Little green men or guardian angels?
Groomed pistes, spacious slopes, no waiting in queues and considerate skiers all around. A perfect outdoor experience for every skier. Sometimes, however, a little effort is needed to make the white experience great and safe. The Jasná ski resort got closer to this goal thanks to its Ski Patrol.
They call us ski maniacs. One season is hardly over and my son and I are already planning for the next one. We know winter resorts in Slovakia inside out, so we like to compare them with the foreign ones. Every resort is specific, but we were surprised by strange green men during our recent visit to Jasná. They looked too real to be aliens and their skied pretty well. Perhaps they did come from the sky as they are like guardian angels for others.
They don’t have wings, but reflective green “Ski Patrol” jackets. We first noticed them before getting on a chairlift. The ski patrollers warned unruly youngsters who jostled and jumped the queue that they could seize their ski passes. I started to talk to one of the ski patrollers. “Our task is to inform the visitors of the resort and to ensure their safety on the ski slopes. We are trying to educate them and to improve the quality of skiing in Jasná,” said the chief ski patroller, Andrej Kyška. Wow, we didn’t expect that. We nodded in appreciation and got on the 4-seat chairlift to Luková.
Following the Ski Patrol
This service is not yet obligatory in Slovakia; it is provided on a voluntary basis in Jasná
and Tatranská Lomnica, our largest and best resorts. Educating, providing up-todate information about the resort, supervising and enforcing order is essential but also increasingly demanded service in top resorts around the world. We were curious how it works in real life so we decided to follow the patrollers. We did not wait long for the first action. An older skier fell down and hit her head. “It happened fast: I turned to look at my friend and suddenly I felt a strong hit. If I had not worn a helmet, it could have ended badly,” the active pensioner Maria praised her head protection. That’s why Ski Patrol focuses on people without helmets.
No skiing without a helmet
The Ski Patrol called medics and helped the skier get down to the valley. And we got some extra information. For example, the amendment to the Mountain Service Act has been in force since
November 2015, but only children up to fifteen are required to wear helmets. However, head protection has also helped adults many times: according to statistics, it can prevent up to 80% of head injuries. “In our experience, if skiers used helmets more, there would be less concussions and neck injuries on the slopes”, stresses the chief ski patroller. There are over 1 500 mountain rescue events
during the skiing season in Slovakia every year. “There is more technical snow on the slopes, which is harder and faster than the natural snow. Even a good skier can get injured,” added Zuzana Dobránszka, spokeswoman of Tatry Mountain Resorts, which runs the largest ski resorts in Slovakia. The men in green obviously cannot complain about the lack of work. This is one of the reasons why this work is not for everyone.
On skis, but always in service
The Ski Patrol team is selected by the Infrastructure Manager of Jasná and the chief ski patroller. Stable seasonal employees are usually supplemented by volunteers using a selection procedure. “On business days, there are usually four patrollers on the north side of Chopok and two patrollers on the south side. During the weekends, when the resort gets crowded, their number may double,” said Andrej Kyška. The ski patrollers ski a lot during the winter, but it was clear to us that it was no easy job. They start work at seven in the morning and leave the slopes no earlier than half an hour after they close officially. However, this is the ideal case when the skiers are disciplined, which is an exception, unfortunately. The “ski police” service was introduced in Jasná three years ago and it has improved safety and discipline in the resort significantly.
The best remedy for most problems is prevention. Bright green jackets on white snow keep skiers alert although some problems are repeated on a daily basis, especially alcohol, dangerous skiing or ignoring signs and instructions. “Once I was standing on the top of a closed and clearly marked ski slope and still got hit by a skier,” Andrej Kyška recalls an unpleasant experience. That’s why they focus on directing rather than reprimanding the visitors of the resort. They do not have police powers, but it is often enough to block the ski pass. Skiers who don’t behave should not be on the slopes. They are a danger to themselves but especially to those who still hope that there is a perfect skiing resort in Slovakia. They are a bit closer to this goal in Jasná thanks to Ski Patrol.
These and other interesting topics can be found in the latest issue Tatry Magazínu, ZIMA 2018/2019.