Copper Mountain Resort’s Toby Cruse wins Colorado ski patroller of the year
FRISCO — Toby Cruse of Copper Mountain Resort was awarded Colorado Ski Country USA’s 2021 Double Diamond Ski Patroller of the Year award.
Cruse said the award validates his efforts and the Copper ski patrollers he works with, as well as his longevity and passion for the job the past two decades at Copper.
“I have never stopped enjoying my career in ski patrolling,” Cruse said. “It’s one of those occupations where every day is different. It’s so stimulating because you never see the same thing twice. You’re always confronted with a situation that demands you think on your feet, come up with ideas and look at the team you have around you. A lot of this award to me is how good my team is around me.”
Cruse has worked as a ski patroller for more than 20 years at Copper, plus previous stints at Keystone Resort for nine years and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area for eight years.
Cruse said the first and foremost important element of being a ski patroller is working hard no matter what you’re doing, whether that be trail work, avalanche control work or medical work.
“The harder you work, the more you influence the people around you to do the same,” Cruse said.
Cruse said the diverse nature of the job includes varying strenuous activities, including carrying avalanche-mitigation explosives in his backpack, running miles of rope line and moving snow fences as part of terrain management.
“Things tend to get piggybacked one on each other, and then you hit the end of the day and you’re tired, but the day has gone really fast,” Cruse said. “You also accomplished a lot.”
In the past year, Cruse said he is most proud of how he and the resort’s ski patrol staff reacted to undertaking their jobs amid COVID-19 rules and regulations. Cruse said that put him and other patrollers in a new, more difficult position.
“When you’re helping hurt people, you have no choice but to be close. You have to be hands-on,” Cruse said. “So I’m impressed with the staff’s efforts to provide the best medical care they could provide. These were challenging calls, some serious trauma accidents, and we did as we did before — an amazing job helping people survive serious accidents.”
Cruse said COVID-19 also resulted in Copper switching up how it rotated patrollers at the resort’s different duty stations. During the pandemic, the patrol team worked in cohorts and remained in their same duty stations for the entire season.
“That was a challenge for a lot of patrollers, but I also think it gave us a tremendous amount of familiarity with the area for consistency,” Cruse said. “We knew day after day this was our turf and this is what we were focusing on.”
Cruse is one of Copper’s six crew leads, formerly known as foremen, helping to organize the totality of the resort’s ski patrol operations. It’s on Cruse to lead up to 30 patrollers at a duty station, whether that’s managing people and terrain on Copper’s popular front side or conducting avalanche mitigation and control above tree line or on the resort’s back side.
Cruse said he’s always felt Copper is a standout in Colorado’s High Country in terms of the terrain it offers skiers and riders. As for Copper’s ski patrol, he’s proud of the consistency and longevity the resort’s ski patrollers have had in a job, and industry, where turnover is common.
“Part of the problem with ski patrol is people turn over very quick,” Cruse said. “But we’ve kept our core group of patrollers who’ve been around awhile. And we have respect for each other. We have a good training process also, and all those things put together make us a strong, cohesive staff. That’s what makes a strong team.”
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In a move unusual in today’s West, private land in the Crystal Valley opened in July to free public use by mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners. Coal Basin Ranch opened a 5-mile trail network in mid-July that is open to the public at no cost.