What’s Ahead…Calendar Reminders

The Eastern Division and the NSP offer a variety of events, programs, and opportunities for all patrollers. The following are calendar reminders of some of the opportunities available in the next few months. Click on the links for more details.

Gore, ENY – February 24-25

Begin March 13, 2024, at 7 p.m.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 872 9811 1272
If you have any questions, please contact Melinda Mingus, MD, Eastern Division Patroller Stress Awareness Advisor by email or phone 646-522-1451

The application and additional information can be found on the Women’s Program Scholarship page accepted through March 15, 2024

Smugglers’ Notch, VT – March 8-11, 2024

Sugarbush, VT – March 14-17, 2024

Vail. CO
APRIL 10 – 14, 2024
Register Now


Two New Certified Members and the First One-Year Candidacy in 27 Years

Jonathan Wilson, Certified Supervisor

Jonathan Wilson, Certified Supervisor

The first article of the season for the Certified team is an opportunity for the newest members to thank all who have helped, influenced, and driven their hard work and determination. Certified has a three-year completion window, so hard work is mandatory, travel is necessary, and help is always appreciated.

Each year, I have the pleasure of presenting newly minted Certified members their pins and numbers. This takes place at the end of the annual exam at our banquet. This past season, the Certified team added two new members to our ranks: Kevin Hartka, #859, and Jessie Miller, #860.

Of note – Jessie Miller #860 is a legacy Certified member; her father is Dave Ronald #171. Unfortunately, Dave is no longer with us, but the Elk Mountain Certified team members presented Jessie with her father’s pin. In addition, Jessie Miller completed her Certified candidacy in one year. It has been 27 years since the team has had a member complete all components in one season.

Congratulations to both, and please go to the Program News section and take some time to read about their Certified Journey found at Kevin and Jessie.

A Certified Journey – A Personal History

Kevin Hartka

Kevin Hartka celebrates with his family

It had been five years since I first sat at a seat at the certified annual banquet dinner. Five years since I entered into the certified program, drawn to the group of passionate patrollers and their camaraderie, and this was my third and last test year.

It was a long road of hard studying, training, and stressful, sleepless nights, broken by two years of COVID cancelations that stole my wind and faded my memories of my first year such that my second felt much like my first. But this was it; it all came down to this last year. I had to make it happen.

Though I felt well prepared and anxious to complete the three modules I had left, the thought of going down that road again began to feel awfully daunting. I had made many phone calls, pestered all the managers of the different departments at my mountain with my questions, and spent much of the year immersed in studying my remaining topics. I felt like I did everything I could do with my time, knowledge, and resources.

After one of the worst sleepless nights at the test in my experience going through the program, stressing over things I thought I may have missed in the first of my last three interviews, I rose the next morning much more ambitious than expected, and I felt strong in my last two interviews.

It was done! Or was it? So the mind battle began, silencing my fears, trying not to stress and go over what I may or may not have missed, imagining, and mentally preparing to start the whole three years all over again. Focusing on the present, I relaxed into the last few days with nothing to do but help out with the rest of the weekend and enjoy my time with the group while I waited to see the results.

It had been five years, with a two-year COVID interruption, and I was sitting at a table at another banquet dinner. This time, my fiancé and 4-year-old daughter were there with me as we enjoyed a delicious meal provided by Killington. As the plates emptied and the drinks began to rise, Jon Wilson took the podium to give his thanks and recognition to all who helped put together a successful event. And then it happened…

“Peter Neefus, can you come up to the front, please? Katie Demers, Can you please come up to the front?”

I was flooded with a wave of emotions; my palms began to sweat, and my eyes began to moisten.

“I would like to welcome our newest member, number 859, Kevin Hartka….please come up to the front.”

Kevin getting pinned by his fiancé

The room broke out in cheering and applause as I rose and proceeded to the front of the room, where my family and friends waited with my certificate and number and adorned me with a shiny new certified pin. The moment was such a tsunami of emotions I’m not sure I can clearly replay the rest of the evening but I’m pretty sure I either got a hug or a handshake from everyone in the room and a big congratulations.

It has been two weeks now since that momentous day when I received my number, and I have had time to reflect and digest what has been a truly incredible experience! The program has shaped and carved me into a better patroller, and will continue to do so. And I couldn’t have done it without the support of the people around me. It is a true honor to be part of this incredible group of patrollers!

