“I kinda have a love-hate relationship with the snow,” says Brent Emmingham. By day, Emmingham works as a Station Trainer at Spokane International Airport. By night, he is a volunteer for Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol.
“I’m always keeping in mind the safety of the airplane passengers and resort guests,” he says. “I don’t look forward to the snow when it comes to cleaning the aircraft but on the other hand, I enjoy the powder up on the slopes.”
Emmingham has spent the last 16 years battling winter conditions at the airport and the last eight seasons volunteering with the Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol. But Emmingham was a recreational skier long before his hobby turned into community service.
“I made the mistake of riding up the chair lift next to my wife’s boss at a company ski event,” he says. “Her boss was a patroller and talked me into doing it. Now it’s become such a major part of my life.”
Emmingham started patrol school in 2003. The basic ski tests, Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) training, field training and skiing with a mentor was stressful, expensive and time consuming, according to Emmingham. But it was all worth it.
“It’s nice to be in that outdoor environment and have the opportunity to help people,” Emmingham says. “Ski patrollers are here to help everybody have better experiences and it feels good to give back to the community while still doing something I care about.”
The years of hard work have paid off. He has received several awards including the 2003-2004 Outstanding New Patroller and the 2009 Patroller of the Month. He is currently the Friday night “Hill Captain” and obtained Senior Patroller status in 2009.
Despite his devotion, Emmingham says there are several misconceptions about ski patrol. “It’s not some glamorous job,” he says. “It’s a lot of hard work.” Patrollers constantly transport toboggans, put out markers, reset safety signs and move safety pads.
Fifteen inches of new snow may be great for guests, but for patrollers it means hours of extra work. But Emmingham doesn’t seem tired of working around snow, both on and off the slopes. “I’ve definitely been bitten by that volunteer bug,” he says. “Ski patrolling matches my lifestyle and it’s something that will be easy for me to stick with. I can’t really imagine not doing it.”
Here’s what you’ll catch this self-proclaimed “gear head” patrolling the runs with on Mt. Spokane.
LAYERS: Brent prefers Patagonia down sweaters, Patagonia RI pullovers and simple Mountain Hardwear layers for cold days.
SOCKS: “SmartWool Ski Socks are the best, I’ve found,” Brent says. “They have excellent support and killer warmth to weight ratio.”
BIBS: Marmot Randonnee Gore-Tex bibs. “Temperature regulation is critical for a patroller,” Brent says. “We are exposed to the elements for extended periods of time. I like these bibs because of the Gore-Tex Pro Shell fabric. They stay warm with minimal layers and they breathe well. The removable knee pads seem bulky but are a nice feature.”
JACKET: Moonstone Gore-Tex patrol jacket. It’s simple, durable, helmet capable and allows for layering, he says.
GLOVES: Brent wears Marmot Randonnee Gore-Tex gloves. “Don’t everyone’s gloves match their bibs?” he jokes.
BOOTS: Tecnica Icon TNT XRS boots. “These are nothing fancy but they fit and keep me in an aggressive stance,” he says.
SKIS: Brent switches between two pairs of Atomic skis. He uses Atomic R11 skis with Atomic 412 bindings–All Mountain for most days on the hill. But his Atomic Snoop Daddy skis with Atomic Neox bindings are great for powder days and “off-piste fun.”
GOGGLES: Smith Tinted goggles for day use and Scott clear goggles for night skiing.
WATCH: The Suunto Vector Watch has weather, altimeter and compass functions. “I like to track runs and the amount of vertical I ski in a day,” he says.
FIRST AID: Conterra Patrol 2 Aide Belt. His kit is filled with items such as a SAM splint, CPR Blob, gauze, band-aids, cravats, pupil dilation light, Black Diamond Headlamp, rescue scissors and Insta-Glucose 24.
RESCUE GEAR: Foldable saw, rescue rope, carabiners, space blanket, hand warmers, GU Energy, NiteRider TriNewt head light, Garmin eTrex Legend GPS.
TOYS: “My ContourHD 1080p Helmet Camera is absolutely unnecessary for patrolling but it’s a lot of fun,” Brent says. “It’s sleek, light and High Definition.” Brent also uses a Phresheez iPhone application that tracks his runs and links photos taken throughout the day.