Diary of a Ski Patrolman: Week 17

There are many reasons why Okemo has been a good place to be this winter. We’ve had epic snow and beautiful days bathed in sunlight. But each time I was asked on the chair lift, “So what’s it like working here?” I replied that it was the people, more than anything else, that made it […]

By Josh Allen

Apr 01 2011

A Frozen Window
Photo Credit : Allen, Josh

There are many reasons why Okemo has been a good place to be this winter. We’ve had epic snow and beautiful days bathed in sunlight. But each time I was asked on the chair lift, “So what’s it like working here?” I replied that it was the people, more than anything else, that made it fulfilling. And since this will be my final entry for the winter, I want to remember them here. Everyone that I have met this winter will continue to shape who I am for the better, even as the snow turns to snaking streams cascading down the rocks of Okemo, I will remember the laughs, fierce chills, uncertainties, and successes that we all shared.

So here’s a goodbye and thanks to: Charlie: My competition for food and a source of lots of laughter, usually at my expense. But I’ll never look at roofs quite the same, either…

Ben N.: Long jumper extraordinaire, telemark skier of death-defying skills, announcer in hiding, and scientific philosopher. A good conversation was never far away.

Beno: Master of poker and helping people at the Jackson Gore Rental Shop. You made snowboarding aesthetically cool, so I tried it and failed miserably.

Chuck: Clearly skilled on the board, and equally skilled as a leprechaun dispatcher. And Sean Connery lurks somewhere within you, which is pretty epic as well.

Noah: Discussed the awesomeness of pints of Ben & Jerry’s at length. You allowed me to learn countless things without feeling stupid. And most of all, you showed me how Okemo is a home, albeit a colder one than mine [didn’t think that was possible, either].

Ben “Firetruck” M.: Elite driving skills, an impeccable taste in music, and endless enthusiasm about everything. Just a heck of a lot of fun to be around. Whenever I hear a siren, I’ll probably look around for you.

Kara: One of my housemates, sharing in the struggles of a frigid abode and rising for the day’s happenings in darkness. You worked hard, and it showed. You made tremendous progress, and made me realize that whatever I struggle with in life, I can work through it as you did.

Ben “Lemon” T.: With us for training, you made the room lighter in a good way. Your energy raised everyone’s to a new level. Especially on those days of endless backboard training in the harsh summit winds, you helped us get through it.

Jimbo: One of our OEC teachers, and fellow patroller. It was not only the amount that I learned from you that was impressive, but the way in which you taught. Learning was fun and I actually read everything in the book for the first time. Don’t tell my college professors about that. . .

Tom: Our other awesome teacher, and duster-wearing patroller. If you were in trouble, Tom could probably help, in the bluntest way possible. But that’s a good thing.

Tim: Your homemade stews were exquisite, and your ability to make us all laugh our hearts out unmatchable. Whenever you spoke in the hut, I knew it was going to be good, and I listened intently. And your snowmobile skills, I think, are pretty impressive too. After all, I’m pretty sure you never rolled your sled. . .whereas I might know of a few others that did.

Jeff: You charged it while skiing, and were the calmest voice on the radio while assisting a patient. In attempting to mimic your sense of calm, I became more relaxed on accident scenes, and became a better patroller. Oh, and your mustache is probably going to win an award for best mustache ever. . .but you already know that.

Rob: Although you began the season with a toasted knee, you ended up ripping the heck out of the mountain and showing it the true way of the telemarker. Your good humor and cheer illuminated the hut when we needed it most, and your ability to raise the stoke was unparalleled.

Aaron: You fixed the refrigerator door to open the correct way. That allowed me to access tasty things easier, which I will forever be in your debt for doing. Persuaded me to begin a “no snow-spray list,” which was probably a smart idea. . .and led to a better plan for self-preservation. But I’ll always remember my trip down To Snowtrak fondly. Also, you’re the best skier on the mountain.

Chris: Hard to hear on the radio, but always had something good to say. So I cranked up the volume, only to have my ears violated by the next person to speak. Also inspired me to get muffins on more than one occasion. . ..

Ryan: When my legs were suffering during the first snowplow tests you rallied me on. Yes, I still had to repeat that first test because I stopped to look at the view, but it was good to have your support. And that support was always there, and it was very helpful in all aspects of patrolling. Also congrats on being the poker world champion.

Michelle: You helped me speed things up, way back in the beginning. I remember taking forever to do a trail check, until you gently nudged me along, and after that point I realized I could move faster on my openings. So thank you for that friendly kick, it served me well all season.

Eric: Although I didn’t get to ski with you, I hear you are quite legendary on the slopes. But the many times I saw you in the First Aid room, you always helped my patients tremendously. Even that guy that talked 1000 words per second. . .remember him? Maybe next time we’ll put the ice on his face. . .

Bob: We may have had some differences in terms of squirrels, but it’s okay. I understand and respect your intention to provide for the birds of Okemo, rather than for the greedy squirrels. . .But you know they are cute. Uh oh, I might have to hide after saying that. . .

Mike: A strong leader, able to command our foolish natures and redirect us to better ends. But you also didn’t hesitate to have fun yourself, which is just as important.

Jim: You care a lot about patrol and Okemo, and it showed all winter. Whether it was reminding us that we were doing a good job, or reminding us we needed to perk up a bit, your words always had a good effect on us.

I could say countless more things about countless more individuals, but that is not for these pages. This was just a place to remember but a thing or two and I know it is inadequate, and it is not enough. There will never be a place, though, that can adequately capture my experiences of the winter with my many co-workers and friends. Somewhere on the snow-covered slopes of Okemo there remains a part of each of us, there remains the sound of laughter echoing over the headwall of Screamin’ Demon, or on the pitches of Eclipse, or perhaps the base of the Solitude lift. But really, it’s everywhere, at least for me — that sound of enjoyment, of contentment, of time well spent, and of a job well done.

Okemo continues to be open. Go to for latest conditions.