Division Director News

Eastern Division Director Grant Fullman

Bugs and heat still dominate here in North Creek, New York, but winter is never far away, and we’ve been busy! On May 5, at the Division Spring Officers’ Meeting, Cal Goldsmith stepped down after four years of dedicated work and the Region Directors elected me as the next Division Director. The election was competitive; I appreciate the respect shown by the other candidates and repeat my pledge to equally serve all fifteen regions. The DD works for everyone in the division.

I feel honored to serve and very grateful that Cal’s tireless efforts left the division in good shape. My first act as DD was to appoint Carl Chaplin, the New Hampshire RD, as our Assistant DD, and obtain Division Board approval. I have known Carl for a long time; his resume far exceeds mine, and I trust his judgment and wise counsel.

Cal maintained very high standards while navigating multiple challenges – including the COVID pandemic and bringing a new treasurer on board. Cal worked closely with his peers and the National Board to support NSP while representing the Eastern Division’s interests. For me, multiple Zoom meetings with the other DDs and the National Board began the day after being elected to work on the National budget. Everyone is rightfully concerned about rising costs and I am grateful that the National Board listened to us and made adjustments before approving their budget.

Since then, the Division Finance Committee, led by John Tuttle and Doug Adams, worked diligently to finalize the Division budget, which was approved on June 27. This year we will meet our needs without raising our current $17 dues.

For those who don’t know me I have patrolling for 30 years, spending my first four at Scotch Valley, a humble and long-defunct ski area in the Catskills. I moved on to Gore Mountain, the largest ski area in New York. My first 20 years at Gore were as a volunteer, patrolling over 40 days a year. Since retiring in 2018, I’ve been a seasonal, full-time pro at Gore, typically patrolling over 100 days a year.

Money was always tight at Scotch Valley; we learned how to do a lot with very little, but the training was truly outstanding! Gore has more resources but is far larger and more complex. Along the way, I became an OEC instructor and IT, OET instructor and IT, OET Senior Trainer/Evaluator, Eastern NY Region OET Advisor for 11 years, Section Chief for two years, and Region Director for five years. Credit for any success as a Region Director belongs to the awesome ENY Region leadership team. My role was mostly to recruit, encourage, coach, and then get out of their way!

I am excited to begin work as Division Director with such an amazing team of Region Directors, Section Chiefs/ARDs, Program Supervisors and Staff, and Division Officers and Advisors. As I said before, the Division Director works for everyone – so please let me know when there’s a problem that I can help with. Good news is always welcome too!

TWO GREAT EVENTS – Register Now

CERTIFIED BOOT CAMP

HOLIDAY MOUNTAIN, NY – Friday, August 16 – Sunday, August 18

For full information: https://www.patrollerschool.org/events/events/certified-boot-camp-2023-mt-bethel-pa-2/

Join us at Holiday Mountain Ski & Fun Park in Monticello, NY, for a gathering of like-minded Ski Patrollers in a rustic camping environment, all looking to learn about the Certified program and enhance or broaden their patroller skill set. The goal this season is “deep dive into lift evac.” The certified program modules that will be covered at this event will be:

  • Lift Evacuation
  • Outdoor Risk Management
  • Avalanche
  • Low Angle Rescue
  • OEC Assessment, Skill & MCI Scenarios

OVERALL AGENDA

Boot Camp provides:

  • Friday — 4:00-6:00 pm – Arrival & Camp Set-up
  • Friday — 7:00 pm Meeting
  • Breakfast and Lunch on Saturday and Sunday
  • Saturday is BOOT CAMP training Day
  • Dinner Saturday Night
  • Bonfire — FUN

ENHANCED PATROLLER SCHOOL

SWAIN MOUNTAIN, NY – Friday, September 13 – Sunday, September 15

For full information: https://www.patrollerschool.org/events/divi-home/certified-program/

