Reviewing the News w/ Cody Townsend (August 2022) (Ep.225)

on the Blister Podcast, Cody and Jonathan discuss what’s going on at the National Ski Patrol; the proposed Little Cottonwood Canyon Gondola; “pigloos”; mountain-town advice; what we’re reading & watching; and more.
photo by GP Martin / Arcade Belts

Cody and I discuss what’s going on at the National Ski Patrol; the proposed Little Cottonwood Canyon Gondola; “pigloos”; mountain-town advice; what we’re reading & watching; and more.

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14 comments on “Reviewing the News w/ Cody Townsend (August 2022) (Ep.225)”

  1. I was very interested in the gondola conversation, and I’m interested to see how it progresses. I currently attend SFU in BC, and there is also a gondola discussion for getting students up the hill to the university

  2. Telluride has a gondala that goes from the town to the mountain village that takes about 12 minutes or so. It is free and a really convenient way to connect the town with the resort. It makes it easy to stay in the town, which is much cheaper, and get to the resort every day.

    I’m really concerned with the 1,000 people per hour rate that was stated by Cody in this episode. I was expecting quite a bit higher rate than that, and if that is really the rate then it would be something that people wouldn’t ride due to having to wait in long lines.

    The idea of only allowing buses is interesting, but don’t people live along the way? I’ve only driven it the last two years for ski trips to Alta, but I think people live along the road. How do you allow those people to use it but keep the skiers from doing so?

  3. I’m a volunteer patroller and NSP member at a small local resort. Can I add some perspective that I think you’re missing? I agree that the NSP board is totally dysfunctional, I have no argument that a complete house cleaning seems to be in order.
    I will push back on a few things you said. For example, it is very common in many rural areas for local EMTs to be volunteers, and many serve alongside paid professionals. I’ve seen some disparaging comments about the Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) training program of the NSP. The fact is that it is quite similar to a basic EMT course. I’m sure there are EMTs who would disagree, and certainly there are differences in the application of the training and the degree of professionalism among a vast network of volunteer patrollers. But my experience has been that very many volunteer patrollers I’ve worked with who are OEC trained are equally competent to patrollers who are also EMTs.
    Why would a resort rely on volunteers? Using my experience at our local hill, assume a mountain that also offers night skiing is open ~80 hours per week. How many patrollers on shift are required to staff the top and bottom of the mountain, and run calls, and be available for a lift evacuation or major incident? 5-6? Maybe more at busier times? Now say for a low-elevation, mom and pop ski hill the winter season lasts 12 weeks. How many certified EMTs that can also competently ski a patient down in a toboggan are going to be willing to work that many hours for a 3 month season at a lower-tier mountain?
    I’ve never patrolled at a big resort with a mix of volunteers and pros, but I have many friends who have. And it really doesn’t sound like a great system generally. I think for big resorts, especially in the west with longer seasons, major avalanche hazard, and legitimately gnarly terrain, pro patrols make the most sense. But I think you guys are a little biased towards the marquis resorts and aren’t thinking about the dozens of smaller hills, the feeder system, whose only chance to keep operating is to keep costs low and entice people to ski marginal snow conditions close to home. For those resorts a volunteer patrol makes the most sense, and that’s what the NSP provides: a national standards organization that provides consistent training resources and is recognized and accepted by the ski resort insurance providers.

    • Thanks for this Steve. I have been interested in getting more involved in the community, have been a skier my whole life, and thought Ski patrol would be a great way to too that. I am currently in OEC training to work as a volunteer at a local resort that has both volunteer and paid patrol. I am in class with some new paid patrollers who have been hired for the season. The training is the same for both of us and from what I’ve been told by the patrol director, the expectation on the hill is that we will operate identically to the paid patrollers with the exception of running snow machines due to workers comp and liability issues since we are volunteers. The paid patrollers are all NSP members as well. One other thing to note (since I just went through this in the course) is that the OEC course meets or exceeds the national training standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Standards (NHTSA) for an Emergency Medical Responder. As you mentioned regardless of the leadership issues, the NSP exists to provide consistent training that meets national standards. I was honestly surprised by the negative connotation toward volunteer patrollers in this episode, as most of my experience with volunteer patrollers has been really positive and at the majority of the hills I have skied at that use volunteers, the volunteer patrollers were indistinguishable from paid patrollers.

