Your eyes are telling the truth. Those really are Canadian Ski Patrol jerseys on a new crew of volunteers patrolling Red Deer’s trail system.
The national group’s local branch has recently cut a deal with the city to provide eyes, ears and first aid as a means of keeping the trails safe while keeping their own bodies strong and skills sharp for the ski season, says its president, Dick Hornby.
Well known on the slopes, Ski Patrol volunteers provide first aid and are dispatched whenever a skier gets into trouble. Those skills should transfer well to the city’s trail system, Hornby said on Monday.
As far as he knows, it’s the first time any Canadian Ski Patrol branch has offered its services to a municipal trail system, making the Red Deer effort a pilot project that could provide a model for other regions.
Ski patrollers pack first-aid kits and cellphones while they’re on the trails and those who are biking also carry bike repair kits, so they are capable of helping wounded equipment as well as wounded riders, he said.
They’re not about to intervene if they see any criminal activities, but they do have the means to notify the RCMP, who also patrol the paths during summer months.
Hornby and his group of about 15 volunteers approached the city earlier this year to see if Red Deer was interested in their help. There would be no dispatch and no set schedule, but each volunteer has been asked to go out for at least one hour per week. Most will patrol for five to six hours a week, he said.
“I’m on the board of Safe Communities Red Deer. I proposed it would be great to have a little patrol on the path, and that we were really interested in improving the safety on the paths and creating a presence and being the eyes and ears for the park.”
It looked like a great idea, but the city needed to get permission and the local branch needed permission from its headquarters, both provincially and nationally.
Those permissions have all be given, so volunteers are covered by the ski patrol’s insurance program when they’re on duty, said Hornby.
The patrol is being tried on an informal basis right now, he said.
“That’s a benefit for us, if we can get our patrollers out doing physical exercise all summer.”
It also helps members keep their first-aid skills sharp. Ski patrol members are required to train and write an exam every year, he said.
Patrollers report back to Hornby at the end of each shift to let him know what they saw and any services they performed during their walk or ride.
“We would actually like to see all organizations in town take an active role in the community. That’s a challenge we would put out to other groups, to make our community a better place to live, work and play and make it a safer place,” said Hornby.
“We hope to get some positive public response. It’s a way, if people are interested, in getting involved with the ski patrol. We now have a summer activity as well as a winter activity.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the ski patrol is invited to call Hornby at 403-304-9655.