This event is low pressure — you can learn, have fun, and network  with other patrollers from all around the division. It is open to any currently registered member of NSP, candidate through Certified. It is a hands-on, get dirty, get bloody, play with different gear event. Typical included modules include:
  • Lift evacuation
  • Low angle rope rescue,
  • OEC assessment and skill building,
  • ORM discussions,
  • An MCI drill with outside EMS agencies.
Patroller School provides:
  • Great food all three days,
  • An easy-going, no pressure learning environment,
  • Looking at many different ways to meet an objective.
What you need to bring:
  • An open mind,
  • Gear that you would like to show off or work with,
  • Your first aid pack with gloves and supplies.
Rough agenda:
  • Friday — 1:00 pm – Arrival, registration, and camp set up
  • Friday — 3:00-6:00 pm – Knot tying and open topics
  • Friday evening — Fire pit discussion
  • Saturday — Module station rotations
  • Saturday evening — MCI discussions and planning and ifre pit discussions
  • Sunday — MCI drill and feedbac from multiple points of view 

New Certified Chair Inspired by the Best Trainers

Certified Chair Bill Zink

My name is Bill Zink. I started patrolling in 1994 at Ski Roundtop, a little hill in the southwest section of the Eastern Pennsylvania Region of the Eastern Division of the National Ski Patrol. I received my rust and blue coat on February 13, 1995, from one of the best trainers, Gordie Bell.

The next night, in my rush to get out on the slope and patrol, I promised my wife Natalie I would be home by 8 pm on Valentine’s night to celebrate our new house. Somewhere around 7:30 pm, while riding the chairlift, I witnessed a high-speed collision of two skiers. They were both young men in high school. Once the dust settled, one boy lay on the ground unconscious, and the other was walking around in a dazed state.

I unloaded the chair, had the lift operator radio in the event and location, and made my way to the scene. Both patients survived. One was flown by helicopter to a nearby trauma center and the other went with ALS. I arrived home at midnight, February 14, 1995.

That day impacted my life in so many ways. It set me on a course of perpetual learning. I never wanted to be the guy that didn’t know what to do when the poop hits the fan. Fast forward to 2024 and I am now newly elected chair of the Eastern Division Certified Program. I currently patrol at Ski Whitetail, a Vail resort; Timberline Mountain in Davis, West Virginia (Southern Division); and as a part-time Pro at The Hermitage in southern Vermont. I love the sport of skiing. I love ski patrolling. And I love the friends that I have made in the industry.

I look forward to the next several years. I want to share the impact the industry and the Certified program has had on my life. The Journey to Certified is just that. A journey. It is a worthy journey no matter the outcome.

I am still married to the same woman as I was on that fateful Valentine’s night in 1995. While she can’t say she loves skiing and ski patrol as much as I do, she will say she does love the people and what it has meant to me and our life.

To learn more about our program, consider participating in one of our two summer/fall events, a “Summer Certified Boot Camp” scheduled for August 16-18 at Holiday Mountain Ski Area in Monticello, NY or an “Enhanced Patroller School” at Swain Resort the weekend of September 13-15th. Go to www.patrollerschool.org for registration details and information about these summer programs. See www.Nspeast.org/certified for details on the Certified Program.

The Certified Program: How it all began

Happy Summer fellow Ski Patrollers. As the new chair of the Eastern Division Certified Program, I am humbled by the outpouring of support our members offer the Eastern Division. I participated in my first ever Eastern Division Spring Officers Meeting. My job was to report to the ED leadership team our accomplishments.

As I prepped for the meeting, I started reviewing what our accomplishments were for the year. Then it struck me that maybe it was time to refresh our fellow patrollers on what the Certified Program is all about. Below is an excerpt from a letter from the National Director of the NSP in 1964 and the directive which created the Certified Program as we know it today.

In 1964, National Director Chuck Schobinger forwarded a committee report from the Southern Rocky Mountain Division to George Wesson, Jr. to work out the details for a ‘Certified’ program. The report read: “It is the desire of the paid patrolmen of the NSPS to continually strive for higher standards for all ski patrolmen. Hence, this Certified ski patrolmen program is instituted to give recognition to those who have devoted the extra time and effort to pursue a course of self-development beyond the minimum requirements of the senior ski patrolmen. This program is necessary for the NSPS to keep pace with the technological developments in the sport of skiing and to encourage ski patrolmen to better fulfill the ever-increasing demands and expectations of ski area management and the skiing public.”