      Another larger nearby resort runs only a paid patrol, but they clearly have a larger budget and I think it works well for them. They do have volunteer “hosts” that do not provide any emergency services and are simply there to greet people, answer questions, and show them around the mountain a bit if needed, but they do not wear the red jacket or cross.

    • I completely agree with Steve’s comments (especially the NSP dysfunction) and will add the additional perspective of a former patroller. I love Jonathan and Cody’s chats and I agree with them 100% of the time except for this one.

      I believe Jonathan and Cody’s naive view firmly come from their experiences at large resorts like Squaw and CB and don’t understand the need for volunteer patrollers at small resorts. Without the volunteer patrollers and the NSP for creating standards, there would not be a sustainable business model for these resorts to provide first aid to the skiing public.

      With regard to the OEC course, one thing that the OEC does above the EMT course is to show a patroller how to perform first aid in the snow. It’s one thing to splint a leg in a classroom but it’s a whole different ball game when it’s cold, snow everywhere, the patient is wearing ski pants, ski boots and you are wearing mittens.

      I have volunteered at both a small volunteer only resort and a medium sized west coast resort with a mix of volunteers and paid patrollers. I can tell you from my experience that there is no difference in first aid skills (the most important skill) between volunteers and paid patrollers. Often times, the paid patrollers are relatively young and learn a lot of first aid skills from more seasoned volunteer patrollers. The main difference I saw is that the paid patrollers are paid to throw bombs and do more sketchy work that for insurance reasons cannot force the volunteers to do. Volunteer and paid patrollers can easily coexist if the resort and patrol leadership treats them equally as a team. I’ve seen it go both ways and working together made patrolling a more rewarding experience.

      • Hi, James, to reply to your comment, “I believe Jonathan and Cody’s naive view firmly come from their experiences at large resorts like Squaw and CB and don’t understand the need for volunteer patrollers at small resorts,” I’ll repeat my reply to Steve:

        For the record, from 15:40 – 16:45, I state my opinion that volunteer ski patrollers *definitely* make sense the smaller the ski area operation we’re talking about. (That’s a fact, in my opinion.) But that’s not what Cody and I go on to discuss: we go on to discuss the idea of a *national* ski patrol organization for all ski areas, regardless of size.

    • Good comments, Steve. Thank you.

      For the record, from 15:40 – 16:45, I state my opinion that volunteer ski patrollers *definitely* make sense the smaller the ski area operation we’re talking about. (That’s a fact, in my opinion.) But that’s not what Cody and I go on to discuss: we go on to discuss the idea of a *national* ski patrol organization for all ski areas, regardless of size.

  4. In regards to the gondola / mass transit topic , what about if you could incentivize NOT driving somehow? You guys mentioned a road toll , but what about something like a season pass that is not only cheaper than normal , but also includes free gondola or bus rides for the entire season?

    Also , we do not live in igloos in Alaska people. We have normal houses like everyone else , just with more moose antlers hanging up outside above the garage.

  5. Have the people proposing a gondola not been to Zermatt? You can’t drive to Zermatt. You stop about 15 km away, park and get in a train. I agree with Cody that closing the road and switching to buses is the best solution. Maybe take the money saved to build avalanche tunnels for the road so it can stay open.

    Also, parking for 2500 cars. Assuming two people per car that is 5000 people. At 1000 people per hour it will take five hours for everyone to get up the hill.

    Many transportation managers of big cities have learned that you can’t build your way out of congestion. Unless cars are forbidden from driving up the canyon traffic will be just as bad even if the gondola is full.

