At The White Mountain School, we pride ourselves on the accomplishments of our students – both on and off campus. Even after a long week filled with classes, homework, sporting events, and club meetings, our students are still able to find time to participate in some co-curricular activities during their weekends. Most notably, we have four current students involved in a Ski Patrol education program at the nearby Bretton Woods mountain resort.
“Ever since I was young, I always saw ski patrollers and wondered what it would be like to be in their shoes,” says Ben Cohen, a junior at White Mountain who is currently participating in the Ski Patrol training program. For ten days in total during the winter months, Ben travels to Bretton Woods with several of his peers to participate in a training and mentorship program with current ski resort first responders. “Since I signed up for this program, I’ve not only improved my skiing, but I have also learned about a number of other professions where I can use the medical, leadership and hands on training that I have received.”
In order to participate in the Ski Patrol program at White Mountain, one must be a proficient skier or snowboarder, have an interest in helping others and have a lot of motivation to spend time in the outdoors. Almost every Saturday during the winter months, Ben and others leave campus at 6am, ride the first lift up the mountain at 7am, and return to campus at 6pm that night.
Having this kind of first responder experience can last well beyond one’s high school years. White Mountain alumnus Scott Finlay ’76, former trustee, who was able to be reached for an interview, discussed his connection with working on ski mountains throughout his high school career and beyond. Scott –currently the Managing Director of the Finlay Group of Wells Fargo Advisors – worked his way from a trainee to a certified Patroller #562 (the highest level that you can achieve in patrolling) at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine. Scott volunteered at Sugarloaf for fifteen years, ending his stint in 2009/10 – spending about 18-25 days per year on the hill.
“For me, ski patrolling represented everything that my weekday job as a Financial Advisor did not: hard physical work, emergency response and triage, learning a field that was unfamiliar to me and an opportunity to help injured skiers and possibly save lives,” Scott said in response to how he balanced his full-time job with patrolling. “The work was hard and demanding, but it was one of the accomplishments of which I am most proud…The camaraderie that is formed when you work in an intense environment where you can be presented with a life or death situation creates a bond with your fellow patrollers that is like no other.”
Although Scott did not participate in Ski Patrol at White Mountain (it is a relatively new program between Bretton Woods and The White Mountain School), he did say that during his time at White Mountain, “(he) was able to ski substantially more than (he) ever had.” In thinking about his time at school, Mr. Finlay reminisces, “I’m not sure if I was the one that planted the ski patrol seed at White Mountain School, but I do remember hearing about the School teaching an Anatomy and Physiology course that included WFR (Wilderness First Responder) certification. Since WFR is the basis for training for ski patrollers, I suggested that White Mountain could start a ski patrol training program which would be a wonderful skill for young students to acquire and something that would allow them to approach almost any mountain in the United States for a job as a trained patroller.”
It is clear that our students benefit immensely from the experiences that ski patrol programs provide. We are not only proud of our students who spend immense amounts of their time to further every facet of their education, but also of our alumnae/i who have accomplished great things while continuing the passions that have made them curious learners ever since they attended boarding school.
By Eliot Taft, Assistant Director of Admission and Communication