The Eastern Division put together a committee of inspiring New England patrollers, which included George Wesson Jr., Rudy Carlson, Wayne Doss, Dexter Galusha, and Casey Rowley to work out the details and proficiency requirements for a pilot program. It would demand the highest level of proficiency from patrollers through training and testing and would promote a level of patrolling in which there would be no compromise with excellence in skiing, first aid, patrol management, administration, and leadership.

First Certified Test

Two years later, during the 1967-68 season, the pilot program was launched. Thirty-four candidate applications were received. Only eight were accepted. Seven candidates showed up at Wildcat Mountain in New Hampshire for the first ‘Certified’ Ski and Toboggan Exam. PSPA was asked for their help in administering the exam to help give credibility to the program for the professionals. The courses were long and challenging using the most difficult terrain Wildcat had to offer. All seven candidates participating were successful and were invited to the first ‘Certified’ First Aid Exam to be held at Killington in April 1968.

The first aid problems were challenging and realistic, many taken from actual accident reports of some of the most unusual or difficult accident scenarios New England Ski Areas had seen. In some scenarios the actual patients were asked to ‘relive’ their accidents by replaying the roles of patients during the exam. In addition to first aid skills, the candidates would be expected to demonstrate a thorough understanding of patrol/management relationship and ski area operation knowledge.

Interviews were conducted for each candidate as if they were applying for a position of patrol leader at their mountain. In the early years of the program, the interviews were conducted by the actual owners and managers of the ski area. Questions concerning snowmaking and lifts, trail markings and grooming, staffing requirements and payroll, equipment needs and costs, mass casualty plans and risk management, legal and liability concerns, federal, state, and local laws and protocol would all be fair game. All seven candidates again passed this portion of the exam becoming the first NSPS ‘Certified’ Patrollers.

Today’s exam now consists of 10 modules (some modules have multiple components). The modules include Outdoor Emergency Care; Outdoor Emergency Transportation; Avalanche; Outdoor Risk Management; Lift Evacuation; and Low Angle Rescue. The exam takes three days to administer and is in March of each year. A successful candidate has three years to successfully pass all 10 modules. If not successful, you must start again.

To learn more about our program, consider participating in one of our two summer/fall events, a “Summer Certified Boot Camp” scheduled for August 16-18 at Holiday Mountain Ski Area in Monticello, NY or an “Enhanced Patroller School” at Swain Resort the weekend of September 13-15th.

Go to www.patrollerschool.org for registration details and information about these summer programs. See www.Nspeast.org/certified for details on the Certified Program. A special thanks to Peter Neefus for the history!

New Women’s Program Supervisor

Heather Newman, Women’s Supervisor

I would like to introduce myself, Heather Newman, as the next Women’s Advisor for the Eastern Division. I grew up skiing at a small (one T-bar, six runs) mountain in Northern Maine and started my patrol career in 2010. Since 2013, I have been a volunteer patroller at Saddleback in Rangeley, Maine. I am a Senior Patroller, an OEC Instructor, and an OET TE. Over the past six years, I have worked with the Maine Region as the Women’s Advisor and am very excited to take on my new role.

When asked why I enjoy teaching at Women’s-only events, I refer to comments the attendees made to me during and after the event: “I have never done that before; that was so cool,” “Thanks for taking us to the edge of our comfort zone with confidence,” “You believe I can, I believe I can,” and “Thank you and your friends for showing us women are strong patrollers.” I look forward to working all over the Eastern Division to bring more of those moments to the women of our patrol.

My family and I recently moved to Central Vermont and I look forward to skiing and getting to know patrols in the area.

Women in the Wild

The Genesee Valley Region hosted its first MTR (Mountain Travel and Rescue) Women’s Clinic, “Women in the Wild,” on June 2, 2024. An energetic group of 24 women from regions throughout New York State and New Jersey representing 10 different alpine and Nordic patrols attended and were able to refresh and/or be introduced to a combination of skills.

The participants utilized a combination of Patroller Moodle School lessons followed by a day of field exercises. We were blessed with pleasant weather while we explored the woods and trails at Harriett Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area overlooking beautiful Honeoye Lake in the Finger Lakes area of New York State.

These amazing ladies were introduced to nutrition as it pertains to outdoor travel and the increased caloric needs. In the field we put into practice our map and compass navigation skills while following a predetermined course as well as locating features off in the distance.