I would like to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to those who supported me through this program. First and foremost, I would like to thank NSP for all their incredible programs that have brought me to where I am. Second, I would like to thank our chair, Jon Wilson, for his inspirational leadership and kind friendship. Without a solid leader, where would we be?

A special thanks to my mentor and friend, Peter Neefus, for showing me the program and helping me in every capacity he could. The amount of time and effort Peter put into helping me and other candidates get through the program is unparalleled!

I would also like to thank my patrol leader, Sue Hallenbeck, for putting up with my distractions during my shifts while studying, my likely annoying, at times, questions, and my constant push to learn about patrol leadership and outdoor risk management.

Justin Guth for giving his time to talk on the phone and help me through my hardships. For his support from day one, both as a friend and a leader!

Steve Suomala for his great friendship and countless phone calls. Steve pointed me in all the right directions and talked me down when times were tough.

Steve Barnes
David Childs
Linda Helms
Bill Zink
Gregg Pulver
Kerry Brousseau
Jay Brousseau
Kevin Lawler
And the list goes on…

Last but certainly not least, I want to thank my fiancé and family for putting up with my absence through this time. It has been a long haul, and I could not have done it without their support.

Kevin Hartka
Catamount Ski Patrol
Certified #859

A Certified Journey – Following In My Father’s Footsteps

Jessie Miller

Jessie Miller

Growing up in a patrol family, first on, last off is what we did. I first heard the phrase “train to be above the bar” as a child, listening to my dad’s conversations about ski and toboggan training. Later I heard it as a patroller preparing for my own Senior and Trainer Evaluator exams. As I considered the goal of becoming Certified, I knew the bar would be higher; I would need to train harder than ever to be above it. I also knew this would also be an emotional journey for me. Although my dad, Dave Ronald, Certified #171, has been gone for more than 20 years, his coaching and mentorship left a lasting impact on many patrollers; quite the legacy to follow.

I set out on a mission. There were spreadsheets, lists, and binders. My questions and curiosity were endless. Before the snow flew, I spent nine days working on my personal development as a patroller, and throughout the winter season, I spent 14 more. As I reflect on the season, these are the approaches that helped me most—and the lessons I will carry forth into all areas of my life.

Elk Mountain Certified 2023 (Left to right) Sarah Keating – 564, Mike Ksenich – 854, Matt Nebzydoski – 706, Bob Bluff – 497, Jessie Miller – 860, Ken Kelly – 587, Bill Jordan – 369, Lisa Kelly

    1. Find a supportive and involved mentor— better yet, several.
    2. Be vulnerable enough to admit what you do not know and ask for help.
    3. Go forth with joyful entitlement, asking for what you need with the assumption that the universe is on your side. Then, if you don’t get what you need the first time around, ask again and be specific.
    4. Build your network — contact program chairs. Spend time with members. Collect knowledge and build relationships.
    5. Blaze in, ready to light it up! But remember, each time you go down in flames training, you are learning, growing, and building resiliency.

My heart has immense gratitude for everyone who supported me on this journey. First up is my partner, Sam, and our daughters, Claire and Stella. Sam supported endless conversations about patrolling, sharpened the skegs on my sled (and all the skis), manned the girls’ races, and cheered me on.

Women of Certified 2023 (Left to right) Inese Jardine – 761, Sharon Friedel – 606, Sarah Keating – 564, Jessie Miller – 860, Linda Helms – 647, Jenn Laitala, – 765 Denise Kaus, – 833, Mary Bozack – 26

Thank you to my mom, Cheryl Ronald, and my grandmother, Loryce Detra, for leading by example and claiming space for women and mothers on patrol. To Sarah Keating, who took me under her wing from day one. I cannot imagine my life without her years of coaching, encouragement, and friendship. The certified members and the entire patrol family at Elk gave me the foundation to build. The Eastern New York Region and Gore Patrol for giving me opportunities to grow and to lead. Bill Zink for fielding each “question of the day,” pushing me to solve problems and find my way, and for breakfasts. To my dear friends and family for cheering me on, especially Lauren Olinksy, Amy Reinink, and Chrissy Ludka.

To all of the certified members and patrollers who spent time with me this season—the list is long. You are amazing, generous mentors who give back to this organization in so many ways. Thank you.