Archive for Sunday, November 4, 1990

SKI PATROL

November 4, 1990

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— Walt Hoeflflicker of Olathe stretched himself out on the sidewalk in front of the Snow Creek ski lodge last Sunday and prepared to be a `back-injury victim.'

A team of five Snow Creek Volunteer Ski Patrol members all from Lawrence calmly worked Hoeflflicker through the first-aid steps appropriate for a suspected back injury.

When they finished, he was securely trussed up on a wooden backboard, ready to move to a hospital.

The emergency scenerio was one of several staged for patrol members during an annual two-day retraining last weekend at Snow Creek Ski Area, just north of Weston, about 60 miles from Lawrence via Leavenworth.

MEMBERS of the ski patrol reviewed and practiced procedures for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and Basic Life Support for the Professional Rescuer, as well as chairlift evacuations.

When snow arrives, there will be ski clinics too.

"We train for the worst and still 60 percent of the injuries are (twisted) knees," said patrol director Jerry Shuck of Leavenworth. "But when there are problems, people are trained."

The Snow Creek Volunteer Ski Patrol has provided emergency first aid and rescue services at the Weston ski area since it opened five years ago.

Patrolers work in cooperation with Snow Creek owners but are not employees there.

Many patrolers also volunteer as first-aiders in their home communities, and some of them, including Lawrence residents Nick Farrell and Bill Merkel, volunteer as First Aid and CPR trainers for such organizations as the American Red Cross and the American Heart Assn.

FARRELL, coordinator of ski patrol activities with the Lawrence Red Cross, said they help out in Lawrence at Independence Days, Lawrence Track Club events, Art in the Park, Special Olympics and Junior Olympics.

The patrol also helps with Kansas Special Winter Olympics, held at Snow Creek.

No ski area now operates in Kansas, the patrolers said, but the nearby Missouri facility draws many Kansans interested in the sport, and in ski patrol work.

Lawrence resident Alan King is one of the patrol's founders and regional director of the National Ski Patrol's central division, under whose auspices the Snow Creek patrol operates.

He said many people also use Snow Creek to get in shape for Colorado skiing or to give the sport a try.

THE FACILITY has nine intermediate and two beginner slopes, and snowmaking equipment that keeps it from having to depend on natural snowfall. Opening this year is scheduled for some time in December.

Nine Lawrence residents King, Farrell, Merkel, Peter Houston, Gary Sampson, Dick and Vicki Friede, and Larry T. and Shelly Shenefield are among the more than 50 volunteer patrolers.

Also among this year's patrol candidates-in-training is yet another Lawrence resident, Tim Pennington.

The rest of the patrolers come from Missouri, Oklahoma and other Kansas cities.

King said they all put in hours and hours of time to provide emergency services at Snow Creek, which permits them to ski without charge in return for their efforts.

In season, Snow Creek operates seven days a week: from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.

TO PROVIDE adequate emergency care during those hours, members are required to work 10 shifts, which average six hours each, every season, according to Houston, another charter member of the patrol.

Some work even more and only a few are paid to work the late night shifts, he and King said.

Patroler Mark Rowland of Booneville, Mo., tracks injuries for the patrol and said hand injuries follow twisted knees as most common, although many sprained thumbs are never reported.

Serious emergencies, which patrolers said have occurred only a couple of times a year at Snow Creek so far, include back injuries, head injuries that leave a skier unconscious and serious fractures.

"In a lot of ways, it's like pre-hospital emergency care," Rowland said of the patrol's work, and Shuck added, "It's the equivalent to EMT (Emergency Medical Treatment), except we don't do stuff like snake bites."

SHUCK SAID he thinks that after five years, the group is "just starting to come of age." Fifty percent of the members have been patroling three years now and 20 percent have been involved all five years.

Four members have 20 years or more experience with the National Ski Patrol.

"They're maturing," Shuck said, "molding into leadership roles now."

As "first responders," Shuck noted, patrol members arrive at accidents before any other emergency personnel.

"Our challenge is to do the very best we can do on the hill because we are `it,'" he said, adding that the professional medical personnel among them often find the work interesting because they're on the front line as patrolers, rather than in the controlled environments of a hospital or doctor's office.

"Outside in the cold and snow," he said, "you work with what you have."

THE ONLY advanced life support available there is Life Flight, he said, noting ski patrolers are as well trained as ambulance personnel who might be called in to help transport an injured person.

Patrol members train according to National Ski Patrol regulations.

Merkel, a Snow Creek patroler three years, said their training begins with a Winter Emergency Care Course, which requires 16 lessons of three to four hours each.

Shuck noted their WEC course also is used by the National Search and Rescue Assn. and many highway patrols because it better addresses emergency efforts with respect to environmental situations in the field than similar courses.

Persons who successfully complete WEC qualify to work in the patrol's First Aid Room at Snow Creek.

Merkel noted this year's WEC course is nearly complete, but interested people may sign up for next year's and be trained in time to help out during the 1991-92 ski season.

TO WORK ON the slopes, patrolers undergo further training in ski skills and tobagganing, which is how injured skiers are brought down the slopes.

King noted most people who volunteer for the patrol already have some skiing skills but all must pass a proficiency test on the slopes before they can go out on calls.

Patrolers qualified to work the slopes wear distinctive navy and rust-colored jackets to distinguish themselves as emergency personnel.

Those who attain that level of expertise can further their skills with a variety of continuing education courses, King said, and Shuck noted, "The more you do, the more there is to challenge you."

Continuing education courses involve basic mountaineering, which includes survival and rescue; basic avalanche, which includes snow physics, avalanche hazards and how to participate in an avalanche rescue party; and various more advanced levels of skiing and tobagganing.

KING SAID he is probably the only mountaineering and avalanche instructor in the state of Kansas.

Annual refreshers, like last weekend's two-day event, are mandatory.

Patrolers said Snow Creek provides emergency equipment for their use, but patrol members also stage fund-raisers to purchase additional materials they deem necessary.

Patrolers also have established a special project fund, aiming to raise $60,000 for the expansion of their facilities at the ski area.

Merkel noted the patrol's current first-aid room, a small room at one end of the lodge, is to be replaced by a separate, larger ski patrol building, to be built near the lodge.

Some construction commitments already have been donated, he said, but the patrol must raise $15,000 of a estimated $30,000 needed for the building to begin construction.

The other $30,000 of the $60,000 special fund is designated for equipment, Farrell said.

SKI PATROLS use such medical equipment as exam tables, splints, crash packs and backboards. Their special equipment includes radios, sleds and evacuation tools, and their training equipment, such items as CPR dummies and training manuals. Office equipment and such other items as ski racks and lockers also will be needed.

He noted that to date, just a little over $1,000 of the $60,000 has been raised.

A major fund-raiser is upcoming, however. The group will stage its fourth annual Ski Sale and Swap from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 10 at Snow Creek. Both new and used equipment will be sold.

In between retraining and preparing for the swap meet, some patrolers also are gearing up for another community service effort working Special Olympics Nov. 16 and 17 in Lawrence.

"Basically, ski patrolers are givers," Merkel said, and King added, "The people who stay in it are. They have lots of esprit de corps."

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