Outstanding teamwork contributed to efficient emergency fire-starting using multiple methods to create a spark and/or flame. Further along the trail emergency shelters were created and the group was able to view and discuss the multiple approaches to constructing a shelter.

A variety of natural resources combined with items from their 10 essentials were put into use. Great camaraderie allowed for new skill practice through teamwork and sharing of equipment and ideas as we traveled on a variety of terrain offered by the park.

Everyone then took some time amongst the trees for some forest bathing during a yoga session led by Kay Colner, ERYT-500, CIAYT. We wrapped up the day with a shared meal at Noble Sheperd Craft Brewery wishing happy travels to our new friends from throughout New York State and New Jersey. Special thanks to Eastern Division MTR Supervisor Joni Hamilton-Porter, Genesee Valley Region Women’s Program Advisor Pam Welch, and Eastern Division Patroller School Orest Ohar.

Please see the Eastern Division Calendar for other MTR and/or Women’s Program offerings https://www.nspeast.org/calendar.html

Annual AMN Instructor Refresher

Every Avalanche, Mountain Travel & Rescue, and Nordic/Backcountry Instructor must attend an Instructor Refresher every three years. These three programs work together to offer a combined Instructor Refresher annually. This year’s AMN Instructor Refresher is being held at Spring Mountain in Pennsylvania on September 14 & 15, 2024.

The program supervisors hold the AMN Instructor Refreshers in different regions every year so that hopefully one will be convenient for you to attend. Last year’s was at Gore Mountain in the ENY Region and the year before that was at Winding Trails in the CT Region.

Although attending an Instructor Refresher isn’t mandatory for Instructor-Candidates, this is a great opportunity for them to stay current and network. You might even find opportunities to do some mentored instructing during the upcoming season!

Of course, every patroller who is at all interested in becoming an instructor in one of these programs, or is simply interested in refreshing their Circle A or Circle M skills (you old-timers know what I’m talking about) is welcome to come on out.

Registration will be on Patroller School (www.patrollerschool.org) in mid-August.

In Memoriam – Florence ‘Floss’ Kirkner

Florence ‘Floss’ Kirkner

Florence A. Kirkner of Orchard Park, NY, passed away on May 1, 2024, at the age of 99. We all knew her as an inveterate volunteer, not just for NSP but on multiple levels as is shown by the awards she received from numerous organizations.

Floss joined the ski patrol in 1949 in the Far West Division where she served for 10 years. She was the co-patrol leader at Donner Ski Ranch, Soda Springs, CA from 1956-1960 and served as the first aid chair in the North Bay Region from 1950-1960. She was one of the first women in the NSP to take Monty Atwater’s Avalanche Patch course earning Patch #82. She felt the information contained in the Atwater Avalanche Patch course was so important that she began to teach other patrollers the basics of avalanche rescue at fall freshers.

She was a schoolteacher with curriculum development skills and along with other Atwater trained patrollers, began the development of a basic avalanche course to extend to all NSP patrollers. The basic course would become the NSP Circle A course and would be a steppingstone to the Atwater Avalanche Patch course which was more advanced and dangerous.

In around 1964 Floss took the Avalanche Instructor Course becoming National Avalanche Instructor #224. Having moved east she immediately became the Western New York Avalanche Advisor. For the next 36 years she maintained her certification teaching Circle A, Basic Avalanche, and Level 1 Avalanche. From 1999 through 2005 she was an Avalanche Instructor Trainer.

Floss tirelessly planned and conducted courses on ski slopes in New York State and on the Lake Erie sand dunes in Canada. Her innovation in using the dunes allowed courses to be taught at all times of year. The dunes proved remarkably well suited for probe lines and burial of simulated victims. She incorporated into her courses, dramatic films of various avalanche types, pre-course assignments, written training materials, and homework assignments. Probe lines were an integral part of her courses. In later years, she added transceiver work. Floss always included an optional overnight camping component for added learning and camaraderie among the patrollers taking the course who came from various patrols. Not only did this create a unity among the patrollers from the various ski areas but also a standardization of skills, such that these avalanche-trained patrollers could be called on to help if needed anywhere in a region or a division.

