Women ski patrollers of Alyeska Ski Resort

2020 has been a great year to be a skier in Southcentral Alaska. After a slow start skiing has been great whether on the nordic trails, the backcountry, or resort skiing. Alyeska Ski Resort has received over 450” of snow as of mid-March. With its moderate to steep terrain, and large mountains surrounding the ski area, that snow brings skiers. With skiers comes the responsibility of making sure the runs are as safe as possible, and when accidents do occur there is a quick and effective response. Ski patrollers, avalanche specialists, medical personnel, and search and rescue dogs and their handlers make up what we know as the ski patrol. Ski patrols, which also include snowboarders, started in the 1930’s. For decades ski patrols were primarily male. However, in the past 20 years, more women have become ski patrollers. This show features the women patrollers of Alyeska, how they became patrollers, and what are their challenges and joys of their work.

And we received this after the recordings were made:

Ben  Habecker is the Alyeska Ski Patrol Director and has been instrumental in increasing the number of women on the patrol.  He writes: “20+ years ago this patrol was largely dominated by men. There were some years that our long-timers would tell you that there were only 1 or maybe 2 women on the patrol. In the past 15 years or so I’ve seen more and more qualified women applying for Ski Patrol jobs here. Right now, 17 of 56 pro patrollers are women.  I do believe that women bring a welcomed cultural change to this patrol. This job can be very challenging and demanding. And we work in a very difficult environment. Those qualities make many people think a bigger and strong person would be better at it. Men often muscle their way through things at this job, while women continually demonstrate that it can be done regardless of  ‘bigger and stronger.’   Take toboggan handling for example. When a new patroller is learning how to drive a toboggan to get a patient off the hill if that new patroller receives training from an experienced large male patroller AND from an experienced small patroller they will teach the new patroller how to get the same 250lb patient off the mountain safely.  But the way they each handle the toboggan is very different, and it’s good for everyone to see that difference in achieving the same goal.  Finesse versus muscle.  Those differences are embraced and we all learn from them and become a better team for it.”  

HOST: Paul Twardock

GUESTS:

  • Heather Thamm: Level 3 Patroller
  • Lesley Seale: a relatively new patroller
  • Lynn Whitcomb: Aid Room Supervisor
  • Beth Cleary: Snow Safety Technician
  • Stacey Lordan: Search and Rescue dog handler
  • Stella Lydon: providing a young girl skier’s perspective on the professionals

LINKS:

BROADCAST: Thursday, March 19th, 2020. 2:00 pm – 3:00 p.m. AKT

REPEAT BROADCAST:  Thursday, March 19th, 2020. 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. AKT

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Eric Bork, or you can just call him “Bork” because everybody else does, is the FM Operations Manager for KSKA-FM. He oversees the day-to-day operations of the FM broadcast. He produces and edits episodes of Outdoor Explorer, the Alaska-focused outdoors program. He also maintains the web posts for that show. You may have heard him filling in for Morning Edition or hosting All Things Considered and can still find him operating the soundboard for any of the live broadcast programs. After escaping the Detroit area when he was 18, Bork made it up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where he earned a degree in Communications/Radio Broadcasting from Northern Michigan University. He spent time managing the college radio station, working for the local NPR affiliate, and then in top 40 radio in Michigan before coming to Alaska to work his first few summers. After then moving to Chicago, it only took five years to convince him to move back to Alaska in 2010. When not involved in great radio programming he’s probably riding a bicycle, thinking about riding bicycles, dreaming about bikes, reading a book, or planning the next place he’ll travel to. Only two continents left to conquer!

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