Editor’s note: as of January 2016, Dr. Eric Massanyi, an Akron Children’s pediatric and adolescent urologist, joined the BMBW patrol, but has been a ski patroller for 21 years. “It’s one of the reasons I pursued a career in medicine,” he said. In fact, he learned to ski at 2 years old at BMBW.
Throughout ski season, they join the largest ski patrol in the U.S. – more than 280 strong – to serve as safety advocates and provide emergency first aid on and off the mountain.
Each season, they assist more than 1,200 injured skiers and snowboarders, helping with anything from abrasions, dislocations and fractures to head injuries and heart attacks.
Ski patrol superstar
“Every day, and sometimes multiple times a day, we need a toboggan to get skier or snowboarder off the hill,” said Dr. Spector. “It’s our job to quickly respond, assess and transport the injured down the steep and sometimes icy hill.”
Something he does pretty well, added Dr. Bird.
“When Dr. Spector is patrolling the slopes, he seems to take on a new persona,” he said. “At the hospital, he is a mild-mannered, regular guy. On the slopes, he’s a ski patrol superstar, swishing down the hill at lightning speed to rescue a skier in distress.”
In just 6 years at Boston Mills/Brandywine (BMBW) in Peninsula, Ohio, Dr. Spector has assumed three roles:
- Senior-level ski patroller
- Patroller training instructor
- Medical advisor, charged with adapting national protocols to BMBW
He has also served as a ski instructor to the Mogul Mites (ages 5 – 7) and is working toward Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) Level 3 Certification to improve his skiing and teaching ability.
It may seem like a lot of responsibility for someone who’s a leading pediatric heart surgeon during the day, but Dr. Spector just shrugs it off.
“I just try to be as organized as I can,” said Dr. Spector. “I really joined the BMBW team to spend more time with my teenage daughters, who were working the ski lifts at the time.”
The patrollers may be volunteers, but earning this status is a coveted honor, and a lot of work.
To be certified, team members must complete 120 hours of training, and 10 hours each year thereafter, in addition to spending about 100 hours a year working on the slopes.
Born to ski
A simple help wanted sign in the window at BMBW piqued Green’s interest, who’s been skiing there since age 7.
Her nursing skills made her a good candidate, but she also thought it would be a perfect way to get out of the house, stay active in the winter and ski for free. This is her 13th season volunteering for the ski patrol.
“Everyone supports each other on the hills and off, winter and summer,” said Green, who’s an emergency department clinical coordinator. “Not only do we patrol the hills when the snow flies, but we are involved in summer activities as well. We staff the first aid tent for Thomas the Tank Engine events, Special Olympics events and the annual swap meet. We even flip burgers at the Boston Mills Art Fest.”
Learning on the fly
Dr. Bird, vice president of quality and patient safety, is the newest to the team, with one season under his snowboard. As an emergency medicine physician, he is well-suited to the role, but his snowboarding skills are taking a little longer to develop.
“I’ve gotten better after many hours of lessons, but I still need to pass a test before I’ll be allowed to bring a patient down the slopes,” said Dr. Bird.
It’s a learning curve shared by many who have been bit by the skiing/snowboarding bug, an experience the kings of the mountain hope to make a safe and fun journey.
Editor’s note: as of January 2016, Dr. Mike Bird is beginning his 5th year and is now a certified alpine patroller.