From 1976 through 1987, Florence Kirkner became involved with at the time a program called “Junior Patroller,” the program, now known as the “Young Alpine Patroller.” She understood that the future of the NSP was in recruitment of new members. A great source of new members could be found in the children of current members. The children would have most likely been at the ski area when their parent or parents were on duty, so why not create a program for these young people. As a schoolteacher it was only natural for her to get involved. She taught and helped develop 11 Division “Junior Seminars” and five National “Junior Seminars’ during her 11 years involved with the program.

Floss was very involved with her Town of Orchard Park, its YMCA, Girl Scouts of America, and the American Red Cross. She received a special award from the Canadian Ski Patrol, a Girl Scout Green Angel Award, a Volunteer of the Year from the YMCA, and a Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year from Orchard Park, NY.

Floss was the recipient of numerous awards from NSP including National Appointment #84, Distinguished Service and Meritorious Service Awards, three Yellow Merit Stars, a Purple Merit Star, and an Orange Merit Star for training military personnel. She was inducted into the NSP Hall of Fame and received proclamations from President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, United States Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Congressman Langworth, and NYS Governor Kathy Hochul.

Floss was the beloved wife of the late Bruce F. Kirkner; dearest mother of Nancy L. Kirkner and the late Robin D. Kirkner; grandmother of Jessica (Jeff) Meadors, Jacob (Jamie) Hill, Sara (James) McCarty, and Traci (Ty) Douthirt; great-grandmother of 16 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. A Memorial Service was held Saturday, May 11 at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Orchard Park, NY. Memorials may be made to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Memorial Fund, 6595 East Quaker St., Orchard Park, NY 14127 or to Kissing Bridge Ski Patrol, Rte. 240, Glenwood, NY 14069.

A Conversation with National Board Chair Richard Pietrafesa

Rich Pietrafesa, NSP National Board Chair

Trail Sweep interviewed Richard Pietrafesa, newly elected chair of the NSP National Board about his experiences, aspirations, and goals for the NSP in his new role. Elected as a National Board Rep last year, Rich was a member of Toggenburg Ski Patrol for 20 years. When Toggenburg closed in 2021, Rich joined Labrador Mountain in the Central New York Region, Eastern Division in 2022. (Updated 5/3/24)

What experiences and skills do you bring to the NSP as National Board Chair?

Any number of us currently on the board could perform the job of chair. I don’t believe I bring any unique abilities to the role. But I do have a particular philosophy about how an effective board should function, and about the role of the chair, which I think is useful to our organization at this juncture.

Board leadership and executive leadership are two very different skills. The hard work for any board chair is managing board dynamics and human relations – providing leadership to a group of mostly senior, successful, action-oriented, performance-driven, sophisticated individuals from different backgrounds, as we have at the NSP. Different from a chief executive, restraint, patience, and being a good listener are essential attributes for the NSP board chair to possess. The role is not to be a commander, but rather a facilitator. A good board chair recognizes that he/she is not first among equals. He/she is just the person responsible for supporting the group to fulfill its collective responsibilities.

Having worked on many boards, I understand this role and these responsibilities. And I understand the need to support our CEO, Stephanie Cox, as she drives the organization forward.

At the same time, I think I offer the perspective of a regular, 22-year volunteer patroller who isn’t necessarily concerned with what goes on behind the scenes at the NSP – we just want it to work for us, the membership.

Why did you decide to run for the National Board Chair?

Like all of my colleagues on the board, I am deeply passionate about the mission of the National Ski Patrol and committed to serving its members. The past two years were focused on stabilizing the organization. I applaud my predecessor, Rick Boyce, for the hard-fought and important successes that he achieved during that period. We might not have the luxury of looking forward had it not been for his diligence, hard work, and quick decision-making.

But as we move into a new phase for the organization, I thought it was time for a fresh approach. I wanted to see the board turn its focus back on the membership and return to celebrating one another, and our collective successes. We need to find the resources to better support our programs, both existing and new. And we need to do a better job of letting the public know what we do, and the value we bring to the outdoor recreation industry.

I continue to be amazed at the time, skills, and dedication that members devote to our organization. It is very unusual! We need to trumpet that in the right ways so that we regain the public stature that we once held.

What are your short- and long-term goals?

