JAY VAN ZEELAND
NSP: When did you become a patroller, and what led you to start patrolling?
Jay: While I can honestly say that I started patrolling about the turn of the century, I am thankful that that wasn't too long ago. As a child, I had always seen the patrollers on the hill and didn't know much about them. They just looked cool in their rust-andblue uniforms. Over the years, I have been very involved in first aid and eventually gained my EMT-Intermediate license. After an incident on a ski hill where I was the first on scene and worked with other patrollers, I was approached by the patrol director asking if I wanted to be part of the patrol. I jumped at the chance. Shortly after beginning patrolling, I continued my education to gain my paramedic license and have been practicing prehospital medicine for 25 years. I see the ski patrol as the fun extension of my job; I can take care of people and have a lot of fun too.
NSP: What did you find most challenging about patroller training prior to becoming a patroller?
Jay: As a long-time EMT, I had good skills, but there were some potato/potaato differences that I had to learn between EMS and OEC. My instructor would tell you that the hardest lesson that I had to learn was humility.
NSP: How many cups of coffee do you drink during a patrol shift?
Jay: Coffee get's cold too fast at a ski resort; I just stick to caffeinated soda, as it tastes better cold.
NSP: Powder or groomers?
Jay: While I would love to ski powder more, we don't generate enough natural snow in our area to ski anything other than groomers.
NSP: What have you learned the most about yourself from patrolling?
Jay: I LOVE customer service! I enjoy spending a large part of my day playing with the guests and finding ways to brighten their day. Our patrol motto is "We Pick You Up When You're Down!" and I spend a large part of the day ensuring that everyone's spirits are lifted as well. I really do enjoy making people smile.
NSP: What do you find most rewarding about patrolling and being a member of the National Ski Patrol?
Jay: Without question, the friends! I look at all of the members of our patrol, and other patrollers in the region, as friends. I look for ways that we can stay together year-round. With the season approaching, I'm looking forward to seeing all of them on the snow.
NSP: What makes you come back each year to continue being a patrol director?
Jay: When I took over the patrol, it was in a bit of disarray. I enjoy the challenge of rebuilding the group and finding ways that we can help our resort and customers. Now I enjoy finding ways to continue to make us even better. It does involve a lot of work and dedication, but the members of our patrol are worth the effort.
NSP: Do you have any advice for patrollers interested in becoming a patrol director?
Jay: My recommendations come in three parts. First, if given the opportunity, DO IT! Becoming a patrol director has reignited my excitement for skiing! From the moment that we close the hill for the season, I begin looking for ways to make the next year better. It is not an easy job, it involves a lot of work and passion, but it is worth every minute.
Second, find great patrollers and instructors that you can delegate tasks to. They will be your strongest asset as you grow the patrol. They will be your sounding board and your mentors. Look for people with more experience than you. A good manager is not judged by their knowledge, but by the people that they refer to for knowledge.
Third, recruit young people! Most of us know that the patrol is aging and we need to find new, energetic, young people to help us grow into the future. I think that the Young Adult Patroller Program is our best, most underutilized opportunity. Start recruiting with high school guidance counselors and find students interested in a career in medicine, public safety, hospitality, or the military. These skills will benefit them throughout their lives and benefit the National Ski Patrol as they continue with patrolling.