Women on ski patrol: Q&A with Jenny Altman

As mentioned in our first Lake Tahoe ski patrol profile, the words “ski patrol” likely draw to mind different images for different people. Nonetheless, the truth is that the members of ski patrol are arguably the most important people at any ski resort. And that couldn’t be truer than at Northstar California, where ski patrol isn’t just the “men in the red jackets,” but rather the team of women in the red jackets, responsible for the safety and well-being of guests.

At Northstar, the ski patrol team consists of skilled, brave, ambitious women who you’ll find patrolling the mountain, assessing the terrain, and keeping skiers and snowboarders safe. Patrol isn’t merely a job, but rather a way of life. It requires a 24/7 staff, many of whom have been doing it for years. Some of Northstar's female patrollers have been doing it for as long as 15 years!

So during the course of the 2017-2018 Lake Tahoe winter ski season, we’re profiling the women of ski patrol at Northstar California. This month's Lake Tahoe ski patrol profile features Jenny Altman, who is on her second year of patrol at Northstar. Read the full Q&A below with Jenny.

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What inspired you to become a ski patroller?

I started working at Northstar as a Lift Operator, and I always noticed Ski Patrol skiing or snowboarding by. I had admiration for them. And I also wanted a job that would enrich my life by providing medical experience, while enjoying my hobbies as much as possible and making a positive impact in my community.

What's it like having such strong female representation on Northstar's ski patrol team in an often male-dominated industry?

There are times when guests have tried to get my attention with things like, "Hey dude" or "Hey man," and been very surprised once I turned around to see a female in a ski patrol uniform. Yet I have always been treated very respectfully and valued as a member of Patrol. Nonetheless, some people can unintentionally default to gender stereotypes and treat me slightly different. But I use my interactions with all people and departments, including my own, to foster positive change towards the belief that females and males are equally capable.

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What would be your advice to other women who aspire to becoming ski patrollers?

 

My advice would be to just go for it and not let anything stop you. You are fully capable of this job and nothing should get in the way of your goals in life. You just have to work hard, show your worth and be confident.

What are some misconceptions guests may have about ski patrol?

One big misconception guests have about ski patrol is that we are police of the mountain, when in reality we are just there to help keep our guests and employees safe. A big part of our job is guest service, but sometimes guests may get upset if they think our actions are negatively impacting their experience. However, everything we do in Patrol is for them. Every piece of bamboo and rope line on the mountain is there for a reason: Our guests' safety. 

What's one of the most rewarding parts about being a part of Northstar's ski patrol team?

I think that one of the most rewarding parts of being a patroller is hearing that a guest, and even their family, is doing well after providing them with medical support in emergency situations. Receiving thanks can be gratifying, making me want to keep being a patroller. Another great part is that I get to work outside doing something I love. Not many people get paid to be outside while doing a hobby that they have a passion for.

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What's your favorite Northstar run?

My favorite spot to ride at Northstar would be The Camp Glade (Black), which is awesome when we have the powder to ski or snowboard it! If you're the type of skier/rider who likes to play around among natural features, then The Camp Glade is where it's at. 

What would be your one tip for a first-time visitor to Lake Tahoe?

If it is your first time visiting Lake Tahoe, I highly recommend you drive around the lake to go on short hikes to amazing viewpoints. A quick hike with a nice view is Eagle Falls, where you are able to capture a epic vantage point of Fannette Island. However, I recommend arriving early, as it's a popular spot on the lake. Another one closer to North Lake Tahoe (and with less traffic) is the Picnic Rock viewpoint, which ends with glorious scenery of Lake Tahoe.

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Southern born and bred, Spencer was bitten by the travel bug at a young age, flying on a plane for the first time at age five and by himself for the first time at seven. While he continues to travel around the world in search for the best whiskey, Spencer now calls Reno home, where his search is for the best cocktail (and first tracks, naturally). He has written about travel, food, and drinks for a number of publications that have included the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Outside Magazine, and Travel + Leisure, just to name a few. See a more candid version of Spencer on his website, whiskeytangoglobetrot.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.