I cannot promise any spectacular, unexpected outcomes. What I can promise is an open, honest, and trustworthy atmosphere for discussion and debate; strong support of our executive director as she executes her plan; respect for members and leadership in the field; and care and custody over the long-term welfare of this organization that we all care so much about.

Near term, we are focused on ways to make the NSP a more agile organization as we adapt to a rapidly changing industry. We have a project to streamline the P&Ps (Policies & Procedures) so that the office and patrols have more latitude to operate efficiently. We are examining our branding and exploring ways to strengthen and standardize that across all the divisions and regions to strengthen our national brand. I’d like the board to examine member benefits, with an eye toward generating enhancements for both initial recruitment and internal advancement, particularly with the Senior program. We are all using our career experience to analyze NSP’s revenue streams and brainstorm ways to expand them. Finally, we are taking a close look at the NSP store, filling member demands for more desirable merchandise while simultaneously rightsizing our financial commitment to that segment. Currently 1/3rd of our liquid capital is tied up in the NSP store. We can operate a store with much less and put that capital to better use earning revenue for us.

For the long term, we are discussing ways to broaden our membership by decoupling membership from credentials. Is there any reason why someone helped by the NSP couldn’t become a supporting member, with different benefits/privileges? Tiered membership is very common in organizations like ours as a way to support the mission. I’d like to see us take concrete steps toward creating a sizable endowment to help fund core programs and relieve pressure on member dues. And I believe the board should analyze and tackle the issue of member engagement – both in our programs and in our election – as a tool for recruitment, retention, and general member satisfaction.

What are your plans to improve the image of the NSP and its relationship with the NSAA?

Stephanie has built and maintains an excellent relationship with NSAA, and just as importantly, with its members. She is getting out and talking to both patrol directors and area managers around the country, understanding their needs and their issues. As a result, Stephanie is engaged in a number of collaborations with NSAA, both offensive and defensive (regulatory issues). Her efforts are increasing visibility and awareness of the important work done by ski patrollers, enhancing communication and collaboration between the two organizations, and actively seeking opportunities for joint initiatives and partnerships that benefit both parties and the skiing community as a whole.

What are your plans for clearer communication regarding the value of membership dues?

It is an unfortunate fact of life that dues need to continue to increase with inflation. While we are working hard to offset dues with sponsors and other ancillary income streams, membership remains our primary source of revenue. At the same time, we are very cognizant of the need to enhance member benefits as dues increase in order to deliver good value to members.

Stephanie has added some wonderful new member benefits this year – GovX.com and ID.me – the savings from which could easily more than cover an individual’s annual dues. And of course we continue to offer new, valuable education courses to our membership free of charge, as part of our member benefits.

At the same time, beginning in July, everyone will start seeing transparent and comprehensive messaging that clearly outlines the benefits and services provided to NSP members, as well as the impact of dues on supporting the organization’s mission and programs.

What are your plans to reduce divisional infighting and restore the rapport among the divisions?

There is no infighting. I think the divisions maintain a wonderful rapport with one another. They continually collaborate, share best practices, and deliver programs to our membership as efficiently as possible. While there is always room for improvement, I think the divisions do a remarkable job with the resources they have at their disposal.

When I joined the board last year there was noticeable tension between the board and the divisions. I am working very hard to rebuild that critical trust. Trust is the single most critical building block underlying board effectiveness. Effecting positive change requires believing in each other’s good intentions.

At board meetings we’ve ended the microfocus on tweaking NSP’s governing documents. We agreed to put them away in a drawer this year so that we can look outward, back toward the men and women we represent – the dedicated volunteer and career patrollers who make this such an unusual organization.

Instead of rushing to get things done quickly, my emphasis is on getting things done properly. While sometimes frustrating, it makes sense to take our time with important decisions, gathering and considering input from all board members, and across our depth of leadership. Listening to people. I’ve learned in life that the best path to a durable outcome isn’t always a straight line.

That isn’t to suggest that we are dragging out decisions. Quite the contrary, better communication and the trust that comes with it has streamlined decision-making and strengthened relationships. I think the board and the division directors now again enjoy mutual trust and understanding in our shared mission. This has allowed us to better utilize our time together brainstorming as a group on important issues like long-term stability, revenue and membership growth, stronger branding, and product improvement.