Joining Patrol

The Sugar Bowl Ski Patrol Candidate Program

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Thank you for your interest in the Sugar Bowl Ski Patrol at Lake Tahoe. The Ski Patrol is a challenging, but rewarding endeavor. It is a combination of love for the outdoors, skiing, helping others and making long lasting friendships. Listed below are the required steps, as well as the benefits of joining our Patrol.

The National Ski Patrol (NSP) Candidate Program
The first step in becoming a ski patroller is to pass a ski check, the second is to take an “Outdoor Emergency Care” first aid course and lastly, to attend and successfully complete the on-the-hill training during the ski season. Here is a list of the upcoming OEC classes for this fall:

Sacramento: Starts 9 August,

South Bay: Starts 14 August,

East Bay: Starts 23 August,

Tahoe City: Starts 10 September,

Northstar Intensive 2 week course: Starts 19 October


The Ski Check
The first step to becoming a ski patroller is to pass a ski check this ski season, no later than mid April. We are looking for skiers, snowboarders or tele-skiers that are stable and confident anywhere on our mountain. This assures us that a candidate has the requisite ski skills necessary to ski any type of terrain found in the Sugar Bowl ski area. We have a wide variety of terrain, and our conditions change dramatically throughout the year. We don’t expect pretty, but we do expect competent.

The ski check will consist of two or more runs. On the first one we go through the basics: Short radius turns, long radius turns, snowplowing, power-slides, herringbones, etc. We will demonstrate each of these skills for you so you know what we are expecting to see. On the second run we will ski moguls, then do some kick-turns in a steep area, followed by some skiing in steep terrain.

Outdoor Emergency Care Course (OEC)
If you pass the ski check, the next step is to locate and sign up for a National Ski Patrol OEC course. This course is taught at several locations during the summer and fall, is approximately 80 hours total, and is normally scheduled for two evenings a week with some additional classes on Saturdays. Past locations have included Roseville, Piedmont, Santa Rosa, Modesto and Palo Alto, although locations can vary from year-to-year. This course covers the basics of trauma in an outdoor environment, with special emphasis on orthopedic and cold-related injuries (frostbite, hypothermia). OEC is comparable in scope to an EMT-B certification, but with more emphasis on trauma and less on medical emergencies. You can obtain additional information about OEC courses at

Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
You must also locate and signup for a CPR for Emergency Care Professionals course which is taught at numerous locations, times and dates. The American Red Cross, among others, provides this training. Check your local phone book for classes. You must recertify your CPR on an annual basis.

Fall Refresher
Once you pass the OEC Course, you register with the National Ski Patrol as a Candidate at Sugar Bowl. In October or November, you will then attend Sugar Bowl’s Fall Refresher. This training, which all patrollers must attend on a yearly basis, refreshes patroller’s skills such as OEC, avalanche search and rescue, chairlift evacuation and hill protocols.

On-the-Hill Training
Candidate training is held on the second and fourth weekend of the month from January through mid April, with one weekend in December for orientation. Training will primarily consist of learning how to handle a loaded/unloaded toboggan and applying OEC skills in realistic settings (snow covered mountains as opposed to classroom floors). Candidates will also spend time learning where everything is on the hill such as ski runs, closures, sweep assignments, etc. We also encourage Candidates to come up on non-training weekends to shadow patrollers. Candidates can learn a great deal about the Ski Patrol by watching us in action.

Final on-the-hill testing (OEC, toboggan handling and ski check) is typically held on the second weekend of April. If you pass all three, you will be a Basic Patroller in the National Ski Patrol, and may wear a Ski Patrol uniform and patrol for the remainder of the ski season.

The National Ski Patrol is a volunteer organization. As such, you will not be paid for your time. However, all your expenses associated with Ski Patrol (OEC textbook, CPR certification, clothing, equipment, meals and lodging) are tax deductible because the NSP is classified as a non-profit (consult your tax professional).

As a Basic Patroller, you will receive a season ski pass at Sugar Bowl. If you are married, your spouse and children will also receive ski passes. If you are single, you will receive a one-day pass, which you may give to anyone, for each day you patrol. Candidates ski free, as long as they are in training or shadowing a patroller. Candidates and patrollers also get a meal card that entitles them to half-off all food at Sugar Bowl’s cafeterias.

The best benefit of the Sugar Bowl Ski Patrol is the friendships and camaraderie you will develop as you patrol with the many exceptional people at Sugar Bowl.

Ongoing Commitment
You will be required to Patrol 14 weekend days (holidays and Christmas week also count) and attend a Fall Refresher each year. You must be ready to go at 7:45am on your assigned patrol days, and you will normally be released around 5pm. You will signup for patrol days at the annual Fall Refresher. You are free to choose your weekends, as long as you spread your commitment out over the entire ski season.

Auxiliary Ski Patrol
We have a limited number of Auxiliary Ski Patrol positions for those who have excellent OEC skills, but do not posses the ski skills required of the “on-the-hill” ski patrol. The primary responsibility of Auxiliary Ski Patrol is to staff one of Sugar Bowl’s two first aid rooms for half-day shifts, providing OEC. The remainder of the shift is spent skiing on the hill and providing OEC as needed. Auxiliary Ski Patrol receives the same benefits as Ski Patrol staff. The training program for Auxiliary Ski Patrol is exactly the same as Ski Patrol.

Most Patrollers share cabin rentals during the ski season. Costs can run anywhere between $700-1,200 per season (December to April). Start looking for a place to stay in summer or fall, since cabin space fills up quick.

Do I need OEC if I’m already an EMT-B?
Yes and no. In past years we have offered a challenge class for EMTs so they wouldn’t have to take the full OEC class. But experience has taught us that an EMT-B certification may not fully prepare students for the types of first aid skills they are likely to need on the mountain. The EMTs who have taken the OEC class have consistently commented that it was a good refresher and the hands-on aspect of the class was excellent. Please discuss this option with us if you desire to challenge the OEC requirement.

Candidate Coordinator
The Candidate Coordinator is your primary contact with the patrol. He/she will help guide you through the entire candidate process and answer all your questions.

Schedule a Ski Check
To schedule a ski check or to ask questions, send an email to the Candidate Coordinator at the email below. Generally, the second weekend of January, February or March is a very good time to schedule a ski check since we normally have a full compliment of trainers at Sugar Bowl on those weekends. However, you may choose any weekend up to mid-April to do your ski check.

If you are seriously interested in being a candidate next year, please send us your name, address, phone numbers, and in 50 words or less “Why I want to be a ski patroller”. Thank you,

The Sugar Bowl National Ski Patrol

To get more information or express your interest in joining our Patrol, please e-mail us at

5 Responses to Joining Patrol

  1. rahman batin says:

    i am interested in becoming a candiadate for volunteer ski patrol this forthcoming season.


  2. stev says:

    i was NSP at age of 16. didnt refresh at age 25. miss it bad. what are recoomendeations, do i have to take OEC again or is there on hill and paper tests to override the class?

    think snow.

  3. Brooks Baxter says:

    I’m 17 and an advanced-expert skier and I’m not sure if I can be an “on-the-hill” patroller which is what I really want to be.

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