Southern California Region News

Whaley Park Instructor Refresher - 13 September

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Certified Program - Secrets for Success in 2015/2016

By Mark Giebel
Program Certified Advisor, SoCal NSP


    Certified Program in Southern California is alive & well!  My wife & I have been Certified patrollers since the 90's.  We've seen the peaks & valleys of the program until four years ago when things really took a change.  Then, we had two candidates, now we have thirty.  It's been five years since anyone became fully certified.  This year, we have had five who became N.S.P Certified, four of which also became A.P.P. (Association of Professional Patrollers) Certified.  As Certified Advisor for Southern California, I could take all or some of the credit, but in reality we have some incredibly talented individuals who only needed a little guidance in directing and reaching their goals.  We as patrollers are so driven in our emphasis to help others that we often forget about the need or desire to improve our skills beyond our daily patrol routine.

     In Southern California, once a Certified candidate has recognized the importance of the Certified program and chooses to make it a priority, then the challenge begins by dedicating time for training.  This can only happen by the support of our individual ski areas allowing us to provide monthly scheduled training clinics, focusing on time for each of the nine A.P.P. modules. Then, followed up with opportunities for mid-winter evaluation clinics which are offered several times during the season.  In addition, the spring clinic is held somewhere in the Western Region of the U.S., changing location each year.  Snow Summit and Bear Mountain have led the way in supporting our program.  A key ingredient in our success, is making it fun and having excellent instructors to deliver the training.  It's not just about receiving a merit badge, but about giving back to others what you have learned.  It's about creating "synergism" and "camaraderie".  These are key in whatever program you might be involved in conducting. Reaching out with personal contact and phone calls, not just e-mails to solidify your support in having candidates participate often goes a long way.  Once you have a few key role model patrollers involved, promoting of the program becomes easy.  Even though I've been accused of having a heavy hand with recruitment, it's all worth it when you see the smiles that patrollers respond with when they tell you that, "I just certified in this module", or another or especially when they're completed to the status of fully CERTIFIED.

     In reading this article, you might have noticed that I mentioned nine modules. Yes, the Far West has adopted the framework of the A.P.P. ( Association of Professional Patrollers) organization to acquire our certifications.  But, first the patroller can obtain N.S.P. certification in the process with less requirements needed.  We, here in the Far West have been connected with A.P.P.  since the 80's.  Thanks to a long time N.S.P. member Tom Battenberg and the support of the A.P.P. President & Vice President Rich Bailey and Mike Nolen, the program continues to grow in strength.

     Lately, there is discussion that N.S.P. Certified Program has modules within its curriculum that never will be needed or exposed to while patrolling, so why include them?  Examples: Avalanche Rescue (transceivers), Avalanche Science (snow pits etc.), or anything to do with Explosives.  Maybe, each Region or Division could make certain adaptations within a module, but lets not DILUTE the program with what's working well in the Far West.  The success of the program is its diversity and enriching fulfillment of completing something that is not easy but challenges your ability to broaden your knowledge base. With this knowledge, if you wish, you could go anywhere in the Nation as a Certified Patroller and take on a leadership roll at that resort.  In the twenty plus years of teaching Certified, I've never had a Certified candidate come up and ask me, why do we have to learn or complete a certain module.  We know that most of the ski resorts in Southern California, the patroller will never throw a bomb, use a transceiver or even dig a snow pit, but the quest to enrich our skill level exists in all of us.  Think of all the classes you have taken in your schooling that you will never use yet, enjoyed learning about to develop you into a more well rounded individual.

     Many ski areas in the United States involve both paid and volunteer patrollers.  As volunteers, we follow the direction of the paid staff, so why would we want to exclude them with our own program, separate from what they do ???  This is a major reason for our success, it is being able to work together and respect each other in our quest to become better with what we do as patrollers.

1) Risk Management 
2) Hill Safety 
3) Medical 
4) Rope Rescue 
5) Skiing 
6) Toboggans (sled handling ) 
7) Avalanche Rescue 
8) Avalanche Science 
9) Explosives (blasting seminar pre.)

Mark Giebel

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