Decades of Duty: Patrolling Bogus Basin

BOGUS BASIN - It's mid-morning at Bogus Basin, and the Ski Patrol already has a mountain of emergency calls on the hill.

One female skier with a leg injury gets a sled-ride to the patrol's first aid room.

A child comes in with a broken arm.

For patroller Don Countryman, it's all part of the job.

"I've had four or five head injuries, couple of femurs, stuff that you try to block them out, after that, there's always another something or other," he said.

For 67 years, this 82-year-old Idahoan has served on the patrol.

"It used to be, when somebody had a leg that was hurt, we would put a splint on it and stop somebody with a station wagon and say here, take this guy down, you gotta take him to the hospital," he said.

Hank Gimmel's been on duty for 50-plus years.

Long enough to remember when a patient's information was hand-written.

"We started with little 3 by 5 cards: name, address, phone number and what do you think happened?" he said. "And that was the basis of our record-keeping."

The National Ski Patrol started in 1938.

By the mid-40's, Bogus Basin had its own ski patrol, and just like ski fashion has changed over the decades, so has the equipment they use, with snowmobiles being added in the 1970's, and then most recently, the patrollers have gone to a quad.

"You straddled the sled, didn't do much turning, kind of straight down... You probably couldn't... It was hard," Countryman said, reminiscing about the old sleds first used by the patrollers.

Like the mountain terrain that's expanded over the decades, so has the patrol's army: growing from 14 patrollers to 160 paid or volunteer staff.

And as much as the ski patrollers love serving skiers, they'd much rather prevent an injury, than respond to one.

"If we can talk to them, and keep one from being hurt, and not bring them into the building, I mean, that's a better day than having to work on 10 or 12," Countryman said.

Words of wisdom, through decades of experience that many in this organization hope to someday attain.

"If it weren't for them, I probably wouldn't have been as interested in it," said Kevin Hudson, who's nearing 40 years on the patrol. "They're great examples to all of us and I only hope that one day I'll be the 87-year-old fella sitting here going 'in the day, I remember'."

The non-profit National Ski Patrol is the largest winter rescue organization in the world.

Although some are paid, the Bogus Basin Ski Patrol relies heavily on volunteers.

They are currently recruiting new patrollers.

It takes 15 months to train and become an active patrol member.

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