Lisle ski patrol volunteers ensure safety in sport they love
Lisle ski patrol volunteers ensure safety on the slopes while promoting sport they love
The 75 volunteers, who earned their red jackets with white cross, work in groups that vary from three to 16 members to keep skiers of all ages safe. The popular Lisle ski hill averages between 40,000 to 60,000 visits a year, according to its area director, Chris Buehler.
The first step to become a patroller is completion of the Outdoor Emergency Care course that covers how to handle emergencies, illnesses and injuries with an emphasis on the winter environment. Volunteers also are trained in CPR/AED and transporting and extricating injured skiers. Each candidate is registered with the National Ski Patrol System, a worldwide organization of more than 20,000 men and women. Class registration, books and dues cost approximately $200. In the Midwest, there are approximately 900 patrollers.
Each year, training for outdoor emergency care for all volunteers begins in early April and continues until the end of June. Some sessions are completed online. Each volunteer puts in 80 to 100 hours of learning along with 20 to 40 hours of on-hill training, according to Bret Duesdieker, a volunteer who oversees five patrols in the South region of the National Ski Patrol, of which Four Lakes is his base. He has been involved with ski patrol for 15 years.
"In the warmer months, we learn all the medical, and then start our on-hill training when we start to get snow," Duesdieker said. "A lot of our volunteers come because they love the sport and want to take it to the next level."
Duesdieker said high school and college volunteers come to do community service, or have an interest in medical fields. Nurses and paramedics volunteer to match their skills to their favorite sport.
"Each year, we refresh one-third of the book, which is like our bible," Duesdieker said. "Once you have the training, you are good to go on to advanced training such as avalanche training.
"We also have a good working relationship with the Lisle Woodridge Fire Department and its paramedics," he added.
Ski patroller Dave Allers grew up in Downers Grove in a skiing family.
"Back in the '50s, there were not as many skiers compared to today, and just a couple of ski hills," Allers said. "Every year or two, we would go on a ski vacation as a family."
When Four Lakes opened, Allers' father joined its ski patrol. When Allers finished college, he joined too. It's a position the Downers Grove resident has enjoyed for 48 years. He enjoys seeing small children first experience skiing, and Scout and church groups introduce their members to the sport.
Now Allers' own family is a ski family, and he enjoys traveling to the Rockies on ski vacations.
"Being a volunteer keeps me active and involved in the sport I love," Allers said. "It is an opportunity to volunteer, and I enjoy helping people."
Allers remembers volunteering on a couple of weekends when the temperatures reached 20 degrees below zero with a wind chill of 60 below. His advice? "Bundle up and stay out of the wind."
Growing up in Lisle and going to St. Joan of Arc Grade School and Downers Grove North High School, ski patroller Mark Briel started to ski as a preschooler with his family. His interest in joining the ski patrol was sparked when he received medical attention from a ski patrol.
"I was about 12 years old on a trip with the Four Lakes Race Team in Wisconsin when I skied right into a tree," Briel said. "I had to be taken down in a toboggan."
Briel continued to volunteer with a ski patrol while studying engineering at Montana State University in Bozeman for four years.
"Being part of the ski patrol is a great way for a young person to volunteer while getting out on the hill and in the fresh air," Briel said. "We have a good group of teens come through as volunteers. All have a passion to give back."
Highlighting Four Lakes' season is Midnight Madness from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, with discounted lift tickets and longer hours. On Saturday, Feb. 20, Snofest will have entertainment and a barbecue, and conclude with a stunning torchlight parade and fireworks at 6:30 p.m.
Four Lakes Ski Hill operates seven days a week and offers a variety of classes for all ages and levels of skiing and snowboarding ability. Private and group lessons are available both day and night. Groups, birthday parties, park districts, families, friends and individuals take lessons.
Ski and snowboard classes at Four Lakes will continue as long as there are cold temperatures to maintain the quality of its snow coverage, usually into early March. The facility can make snow when temperatures reach below freezing and with low humidity.
• Joan Broz writes about Lisle. Her column appears monthly in Neighbor.