Having a field day: Brookvale ski patrol prepares for emergencies

It may be a little early in the season for skiing but that hasn't stopped the Brookvale Provincial Park ski patrol from preparing for potential emergencies.

Exercises included rescuing people from a broken chair lift, caring for a burn victim

Members of the Brookvale Provincial Park ski patrol help rescue skiers stuck on a chair lift as part of an annual exercise. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

It may be a little early in the season for skiing but that didn't stop the Brookvale Provincial Park ski patrol from preparing for potential emergencies at their annual field day Saturday.

Dozens of members of the patrol began the day on the slopes of the park beneath the ski lift to practice rescuing skiers stuck on a chair lift. 

"In the middle of winter, and if there's a wind blowing and you have young children on the chair, it's pretty important to get them off quickly because they're not dressed for the weather to be sitting in one spot," said patrol leader Gary Ogle.

In teams, the ski patrol members took turns throwing a weighted rope over the metal cable that holds the chairs.

The ski patrol hoists up a harness to volunteers on a halted chair lift. Organizer Gary Ogle says the team has never had to actually rescue anyone from a chair lift at the park, but they've had a few close calls. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

They then hoisted up a harness for the stranded skiers and slowly lowered them down.

'We have to be prepared'

The scenario has never actually happened at Brookvale, but it's something Ogle said the team needs to be prepared for.

"It's come close. The chair lift has stopped," he said. 

Earlier this year in New Brunswick, 50 people had to be rescued from a broken chair lift. 

'A fun, exciting, stressful, experience'

But the training didn't end there. Just as the patrol team thought they were heading in for lunch, chaos ensued at one of the park's canteens.

About ten different emergency scenarios unfolded simultaneously, including a woman with simulated burns, someone with a concussion, and a man that had just been run over in the parking lot.

In another simulation, the team had to tend to a man who had been in a car accident. Part of the exercise was to communicate with each other while bandaging wounds and placing the victim on a stretcher. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

"It kind of a little bit of a fun, exciting, stressful, experience for them, but it does prepare them for what could sometimes happen at a ski resort," said organizer and instructor Greg McCormick.

Craig Taggart is an instructor for the ski patrol and also helped put together the emergency scenarios. 

He said the goal was to make the injuries and situations seem as realistic as possible.

"You get into a mind set of 'this person's hurt,'" he said, which can help trainees take the practice more seriously.

Building a team

McCormack added that forcing the team into stressful situations together can help build their coordination with one another.

"It's something we have to instill in them because they're going to be working together," he said.

"Some of them are complete strangers to each other so this is a great way to ... culminate the training and build a good team atmosphere."

It was a chance for ski patrol members like Scott MacDonald to practice first aid training.

"It really made you think and try and help people," he said.