By Deb Everts
Allegany State Park’s Nordic Ski Patrol last weekend hosted the Eastern Division of the National Ski Patrol’s Nordic Fest at Camp Allegany.
Nordic members of the National Ski Patrol are hardy, dedicated volunteers who monitor cross-country ski and mountain biking trails across the United States, keeping people safe and rescuing them in times of need.
Mary MacQueen, director and instructor for the ASP’s Nordic Ski Patrol, said this is the first time the event has taken place at the park and hosted by ASP Nordic Patrol. The Nordic Fest takes place somewhere in the eastern division every three years and consists of backcountry skiing, also known as cross-country skiing. She said the park is appealing to other patrollers from around the division because of its close proximity to Lake Erie with its lake effect snow.
“Every year, the ski patrols are required to do an ‘On the Hill Refresher.’ This event was our patrol’s annual refresher. However, we also hosted this annual refresher and educational opportunity for the rest of the divisions,” she said.
According to MacQueen, who is one of 11 Nordic Masters within the National Ski Patrol, six of those Nordic Masters were in attendance at this event. She said 40 members from as far south as Virginia and north to Maine registered this year to take a number of different clinics of their choice.
“Ski Skills and Emergency Sled Building are the two mandatory clinics that Nordic patrollers have to take every year. They have to learn how to build a sled out of their skis and the equipment they have in their backpack,” she said. “It’s not like an Alpine slope where you can just call and have them send up a snowmobile with a toboggan behind it to transport the person. The Nordic ski patroller has to get the injured person out of the area themselves.”
MacQueen said the training ski patrollers get in first aid is similar to the training of an EMT. In addition, they also have to spend a whole winter season learning how to do those skills on a slippery slope.
Other clinics included Map and Compass, Emergency Shelters, Instructor Development, Nordic Ski Waxing, Fire Building and Outdoor Cooking, Avalanche Transceivers, Nordic Ski Enhancement and Emergency Sled Building.
One of the biggest draws to this year’s event was the Nordic ski instructor who came from the Professional Ski Instructors of America to teach the ski enhancement segment. MacQueen said the park was nice enough to groom a half-mile long track for the event at Camp Allegany, which was a huge help.
According to MacQueen, Nordic ski patrollers from all over the eastern and central divisions, as well as the southern division, are drawn to the event because the Nordic program of the National Ski Patrol is the fastest growing aspect of the ski patrol. She said there was a 66-percent increase in the number of new patrols that were started last year alone.
“The reason for this increase is the ski patrol isn’t just ski patrolling anymore,” she said. “Now, they are also patrolling mountain bike trails and they do a lot of other things, in addition to the winter activities.”
There’s potential for people getting injured in places like Allegany State Park that have mountain biking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. MacQueen said having the National Ski Patrol is a “feather in the cap’” for an area because to be able to say the area is patrolled by the National Ski Patrol makes people feel safer and gets more visitors to the areas.
MacQueen, who works as a deputy for the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office, said she started the ASP Ski Patrol in 2002 and recruited the original five patrol members. The group currently has 16 patrollers on the roster.
“Nordic people are like a big family. There’s a lot of camaraderie and shared interests in the group,” she said. “We all know each other; we’re all of the same mindset and love the outdoors.”
According to MacQueen, the ASP Nordic Patrol has always been a National Ski Patrol in the Nordic aspect, which is also known as backcountry. She said the National Ski Patrol has been around since 1938 and is the “gold standard” for a ski area to have because the training is top-notch. It about 48,000 members across the U.S. and there are also European divisions, as well as other divisions around the world.
If anyone is interested in joining the ASP Ski Patrol or would like more information, they should contact MacQueen at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the National Ski Patrol website at nsp.org.