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Your Town Greater Wausau Area: Meet two Granite Peak ski patrollers who have a heart for public service

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 9:03 PM CST
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RIB MOUNTAIN, Wis. (WSAW) - Ski season is almost in full swing at Granite Peak, and that means thousands of people will be filtering in, on and off the slopes. It has one group of people’s jobs to become even more crucial.

“I began as a junior patroller at age 16, and it literally led me through my profession,” ski patroller at Granite Peak, Scott Rifleman said. For 52 years, Rifleman has stayed true to his calling of helping people. “What the ski patrol led me into was my profession as a paramedic and a firefighter/paramedic with the Stevens Point Fire Department, and I’m also the coroner medical examiner in Portage County.”

As for Jim DeWeerd, another Granite Peak ski patroller, he was just starting his career as a physician and surgeon when he heard about ski patrolling. “When I started my residency training program, one of my neighbors was a ski patroller at a local hill, and I thought ‘that’d be fun,’” he said.

Together, Jim and Scott have over 100 years of experience. “I love it...I love working on the ski patrol and helping the skiing public, that’s why I stick with it,” Scott said.

The combination of helping people and skiing is what brings them back. “Being outdoors and skiing and helping people on the slopes who might be injured or lost is just part of my being,” Jim said.

Although they said it is a pretty rigorous job, with training and keeping up with skills, there’s a tradition all of the ski patrollers become a part of. “The tradition is being a patroller and joining a new family, and giving a life of service to the skiing industry and the skiing public,” Jim explained.

He added that the job calls for more than just rescuing. “Part of that is the emotional and psychological response to the skiing public.”

They both explained that the ski patrollers are the eyes and ears of the slopes. “We have to be out here sometimes when it’s 10, 15 below zero if the hill is going to be open we have to be out here and we have to be prepared for anything that occurs,” Scott said.

Last year, Granite Peak’s ski patrol team provided 17,000 hours of service to help those on the hill.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a ski patroller, you can learn more about the job here.

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