Nicholas Harper-Johnson


NSP: When did you become a patroller, and what led you to start patrolling?

Nick:I moved to Crested Butte, Colorado, as a youngster and was immediately impressed by those that made a living off the mountains, and especially those who came to help when things went wrong. I started volunteering with the fire department and search and rescue when I was still in high school. I chose to pursue structural firefighting and moved to Denver.

I got on a bigger volunteer fire department and got my EMT. A friend from EMT school who was a patroller texted me one day and said his hill in Colorado had a last-minute opening. I had just finished my first season in wildfire and knew I wanted to patrol in the future, but the opportunity fell in my lap. I was hooked from day one, and never looked back. Living in the mountains and the woods is completely elemental to my being. I met my wife on the first day of work, and after two years, we moved to Sandpoint, Idaho, and I've been patrolling with Schweitzer ever since.

NSP: What did you find most challenging about patroller training prior to becoming a patroller?
Nick: It was very cool to me the difference between a "city" patient and a "wilderness" patient. Down in the city, you had the luxury of only spending 10-20 minutes in a warm house with your patient before the hospital. The buck stops with you when you have a wilderness patient. There is no easy way out.

NSP: How many cups of coffee do/did you drink during a patrol shift?
Nick: I'm not a coffee drinker. I barely know how to operate our coffee makers in the patrol shacks.

NSP: Do you prefer to ski powder or groomers? Also, what is your favorite type of downhill bike terrain?
Nick: Powder. Every day, forever.

NSP: What have you learned the most about yourself from patrolling?
Nick: That I can never have a desk job, and never will.

NSP: What do you find most rewarding about being a member of the National Ski Patrol?
Nick: Getting paid to do my favorite things in the world every day. Skiing powder, helping folks, and blowing stuff up.

NSP: When and how did you end up becoming a Hotshot Wildland Firefighter? How many fires do you typically get deployed to during a fire season?
Nick: In 2012, I watched the Front Range in Colorado burn. It took me a few years to decide which I liked more, structure or wildland, but in 2015 I joined the U.S. Forest Service, and I did my rookie hotshot season this past summer. Wildland firefighters only work six months a year, making patrolling the perfect compliment. It's not so much the number of fires, but the number of days. From May 1st to September 29th, we spent 122 days on the road. Two weeks on, two days off. We went to 18 different fires in six states.

NSP: What inspired your "One Second a Day" film series, and what is the goal of that series? Do you already have one planned for next season?
Nick: I've always been a fan of photography and filming, but I had never taken it seriously. I heard about "One Second" films on New Year's Eve 2014 and I started filming the next day. I didn't tell anyone what I was making for about 18 months, but after friends and family watched it, I started uploading the videos to the internet. There isn't so much a goal for the series, but I intend to keep making them as long as I can. 2018 will be the fourth year of the project, and it will be a special one. (ed. note: View Nick's "One Second a Day" series on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrBmXgAqu6Nb5dIboUZgyEg.)

NSP: What is involved in the creation of that series from a technical aspect?
Nick: Mostly people asking me why I'm filming instead of working, ha-ha! But I always try to keep my eyes open and my cameras charged. The biggest challenge is that I can't film when I'm doing something exciting, so the shots tend to come from quiet moments.

NSP: You were named a Subaru ambassador for this season; what are you looking forward to regarding being an ambassador? Also, have you previously owned a Subaru?
Nick: I am new to owning a Subaru! I am most excited to take the snow machine around the West, exploring and skiing as many new places as I can.