As a member of Thredbo Ski Patrol, Dr Anthony Bennett of Berry Vet Clinic in NSW is quick to respond whenever anything goes wrong on the slopes.
“When I’m working with Ski Patrol at Thredbo, our biggest asset is our radio. All the patrollers carry one and there’s a dedicated channel to talk with each other. One of the most important things we teach new members is that when the radio comes on, you need to listen.
“In the mornings we do all the preventive stuff. We check the runs, mark hazards and confirm all fences are up. Then, during the day we wait for calls. When you’re on Ski Patrol, you must remain at the top of the mountain so you can quickly respond to accidents lower down. At the end of the day when the ski lifts are shut, we work our way down from the top of the mountain to make sure no-one is left behind.
“Half of the work is simple stuff like helping people off the mountain, finding lost skiers and comforting those who have lost their nerve. The other half is dealing with accidents, most of which are not serious. Mixing altitude with strenuous exercise creates problems for some people. Unfortunately, we also deal with bad accidents, dangerous medical issues and fatalities.
“My family are all skiers and I was thrown into the deep end at three years of age. Growing up, I skied every season and once I got my driver’s licence, I was able to drive myself down to Perisher and Thredbo. I’ve had 13 ski trips to Japan and have skied in New Zealand, Canada, Europe and the USA. For the first 10 years of my veterinary career, I didn’t take a day of annual leave that wasn’t skiing related.
“I’ve been a member of Ski Patrol for 17 years. I patrol Thredbo because having intimate knowledge of the mountain is a huge advantage when someone is in trouble. Before joining, you need to complete a basic first aid course and prove you’re a strong skier. Then there’s a five-day first aid course specifically tailored for Ski Patrol, followed by a 12-month training program. Once you pass a theory and practical exam, you’re a probationary member.
“I love everything about skiing. You get to visit beautiful, remote areas and enjoy the thrill of accelerating down the slopes. One time, I saw a sign on a Japanese ski slope that said, ‘It’s not worth risking your life for the feeling of yahoo’. While I appreciate the sentiment, I think most skiers agree that it probably is worth the moment of yahoo!”