Tom Eshelman was introduced to the National Ski Patrol as a 7-year-old first-time skier in need of first aid after an out-of-control skier hit him.
"[It] was a traumatic time which revealed my limited knowledge of first aid and resulted in a trip to the hospital," said his father, Ron Eshelman.
The accident led to the father and then the son joining the patrol, the on-mountain first-responders to injured skiers and snowboarders.
"Outdoor Emergency Care training is given during the offseason and requires a commitment to study and pass the written and practical examination," said Ron Eshelman, 49. "[It] is very similar to what an [Emergency Medical Technician-Basic] is trained to do."
Kristen Goodell, 44, joined the Boyce Park patrol in 2005 to be a role model to her daughters, then 5 and 2 and to "instill in them not just the joy of skiing but the importance of giving back to the community by helping others."
She also guides blind skiers at Seven Springs.
The National Ski Patrol, now celebrating its 75th anniversary, is recruiting members for patrols at most local and regional resorts, "especially at Blue Knob and Seven Springs," said Marty Silverman.
Silverman, regional director for the Western Appalachian Region of the Eastern Division of the National Ski Patrol, oversees 13 patrols in western Pennsylvania, western Maryland and West Virginia.
"Most people don't realize that more than 90 percent of patrollers are volunteers," said Silverman, 57, who joined the organization at age 17. He and the Eshelmans are on the patrol at Hidden Valley.
"We don't get paid to be there at 7 in the morning to get the slopes ready for the day, or to stay until 10 at night even when it's raining. We do it because we like skiing and we like helping people.
"We aren't doing it for the free ski pass," Silverman added. "If you took all the hours we put into training and patrolling and divide it by the cost of a pass, I'm not sure it would add up to $1.50 an hour."
Goodell and the Eshelmans echoed Silverman's comments about joining the patrol to help others.
Some of the benefits of joining a patrol are a "new network of friends, the opportunity to ski a lot of other places, personal improvement in skiing and first aid, and a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment if you strive to pass higher certification levels," said Liz Hermann.
Hermann, 55, who joined the patrol in 1984, volunteers at Blue Knob. So do her daughters, Zoe, 21, and Anna, 15. She also serves as the adviser to the region's Young Adult Patroller program for youngsters age 15-18.
Nine of them accompanied her last weekend to a seminar at Smuggler's Notch, Vt.
The young patrollers competed in four categories: outdoor emergency care, skiing, tobogganing and overall combined.
Bringing an injured person down a slope in a toboggan requires strength, skill and training. The goal is to bring the toboggan down slowly and safely.
Blue Knob's Caleb Parnell was third out of 46 participants in skiing and overall combined and sixth in tobogganing.
Seven Springs' Jared Boger and Cody Weinzierl placed fifth and sixth in tobogganing.
Tussey Mountain's Maddy Nyblade placed sixth in skiing. She also received the prestigious Hans Hyson Award for demonstrating a positive attitude; respecting her peers, patrollers and the general public; being active at her home mountain and school; and performing community service.
Also participating were Seven Springs' Austin Airhart, Blue Knob's Christina Brady, Anna Hermann and Brittney DeHart and Tussey Mountain's Eve Farwell.
Next week: patrol advice
Larry Walsh writes about recreational snow sports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. First Published March 23, 2013 12:00 AM