Why The National Ski Patrol Is In Crisis Mode

Why The National Ski Patrol Is In Crisis Mode

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Why The National Ski Patrol Is In Crisis Mode

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Two weeks ago, the CEO of the National Ski Patrol, Chris Castilian, resigned after only thirteen months on the job. He tried to enact change but was met with fierce resistance from the National Ski Patrols (NSP) Board of Directors. In his resignation statement, he called the board of directors unable to accept change and has since described them to of the Colorado Sun as a “dysfunctional HOA board,” and that the non-profit organization “doesn’t have any capital left to burn.”

In the past couple of years, three executives and 80% of the staff at the Lakewood, Colorado headquarters of the National Ski Patrol have left. As more stories about the situation at NSP have emerged, it has become apparent that the organization is at a dangerous crossroads.

During these past couple of weeks, I reviewed articles from the Colorado Sun and Ski Area Management, talked with some ski patrollers, and reflected on my experiences as a patroller back in high school to reflect on why the National Ski Patrol is facing a crisis.

  • Lack of Pay: Being in the health care industry is a generally well-paying field… except if you work as a ski patroller. The NSP mostly represents volunteer workers, as 90% of patrollers in the Midwest, and 80% in New England are unpaid. The volunteer/employee model makes the actually paid employees poorly compensated. For ski resorts with a volunteer/paid patrol, they don’t want to pay the full-time workers more due to the belief that they can get volunteers to do the same thing without the added cost. Take the Park City Mountain Resort situation for example, where the unionized patrollers struggled to get Vail to agree to a starting wage increase of $16 an hour, which then went up to $20 with Vail Resorts starting wage hike. While they aren’t NSP affiliated, the situation is the embodiment of how paid patrollers aren’t properly compensated for what they put on the line to help get the mountain open each day.
  • East Coast, West Coast Divide: Being a ski patroller on the East vs. West Coast has different levels of challenges. The risks and responsibilities involved on the West Coast are much greater, due to avalanche mitigation and more extreme terrain. While most East Coast and Midwest ski resorts are part of the National Ski Patrol, there are quite a few big names on the West Coast that aren’t part of the NSP. This is because the bigger West Coast resorts don’t rely on volunteer workers.
  • Diversity and Inclusion Issues: While numerous patrollers from various backgrounds have reported harassment from other members of NSP, there is still a large divide among people that want to see change happen. In a survey done by the Equity Project in 2021, only 52% of National Ski Patrol members believed that the non-profit needed to incorporate principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion.” The report called on NSP to make changes to address diversity and inclusion, which is what Chris Castilian did by adding DEI thought leaders, who are creating the National Ski Patrol Diversity Council, which will supposedly meet this fall. Further changes faced resistance from the board of directors, thus leading to the CEO’s departure.
  • Brian Rull’s 2020 Comments: Brian Rull, who was a board member of the National Ski Patrol, wrote a bizarre column in their Fall 2020 NSP Magazine. Brian wrote about how he was “unfortunate enough to sit next to an Asian woman who coughed the entire flight.” With Covid-19 in full swing at that point, this was a reckless comment. The National Ski Patrol apologized if the comment offended “some people” and claimed that it was an editing error. In other words, they didn’t unequivocally denounce the rhetoric used in the column.
  • Treatment of Meegan Moszynski: After this situation happened, Meegan, who was the Executive Director of the NSP, criticized Brian Rull for his comments. She was then fired by the board of directors, which multiple sources claim to be due to her criticizing Brian Rull. Meegan Moszynski, who now works for Alterra, has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the National Ski Patrol. The complaint includes 150 pages of exhibits and evidence against the non-profit.
  • Sexism: Another odd tidbit is how most people in the health care industry are female, yet 64% of the members of the National Ski Patrol are men. For the women that try to speak about their concerns about the National Ski Patrols’ direction, they have been met with resistance and harassment, as was the case for Meegan Moszynski.
  • OEC vs. EMT: To be a part of a mountains ski patrol that is affiliated with the NSP, you have to be Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) certified, a medical curriculum course that is a months-long process. Outside of the ski industry, positions that require OEC Certification are rare. For most emergency medical services (EMS) positions, an EMT certification is required. While the National Ski Patrol sees OEC as equivalent to an EMT, others see it as equivalent to an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) course. Opponents of OEC education also claim the curriculum is outdated, and EMT certification would help bring new people from other health care positions in.
  • The Organizational Structure: The structure of the National Ski Patrol is a clusterfuck. There are thirteen members of the board of directors, who are elected by NSP members. Below them are the Division Directors, who are also elected by patrollers, and can advise the board of directors but don’t have any voting power outside of their region. As is usually the case in American democracy, turnout is low, as 30% of patrollers voting in a region is considered an impressive showing. Divisions and lawsuits have been common, leading to a dysfunctional non-profit. The organizational chart, which is below,  looks that Pepe Silvia meme from Always Sunny.

Last week, the National Ski Patrol updated its social media guidelines for its members. Instagrammer @alt_natlskipatrol has been monitoring comments made by NSP members in their Facebook group. As is typical on Facebook, comments from some patrollers feature a trend of racist and misogynistic statements. The patterns of these comments show members who are out of touch and unwilling to make changes.

On Friday, @alt_nationalskipatrol issued a statement that showed their concerns about the direction of the non-profit. They point out the issues that they have with the NSP’s alarming direction, and call on their corporate sponsors, such as Subaru and Patagonia, to put pressure on the non-profit to make the necessary changes.

Based on the reasons listed above, the National Ski Patrol has a lot of work to do if they want to remain relevant. Image Credits: National Ski Patrol, @alt_natlskipatrol

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