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It’s all about the women of Ski Patrol

Mount Hotham’s female patrollers are tough and as passionate as they get.

From dealing with serious injury victims on the slopes to doing sweeps in extreme blizzard conditions, they have the skills and physical and mental strength to take on anything that is thrown their way.

Mount Hotham Ski Patrol is a mix of unique and interesting personalities that come from many different walks of life. Some are snow chasers, others are doctors and you could sit and talk to them all day to discover the many different aspects of these mountain angels!

The team is a mixture of full-timers and volunteers, women and men, young and old, foreign and local.

Two of the women were kind enough to tell their story.

 

Kylie Petros - Mt Hotham Senior Ski Patroller

Mount Hotham Senior Ski Patroller, Kylie Petros, is just one of the many ski patrol women who is extremely passionate about chasing the snow and helping others. Kylie uses her skills on the snowboard, another unique aspect of her career in patrol, and said that she hopes to educate others that it is possible for snowboarders to do patrol.

Kylie has endured fourteen snow seasons back-to-back and has been ski patrolling since 2009. She currently goes back and forth between Colorado and Mt Hotham to do her seasons and has established herself on both mountains.

It was until the age of 24 when she first saw snow and fell in love with it, from that time onwards she was keen to pursue a career in the industry.

“My first time at the snow was in 1998 at Falls Creek and I just fell in love with the mountains, area, people and the lifestyle, but I didn’t start patrolling until I was living in New Zealand in 2009. They have a 12-month ski patrol certificate program through polytechnic and they take snowboarders there, and I was one of the lucky 16 who landed a spot,” she said.

“We did work placement at the end of the course, where I did six weeks at Remarkables for NZ Ski and some shadow days over at Coronet Peak, and through that I met a couple guys who had patrolled at Copper mountain and they hooked me up over there.

“I volunteered the first season, I got the experience up there and at Coronet Peak the following year, and then took a job in Charlottes in 2011 to get my foot back in the door in Australia.

Kylie’s said that patrolling on the snowboard had its limits but most things could be achieved, but it was more about being prepared, aware of your surroundings and thinking ahead.

“To be part of patrol you must be very strong mentally, emotionally and physically but if people have that, or are prepared to work on and develop that and their skills then they can make it happen.

“You’re an athlete, you’re a professional skier or snowboarder so you have to look after yourself and the people around you and be very adaptable - it is a hard job to get into but it’s the best job in the world,” she said.

 “It’s the lifestyle, I love it, it’s the people that you meet and the people that you get to help, so when I started snowboarding over at Falls Creek I just loved the atmosphere and the environment.

 “It’s all about fall line and we don’t have much traversing here, the only areas we can’t take a rig out on the snowboard is valley trail out of Mary’s. We can run it to the bridge but then we will switch over to a skier and we use a different rig there – different equipment for different terrain.

Kylie is a route leader over at Copper mountain – I do a lot of snow safety there and avalanche but we have a releasable system worked out for the snowboard.

 

Jo Winter - Full-time Mt Hotham Ski Patroller

Jo Winter is another female that takes the lead in ski patrolling. Born and bred at Falls Creek, she has completed snow seasons in various roles all over the world including Falls Creek, Mt Hotham, Thredbo, Japan, Chile, Argentina, Canada and United States.

“I have been working in the ski industry on-and-off for 21 seasons in varying roles – it was something I always wanted to do but I was moving around so much I couldn’t commit to coming back to one place.  So, as soon as I could do that I tried out for patrol and I have been patrolling at Mt Hotham ever since,” she said.

Jo’s ski patrol has seen her accomplish four winters at Mt Hotham and one in Colorado. Some of the jobs she has done in her time at the snow includes running hotels, bars, restaurants, lodges ski shops, nannying and participating in racing and events.

“It’s the best job in the world you don’t know what every day could bring, you could be on a resuss or digging out signs on the end of a shovel or skiing powder or sitting in the rain on a skidoo.

“It doesn’t matter what conditions there are we are all prepared to be out in them. The variety is what I think people love about it and the ability help people in time of need.

“Patrol is like my family and I’m probably closer to some patrollers than I am my own family because we have always got each other’s back. It’s a real comradery and pulling together to get the job done sort of spirit.

“I guess when you work on some of those pretty heavy scenes that’s when you really notice just how much everybody understands and pulls together as a team – you don’t get that in a lot of jobs.

In between her lengthy time working in the snow she has also been busy jumping out of helicopters as one of 32 repel firefighters in the southern hemisphere for remote Victorian bushfires during summer.

The bushfires near Mt Hotham in 2013, saw two firefighters killed near Harrietville which made her realise she really wanted to be a part of that community.

“Being back in the bush I physically wanted to be out there every day, so I sought out that job and worked my way up to repel and did that for a couple years.”

“Finding out how much I loved emergency services has made me consider all the different avenues.

“I made a decision that set me up to ski and work around the world and my passion was ski and travelling so that’s what I did. It’s only been later that I discovered how much I love helping people and being a part of this sort of community, and obviously Hotham is where my heart is so it was just a natural progression into patrol.

To advance her knowledge and skills, Jo took up a role as a trainer and examiner with Australian Ski Patrol Associations (ASPA). She now also looks after their social media and marketing and is currently working on helping get a pro deal system for Australian Ski Patrollers.

 

03 October 2017