  6. Another factor to consider in trying to vastly decrease personal vehicle travel to resorts, such as those in said Little Cottonwood Canyon (Salt Lake City, Utah) … where can one securely put (conveniently, without too much expense) duffel bags of clothes, shoes, food, etc. for the ski day with young kids? I can’t envision all kids (or adults for that matter) shuffling about in ski boots from the end of the gondola or bus stop to the lift area … so the duffel bags (that the adults carry!) have ski boots, clothes, and food (never mind skis and poles!). They need to securely/conveniently/inexpensively be stored … and be able to be accessed throughout the day.
    Outdoor sports (be it backpacking, skiing, snowboarding, climbing, biking …) always depend on young people “coming in on the bottom” because old people are “exiting out the top.” Sometimes, the adult introducing the young people to skiing/snowboarding isn’t interested in being out on the slopes, but would be content to “sit in the lodge and read a book” … in some resorts of recent, I have noticed that this has become increasingly more difficult (“you have to buy from our cafeteria in order to sit here”). Also, difficult for providing your own “brought with” lunch for kids … they have to be able to sit somewhere out of the elements.

    • A backpack solves all these issues, skiing with a backpack on in europe (along with catching public transport to the base area) is the norm. You can fit a lot in a 32L backpack.

  7. the gondola estimate on time is like 55 mins. and involves unloading you car, loading a bus, unloading the bus and loading the gondola.

    thats considering that there isn’t a wind hold or running slow due to weather.

    also the gondola project also includes adding snow sheds and road construction. if we are getting massive road construction in the canyon anyway. then why are we also building a gondola?? as was mentioned in this conversation a better option is to disallow private traffic with likely special permits for residents and just run busses.

    find a better solution first. gondola shoud be the LAST answer.

  8. Hi Jonathan, I listened with some mirth when Cody says there’s not much happening in the ski world atm. That is because my listening location is way down under in Australia, where our ski season is just wrapping up. Lot’s happening down here! Yes, we do have snow for all those wondering. My family and I have just finished living in a mountain town for 12 weeks (very lucky for city folk), which is basically the entire season. Also incredibly lucky as my wife and I took Long Service Leave – a unique Australian privilege in which we get paid for 10 weeks leave for 10 years’ service. Our season is way shorter than northern winters, just like our runs which finish often as they are just getting started. But, the snow can be just as awesome on those special days. We have also had some substantial rain this year though, and often get warm days above 0C which is a lot different to when I visited CB and and it was -22C My mountain town has been Dinner Plain, which is located about 7 miles from Mt Hotham, Australia’s premier resort imo. We have a great bus system from Dinner Plain that takes less than 15mins to get to the lifts for about $25USD return for a family or $350USD for the season. The mountain shuttle from the resort stops at 12 points to pick up people from lodges and other car parks. This service is free. System works well for a village that is located on top of a mountain. It’s not really a village but a smattering of hotels, apartments and lodges that stretch about two miles down from the top. Like many resorts and mountain towns, Hotham and Dinner Plain have struggled to get employees this season. And, it is not from a lack of people willing to work, but there either isn’t enough accom or it is too expensive. `We rented a house at about 1400USD a week. We had to dip into the mortgage, but it was worth it for a lifetime experience. My boys who are 12, 9 and 5 spend their nights searching up skills trails all over the world – mostly US and Canade tbh. One even improved enough to finish 10th in moguls at the Nats. back to DP, it has two rocking pubs, several cafes a pizza bar a few ski hire shops and a small grocer. Just enough to make it livable and small enough to keep it relatively quiet. We did drive 95% of the time so shame on us for adding to the pollution. My penance was to blow two wheel bearings on the copious potholes on the road.
    Regarding the gondola proposed for Little Cottonwood (yes I am still going, and have skied Utah so have some understanding of the traffic dilemma), your discussion was interesting without giving a perfect solution. Two resorts here in Aust, Perisher and Thredbo, are connected by the Skitube, an underground rail system. It cuts about 1 hour of driving between the two. Wouldn’t that be a great solution to LC. Would only cost ‘squillions’ and work then require a massive parking terminal at the base. Electric buses would be my suggestion, but like Cody said, come avy days there would be no transit. I guess there isn’t anyway in the current car system.
    Anyway, love the podcasts, when I get connectivity (not great in DP).
    Daniel
    P,S.
    Better Call Saul is definitely a 10.

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