Waiting for snow, ski patrollers, from left, Ron Hately, Diane Lemay, and Craig Taggart are set for another season on the slopes. Taggart, recruitment coordinator for Canadian Ski Patrol P.E.I., hopes to have a dozen patrollers join the 28 already committed to patrol at the Brookvale Provincial Ski Park this winter. Guardian photo by Jim Day
Ron Hately doesn't flinch when a fellow skier or snowboarder takes a nasty tumble.
He springs into action.
Hately of Charlottetown doesn't consider any of the many incidents he has dealt with over the years as having been difficult or intimidating because of the strong training he and all other ski patrollers receive.
The patrollers are ready and able to respond effectively to a host of mishaps on the slopes, from cuts and bruises to fractures and head and spinal injuries.
"We're trained so well,'' Hately says matter-of-factly.
"Sixty hours of first aid training. It's not an eight-hour weekend course to get your certificate. It's very intense. They give you lots of practice.''
So much so, in fact, the ski patrollers simply slip into "automatic mode'' when they are called upon to come to the aid of a skier or a snowboarder in distress.
Some local ski patrollers have even gone into the paramedics trade.
"Whatever the situation is, you're going to handle it because we're trained to do so,'' he says.
Hately has been a ski patroller for 29 years, the large majority spent at Brookvale Provincial Ski Park but also a handful of years in Massachusetts with America's national ski patrol.
He never envisioned a 29-year and counting volunteer role as a ski patroller when a friend brought him on board during his university days.
He simply has never shaken the bug of helping people while doing something he loves: skiing.
Diane Lemay of Mermaid is far newer than Hately to the role of ski patroller. She is waiting for the snow to fly so she can head into her fourth year of coming to the aid of skiers and snowboarders at Brookvale.
Lemay, who has skied practically all her life, usually patrols the slopes on Saturdays. She quickly developed a keen eye for detail.
"You're more aware of what other people are doing,'' she says.
"You keep your eye open...it's just a more general awareness of the hill.''
Lemay and Hately are among about 28 people so far committed to hit Brookvale later this year as ski patrollers.
Craig Taggart, recruitment coordinator for Canadian Ski Patrol PEI, would like to add another dozen recruits to that number.
"If we could hit 40 that would be awesome,'' says Taggart, who is heading into his 20th year on snow patrol.
"I just love it. I enjoy helping people...Personally, I get a good feeling out of the whole thing.''
The role of ski patroller is really two-fold, notes Taggart.
Obviously, coming to the aid of a snowboarder or skier in need of help is paramount. Wrist and collarbone injuries are the most prevalent mishap at Brookvale.
In total, patrollers may collectively respond to about 100 incidents in a season to aid a skier or snowboarder.
"The accident rate is quite low,'' notes Taggart.
"We'd rather be there and nothing happens than something happens and we're not there.''
Preventing accidents is the second role of the ski patrollers. They consistently promote safe skiing practices.
Hately opts for a soft approach.
When he sees a snowboarder or skier doing something potentially dangerous, he will chat "diplomatically'' with the person rather than tear a strip of him or her.
"Ninety-nine percent of people respond very well to that,'' he says.
Brookvale patrollers measure up well against fellow patrollers across the country.
They have placed third in national first aid competitions with one member placing first. Another member, Greg McCormick, is the current national first aid competition coordinator.
Taggart is putting out the call for volunteers to join this dedicated group of ski patrollers.
Ski patrollers are asked to commit to doing a minimum of one four-hour shift a week.
Some patrollers even volunteer as first aid responders away from the slopes at activities like marathons and sporting events.
While they receive no pay, the patrollers do get a free ski pass for the season at Brookvale and are able to ski other slopes as well. They also have access to good deals on ski accessories.
But the real reward, notes Hately, comes from coming to the aid of skiers and snowboarders.
"I like helping people,'' he says.