On Patrol…

Seven years ago at this time of year, I was getting ready to start classes to become a National Ski Patroller in northeast Ohio. The first night was simply a registration session, time to pay for the course and pick up the syllabus, the big thick textbook and the almost-as-thick workbook.

As I drove to that first session, I had a panic attack. I started shaking and had an overwhelming urge to turn around and slink back home. This was a strange reaction for something I was looking forward to! I stopped in a parking lot and called a friend, explaining what was happening and asking her to pray for me.

nsp jacketAs she prayed, things suddenly became clear. I was hearing echoes from middle school—not athletic enough, not good-looking enough, not special enough, to join the “popular crowd.” In my mind, ski patrollers were the golden people, the good looking ones at the ski resort, the hot-shot skiers, the “in-crowd.” After all, EVERYONE wanted to wear one of those nifty jackets with the big cross on the back and be the hero to save people’s lives!

Once I recognized what was causing me to panic, I thanked my friend, hung up the phone, gulped a few times, and finished driving to that sign-up session. Yes, the training stretched my brain at times. Yes, I wasn’t sure I could master everything required to become a ski patroller. Yes, I was nervous about passing the skills test later that fall. But…I stuck with it.

I became one of the “golden-people.” I got to wear that special jacket. Even being overweight, older, and not-so-coordinated couldn’t stop me. I, yes I, was part of the National Ski Patrol.

Over the past seven years, I have enjoyed patrolling in a number of settings. I gained an instructor certification for the emergency care part of the certification process. With the encouragement of patroller friends, I persevered and gain my “senior” certification.

on patrolIt was often said that fellow ski patrollers become “family.” I wasn’t so sure about that. I enjoyed spending time with new friends, with mentors, and with fellow instructors. I delighted in helping students find the “aha moments” as they put together knowledge and skills in the classes. It was fun to see my kids get involved in the Jr. Patrol. But “family”? I already had plenty of that.

Then one of our sons died unexpectedly. Beyond close friends, church friends, and family, we were also joined by ski patrol “family” while we waited and mourned on that long, long day at the hospital. In the days and weeks following our son’s death, my ski patrol “family” surrounded us, bringing food and stories and cards and love. Yes, I realized, they truly were more than friends. They proved themselves to be “family.”

Our family moved to a remote area of New Mexico almost two years ago. We are working with at-risk Navajo young people. I love what we are doing. In addition, I am jumping through the hoops to transfer my EMT-B certification (earned before we moved out here) from Ohio to New Mexico, am taking an on-line instructor certification class, and am considering doing the work to get EMT-Intermediate certification.

I only wish there were ski resorts within a reasonable drive. Too bad the sheer-sided mesas out here don’t hold enough snow for skiing! I’m confident I made the right decision to not renew my ski patrol certifications…

…but I sure miss being one of the “golden-people.” I miss wearing the special jacket with the big white cross on the back. I miss being a hero to save people’s lives. Most of all, I miss my ski patrol “family.”

I was reminded of all I miss about being a ski patroller when I saw THIS VIDEO posted on facebook. It gives an excellent picture of what it is like to be a member of National Ski Patrol. I only wish it showed an older, overweight, not-so-coordinated patroller on the smaller hills of Ohio. Then it would truly be a picture of my experience as one of the elite—of me “on patrol.”

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jacci Angell
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 17:13:22

    Jill,

    You’ll ALWAYS be family! And if you ever miss the “bullseye” on your back, I’d be happy to tell you about the numerous times we’ve been targets, just in case you forgot that part! LOL!

    Big hugs and by the way… you ARE NOT OLD!

    Jacci

    Reply

    • jecolorfulheart
      Feb 27, 2012 @ 19:43:21

      awww…Thanks Jacci! and, um…yeah, now that you mention it I guess that cross really WAS a bullseye target at times! lol

      Reply

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