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Ski Patrol sweeps Beaver Creek for safety

Chris Outcalt
coutcalt@vaildaily.com
Beaver Creek, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyBeaver Creek ski patroller Adam Tormey stands in silence as he checks the mountain for skiers during the final sweep Tuesday at Beaver Creek, Colorado
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BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” Addy McCord skied slowly 50 yards down from the ski patrol hut at the top of the Cinch Express Lift at Beaver Creek, Colorado, looked to her right, saw another patroller waving his ski pole in the air and kept skiing.

“Closing,” McCord, the mountain’s ski patrol director, yelled while making sweeping turns across the Centennial trail.

It was after 4 p.m., the mountain had closed and McCord and every other member of the patrol were working their way down the hill systematically, making sure they were the only people on it.



“We view it as a courtesy to our guests,” McCord said. “Somebody skies or site-clears all the terrain ” anything that’s signed as a trail is cleared and swept.”

They use the term sweep, said McCord, because it describes the way they search the mountain.



“It’s called sweep because we sweep the trail,” she said. “We keep the guests in front of us.”

Everyday at 4:08 p.m., some of the Beaver Creek Ski Patrol leave the top of the main mountain and start the sweep. The rest of the patrol is “sweeping” Rose Bowl, Grouse Mountain, Larkspur Bowl, Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead.

The process takes about half an hour on the main mountain, and longer at some of the other spots. There are a handful of checkpoints the patrollers stop at to make sure there aren’t any problems. If they see the person sweeping the trail next to them wave, they know nothing is wrong and to keep skiing to the next checkpoint.



“I think if someone has lived in a ski area they probably know (we do this),” McCord said. “A lot of our guests probably aren’t familiar with it.”

It’s not uncommon for people to report friends or family missing, McCord said. But the person usually isn’t missing on the mountain. More often, people get separated somewhere off the mountain, McCord said.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time we don’t find anything,” she said. “Most people know it’s getting dark and cold and want to leave.”

The patrollers did find a few people left on the mountain Monday.

After starting their search, someone from the bottom of the mountain radioed to the patrol that a father had reported his son missing and thought he was in the trees on the 4 Get About It run.

A patroller was sweeping the Nastar ski racing trail next to 4 Get About It when he found a boy standing in the middle of the run. The boy had left his skis in the trees and walked to the trail. A patroller gave him a ride on a snowmobile down to the bottom of mountain where his parents were waiting.

Monday’s sweep also turned up a woman that had hurt her leg and needed help getting down the mountain, and a couple snowboarders that were still riding the halfpipe.

McCord considers sweeping the mountain one of the most important things ski patrollers do.

“It’s pretty high, even though we don’t have a lot of activity,” she said.

As part of safety week ” which ends Friday ” the ski patrol are inviting the public along with them while they sweep the mountain.

Local skier Clay Cammon joined the patrol on their sweep Monday.

“I was curious,” Cammon said. “It’s an important public service.”

The ski patrol also has a system to make sure everyone conducting the sweep makes it off the mountain. Inside the ski patrol locker room, each patroller has a magnet assigned to them that is either in an “on the mountain” or “off the mountain” column.

Once they’re done for the day, they move it to “off the mountain.”

“It’s also about the safety of the ski patrol,” McCord said.

Making the public aware of how and why things are done they way they are on the mountain has always been one of the biggest challenges for the ski patrol, McCord said.

“In the 28 years I’ve been ski patrolling, it’s the same,” she said. “It’s the education.”

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or coutcalt@vaildaily.com.


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