at Beaver Creek Resort; Gunter said that session might prove the concept for a separate program for Beaver Creek in the years to come.

"We hoping to expand both the number of participants and the number of resorts," she said.

Judge said his son wished the program took place every weekend.

"It was five sessions, but he wishes it was 15," Judge said.