Friday, March 4, 2011

Kim Kircher: Using ski patrol skills to deal with personal crisis

The hardest challenges Kim Kircher has dealt with in her 21-year career as a ski patroller at Washington's Crystal Mountain have helped her get through the toughest time in her personal life.
Photo by Chris Morin
With her mostly male mates on ski patrol, Kim, 40, is required to do three important tasks: Snow Safety, Skier Safety and Rescue.

Snow safety involves avalanche control. On days following a storm, she's up at 4:30 a.m., on the lift by 6, and throwing bombs by first light. When all avies have slid, the mountain is safe to open. Here she attaches a bomb to a piece of bamboo for an air shot.

Skier safety means she does everything possible to make the mountain safe, such as putting up signs and rope lines, padding lift towers, marking hazards and controlling speed of skiers and snowboarders.  

Photo by Chris Morin
Finally, in her job of rescue, she aids injured skiers and riders as an EMT, helps those who are stuck on a cliff or otherwise can't get down the mountain, and "sweeps" the mountain at the end of the day for lost or missing people.

Needless to say, she puts in long days under stressful situations. She must stay strong and tough in the face of crisis. "The hardest part is not crying when things get hard," says Kim. "I've learned to toughen myself up; be strong when I have a patient who's not breathing, come across a bloody scene or find someone who is dead." Kim is also a diabetic, a condition that makes her physical demands even greater. She's won awards from the National Ski Patrol for her life-saving efforts.

When Kim's husband John (a member of the Kircher skiing family dynasty that owns and operates 10 ski areas in the U.S. and British Columbia ) became ill and needed a liver transplant, Kim drew upon her experiences as a patroller to help them both get through the ordeal together. "I kept saying 'I've done hard things before, I can do this,'" she says. "I knew the health issues, but beyond that, I knew I could get through it."

Today, John is cancer-free and the two are enjoying their active lifestyle. You can read about Kim's life and work in her memoir The Next Fifteen Minutes to be released in November. Check it out at I had the privilege of meeting Kim at a North American Snowsports Journalists Association annual conference at Alyeska Resort. I can tell you she is one inspiring woman—all 6 feet of her!
John and Kim Kircher of Boyne Resorts

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