Gonzalez works to keep ski slopes safe


Sophomore Gracie Gonzalez is a Young Adult Patroller at 15.

After watching adult ski patrol members evacuate skiers who were on a lift that had broken down, sophomore Gracie Gonzalez was motivated to join a youth ski patrol program.

Then after she became a Young Adult Patroller, she got to participate in a similar rescue herself. When the ski lift broke down, she and others had to do a chair evacuation, helping people to get down.

When a lift breaks, patrollers throw a rope over the line and they connect it to a seat, which is then raised up to the skiers. Skiers on the lift tie the rope around themselves and are brought down to safety.

“We all worked as a team,” she said. 

Since Patrollers and Young Adult Patrollers are trained for situations like these, Gonzalez was prepared. 

“We have specific days where we train for evacuations all day,” she said. 

Typically, the ski patroller position is only available to those who are 18 or older. Gonzalez, however, is a part of the Young Adult Patroller program, which allowed her to begin early. The volunteer program is designed for 15- to 17-year-olds to help develop and teach snow safety and injury prevention.

Gonzalez started skiing at the age of 2 and is now a Young Adult Patroller at 15 years old. Her inspiration to begin skiing was her father, who is also her role model. 

My dad is a great skier and he’s the one who taught me. He is also on ski patrol, which inspired me to join,” Gonzalez said. 

Sophomore Julia Johnson said Gonzalez shows passion for skiing. 

“I know she started (in the youth patrol) because of her dad, but she really likes it and she’s very good at it,” she said. 

Gonzalez’s history teacher, Christopher Reilsono, saluted her accomplishment. 

“She’s one of the youngest to do it, which is a testament to her leadership abilities,” he said. 

As a Young Adult Patroller, she does not work regular shifts but works on the weekends from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or longer. 

“I am currently a volunteer and can’t get paid until I am 18,” she said. 

To get the position of a Young Adult Patroller, she trained over the summer as well as a part of the school year. 

“I had to take an outdoor emergency care course over the summer that took six months and many hours of studying. After I completed that, I had to do on-the-hill training in order to help the patient down the hill,” she said. 

As a Young Adult Patroller, Gonzalez is expected to patrol the slopes to spot any injuries that occur, and then help get the patient off the mountain. 

Gonzalez said this is not as simple of a job as people may assume. In addition to the extensive training, ski patrol members must be able to expect the unexpected and react quickly.

“You’re on an incline and people can get injured in so many different ways. It’s like a giant puzzle trying to figure out what to do,” she said.

She has been involved in the rescue of a young boy who had broken his arm, as well as helping several skiers who have had knee injuries.

While being a Young Adult Patroller comes with many difficulties, Gonzalez feels that the experience is worth it. 

“Skiing helps clear my head and is basically my therapy. I have had so many great memories on skis and I am forever grateful for the lifelong friends I have made,” she said. 

Being around the skiing scene from such a young age has helped her build many connections. 

“I got to know the people and atmosphere and knew what I wanted to do,” she said. 

Her mentors who are on patrol have been her biggest supporters. 

“My mentors have helped shape me into the person I am today,” she said. 

Gonzalez aspires to go to a local university, where she wants to study physical therapy. Along with this, she plans to manage ski patrol on the side.

“I plan on working at the same ski patrol place no matter where I go, but I mainly want to be a physical therapist for the military,” she said.