Pajarito Ski Patrol, Its Past and Its Future

Pajarito is known for many things: National Geographic has named it one of the nation’s “Best Secret Ski Towns,” skiers and snowboarders readily point out its excellent fall line and unparalleled bump skiing, and Los Alamos residents understand its importance to the very fabric of the community.

Pajarito is also known for its ski patrol, and rightfully so. Like the ski area itself, this group has an impressive history and an outstanding reputation. Formed in February 1949 – just one short decade after the National Ski Patrol was established – the Pajarito Ski Patrol team provides emergency and rescue services for skiers and snowboarders. They are the first personnel on the lifts each day as well as the first responders when someone is hurt or needs assistance. Their skills are impressive  and their training is rigorous, and ski patrol members are well versed in specialized techniques that most of us don’t do, such as toboggan transportation, chairlift evacuation and avalanche search and rescue. Patrollers are responsible not only for helping injured guests but also promoting safety, and they help set up the mountain early in the morning and provide a final sweep at the end of the day.

In addition to all of this, what makes the Pajarito Ski Patrol so unique is the commitment of its membership. Earlier this year, Pajarito’s Ski Patrol recognized the late Boyd Sherwood for 40 years of service: four decades of helping guests, treating injuries, soothing fears, preventing accidents. And what’s even more remarkable is how many patrollers are following in Boyd’s footsteps, dedicating their winters, season after season, to serve on the Pajarito Ski Patrol.

The late Boyd Sherwood, grandfather figure of the Pajarito Mountain Ski Patrol and keeper of the patrol sleds. Photo courtesy of Jeff Hylok

The late Boyd Sherwood, grandfather figure of the Pajarito Mountain Ski Patrol. Sherwood was recognized earlier last March for 40 years of ski patrol service at Pajarito. Photo courtesy of Jeff Hylok.

What’s more is the Pajarito Ski Patrol is 100% volunteer. These men and women (and youth – Pajarito has an esteemed Junior Patrol program as well) use their personal time to support this effort, and they take incredible pride in their work and their mountain. As a ski area operator, I understand the vital importance of ski patrol and am grateful for the Pajarito Ski Patrol and its commitment to excellence.

I am also thankful to have the opportunity to work with someone like Bill Somers, Pajarito’s Ski Patrol Director. I recently had the opportunity to meet with Tom and Bill, and Bill is already thinking about next year, how we will continue this tradition of excellence when we move to daily operations, how he will continue to train and lead his patrol staff. I know there are many questions to be answered, but one thing is for certain: we are committed to having the best ski patrol in the state, and with Bill and Tom’s leadership, I am confident we will succeed.