Frank Reeves, Pajarito Bike Patrol rep
NSP: When did you first become involved with the NSP? What was your initial interest in bike and/or ski patrolling?
Frank: I have been a ski patroller for 17 years, joining the Pajarito Mountain Ski Patrol in 2001. I had skied for 20 years prior to that and had always admired the service and professionalism of our local, all-volunteer, ski patrol. When a friend on the patrol suggested I join, I jumped at the chance. Pajarito Mountain has a long history of volunteerism. The ski area itself was developed in the 1950s by a group of people from Los Alamos that wanted to ski and took it upon themselves to form a ski club. They explored the surrounding mountains to locate just the right place and then pitched in to cut slopes, build lifts, and form a volunteer ski patrol. In a similar fashion, local mountain bike enthusiasts approached the Pajarito Mountain Ski Club in the early 2000s about developing mountain biking trails. They formed an informal group to cut trails and build features and to this day play a significant role in developing and maintaining our bike trails. In 2005, the mountain operations staff began summer lift operations a few week-ends each summer for hiking and biking and recruited ski patrollers to form a bike patrol. The Pajarito Mountain Bike patrol was formed that year and affiliated itself with the IMBA's National Mountain Bike Patrol. An avid mountain biker myself, I joined the summer patrol at its inception. Over the intervening years, more trails have been developed, and operation days increased.
NSP: How many cups of coffee do/did you drink during a patrol shift?
Frank: Coffee? IF there's a pot, I'm drinking it, snow or sunshine, winter or summer.
NSP: What do you find most rewarding about being a member of the National Ski Patrol?
Frank: To me, the appeal of ski (and bike) patrolling is equal parts service to people in the outdoor environment and great camaraderie with people dedicated to a common cause. We get to provide a meaningful service to people in need and get to do it in the most spectacular setting one can imagine. Patrollers are a group of people that are passionate about what they do. The common bond of enjoying the outdoors while serving the public fosters a tight-knit group that is motivated and energetic. The daily routine hones your skills. The first-rate training and yearly refreshers keep you current and on your game.
NSP: Tell us a little bit about your new position as the Unit Host Rep for the Pajarito Bike Patrol.
Frank:I took over as Pajarito Mountain Bike Patrol director in 2008. As the years have gone by, our area has slowly expanded summer operations. Two years ago, our ski area changed hands from a nonprofit ski club to a for-profit company. The new company is investing in expanded summer operations and has hired a bike program coordinator. This year, coincidental with the transition of bike patrol from IMBA to NSP, our area has significantly expanded biking to every weekend from May through October. These two developments, by themselves, require additional effort. Combined, we are scrambling to meet the expanded needs of the area with a competent patrol staff. My recent efforts have been focused on expanding our bike patrol numbers from a past level of around 18, composed mostly of ski patrollers.
Fortunately, we have an active local community of mountain bikers, and I have been successful in growing our ranks to 32 patrollers. However, most of that growth has come from people who are NOT ski patrollers. We are handling the deficit in trained first responders with the NSP's host unit designation, which will allow us to quickly train our host patrollers to the Outdoor First Care Program standards (and encourage them to extend their training with OEC). We also strive to pair OEC-trained patrollers with new patrollers as mentors. Under the IMBA program, patroller training was very limited. The availability of training options for bike patrollers offered by NSP, like OFC and OEC, couldn't have come at a better time for us.
NSP: What does a "day in the life of a bike patroller" look like? Challenges? Rewards?
Frank: In my estimation, the biggest challenge in bike patrolling is the difficulty in getting to injured bikers on the mountain and down to definitive care. Early on in my experience as a bike patroller versus a ski patroller, my observation was that getting around on the mountain is much easier with snow on the ground. Ski patrollers generally can ski a toboggan to virtually anywhere on the mountain and then down to advanced support. This is not the case in summer. When we get a call for assistance, we first have to review our trail maps to determine how close we can approach by ATV or other vehicle and then determine response from there. Will we hike to/from the incident scene by foot, with a Stokes litter, backboard, etc? Summer thunderstorms with lightning, hail, and possible hypothermia for ill-prepared bikers inject another hazard into the response equation. The rewards are the same as in ski patrolling. Seeing the relief in a guest's eyes when you arrive to help, working as a team to help people in distress, and acting as ambassadors for our area leave you with a warm feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.
NSP: What have you learned from your experiences as a ski patroller that will assist you in your new position?
Frank: Ski and bike patrolling require similar skills. Interpersonal skills interacting with guests, staying calm in stressful situations, utilizing your training to deal with medical emergencies, and working as a team in frequently adverse environmental conditions are common in winter and summer. Beyond the differences in access and extrication issues, ski and bike patrolling are remarkably similar. It's not surprising when you think about it.
NSP: What are you most excited about with your new role?
Frank: As an avid mountain biker myself, I am excited about the expanding opportunities of lift-served mountain biking at ski areas throughout the country. Pajarito Mountain was an early adopter of this activity and recognized the need for a summer bike patrol early on. We too are beginning to see a significant increase of summer visitors at our mountain that are drawn to our challenging trails. With that comes a need to bolster our patrol capabilities, both in numbers and first responder skills. Having benefited from NSP training for ski patrolling, I'm confident that NSP affiliation for our bike patrol will pay real dividends in helping us to support increased summer activities. With this new component of NSP, we will be better able to field well-trained, competent bike patrollers in the summer months.