Christine Hill, Ski Patroller and First Aider At The Glencoe Ski Centre

Reporter: Janet Allan

This was our first meeting at the David Lloyd Centre. We met in a private room but were able to access the bar.

Christine gave us a very informative talk about her job as a Ski patroller and teacher of Mountain survival skills and First aid. She is a member of the British Association of Ski Patrollers (BASP) which is affiliated to the Federation Internationale des Patrouilles de Ski (FIPS). She has spent 10 years as a patroller in Glencoe.

She started by giving a ‘plug’ for the latest James Bond movie ‘Skyfall’ as her area appears in the film. Unfortunately she didn’t get the chance to meet Daniel Craig! Having subsequently seen the film as they filmed on a misty, damp day it was very atmospheric for the film but not a great advert for holidays in Scotland!

Glencoe is actually the oldest ski area in Scotland (pre WW2) with a vertical descent from 1108metres to 305metres and the steepest run of 45-50degrees in the gully.

The other ski areas in Scotland that have BASP staff are Nevis (where the beginners slopes are on top of the hill) and Glenshee (which has the largest area at 40 kms of runs). Cairngorm and Lecht have their own patrollers.

Christine and her husband are paid patrollers funded by the ski area and there are volunteer patrollers at weekends who undergo the same training. Quite a number of these are medical professionals.

She then explained just what a typical day contained.

Patrollers open the hill at 7am. This entails opening the tows, checking the runs and marking any hazards. They also check the avalanche risks and if necessary carry out ski cutting of edges and controlled explosions to avoid avalanches.

They assess the weather on the slopes and report if the resort is open or closed.

During the day they are available to be called out to any incident on the slopes.

At the end of the day they ensure the runs are clear.

Additional work is race course setting.

To qualify as a ski patroller they have to undergo extensive training in first aid and rescue skills which includes mountain, evacuation and casualty care skills. They need knowledge of the ski area they are working in and training in avalanche control. They have an annual training weekend and also CPD (Continuing Professional Development) in resort.

Avalanche awareness is also important. Many ski areas have transceiver parks and run courses for skiers and mountain users in probing for casualties.

During the summer Christine runs first aid training courses at Hemel Hempstead (which is BASP HQ) and anywhere in the UK where courses are requested.

Finally Christine discussed common incidents and injuries. There are 3 casualties per 1000 skier days. Common injuries are:

  • Skiers: soft tissue damage to joints (knees), dislocation & fracture of shoulder and legs
  • Boarders: fractures to wrist, ankles and shoulders.
  • Head and suspected spinal injuries are common to both.

Ski patrollers have to stabilise the casualty and get them off the hill so that they can get to hospital and treatment.

Christine’s enthusiasm and love for her job really came over in her talk.

I not only learned about her job but also what ‘snow chickens’ are. These are formed from footsteps in the snow which is more compacted than the snow around them and when the wind blows (which it often does in the Scotland!) the soft snow is blown away leaving the steps proud of the surrounding snow.