By Alan Sorensen
Eagle Creek Ski Patrollers perform a number of other volunteer services at Bear Paw Ski Hill that lie outside their ski patrol duties.
Much of that extra work they do is done in conjunction with Snowdance Ski Association, a loosely-knit group of volunteers who maintain and operate the hill that is owned by the Chippewa Cree Tribe.
In the fall, patrollers help Snowdance clear and clean runs for a safer ski environment. They also provide lift-evacuation instructions in case there are any problems with the chair lift.
Patrollers monitor ski runs and patrol equipment throughout the season, and ensure that enough supplies are on hand and well organized.
Bear Paw Ski Hill is a weekend facility for which patrollers give up many of their days off during the winter. Each patroller is assigned specific duties for each Saturday and Sunday and must also be prepared to respond to any emergency on the hill.
Eagle Creek holds regular monthly meetings and continually stages practice scenarios to help patrollers hone their skills and stay abreast of new techniques. Members also review medical information and government rules and regulations regularly.
In order to buy needed medical equipment and first-aid supplies, the Eagle Creek bunch does something no other patrol does: sell barbecued burgers and dogs and snow-cold pop at the hill.
Because our hill does not have the conveniences of destination resorts, this is not any easy task, Judy Handstede said. The meat, buns and pop are loaded on toboggan and pulled up hill to the warming lodge at about 11 a.m. each Saturday and Sunday and then back down to the parking lot at about 2 p.m.
A patroller at Bear Paw wears many hats, she said. The patrol is busy year round, not just ski season and not just at the ski hill. Many of our patrollers are involved with assisting with first aid classes in our community.
Handstede said Eagle Creek members are pleased with the support they receive from the Havre community. Several organizations, businesses, service groups, and individuals have given of their resources, money and time to help the patrol continue its work.
Hill manager Dave Martens has been an Eagle Creek patroller for 22 years, while Herman Handstede, who also serves as outdoor emergency care instructor and instructor trainer has served 16 years with the group. Ron Watson, ski and toboggan instructor, has been with Eagle Creek for 11 years, and Judy Handstede, an outdoor emergency care instructor, and Jim Dolph have been Eagle Creekers for nine years.
Other Eagle Creek instructors are Mike Ritz, outdoor emergency care instructor, Noel Henderson, avalanche instructor in training, and Byron Ophus, outdoor emergency care instructor candidate.
Many members are trained in avalanche and mountaineering (rescue and preparation), Handstede said.
The ski season at Bear Paw usually gets under way at about the first of the year and generally runs through March.
Volunteer work parties will be organizing soon for those who would like to help prepare the hill for another successful season.
For information about season ski passes or to volunteer for work parties, contact Eagle Creek or Snowdance members.