Steamboat Springs The professional ski patrollers at the Steamboat Ski Area have established themselves as being among the most competitive on the continent a week after capturing first place in the Colorado Ski Patrol Championships at Aspen, the local hot shots placed two teams among the top five at the North American Championships in Blackcomb, British Columbia.
"We really made some noise," team member Charlie Reynolds said. "It was great."
The decision to travel to Blackcomb to compete was made at the last minute, Reynolds said. And Steamboat turned out to be the only ski patrol that opted to divide its members into two teams. Yet, the "Steam" team placed second in the competition to host, Blackcomb. The "Boat" team finished fourth in competition with the best that 16 other ski areas had to offer.
At first glance, the Steamboat team appeared to be out of its element on the steep alpine ridges and couloirs of the Canadian Rockies.
But the Coloradans more than held their own with patrollers from ski areas that boast their own extreme terrain ski areas like Lake Louise, Jackson and several teams from the Sierras.
The "Steam" team included Kyle Lawton, Brian Sieve, James DeSalvo and John Floyd.
Competing for "Boat" were Jeff "Soda" Davison, Troy Kuhl, Joe Packard and Reynolds.
The Steamboat teams used superior conditioning to get the attention of their competitors in the very first event.
It was a grueling relay that required each team member to race up the mountain in ski boots on a climb that gained several hundred feet in elevation, then ski and hike a three-mile traverse before dropping into one of several chutes that were 40 to 45 degrees in steepness.
Steam captured first place on a daring move by Floyd that left the mouths of Blackcomb veterans agape, Reynolds said.
Floyd competed in the final leg of the relay and arrived at the top of his chute to see two skiers ahead of him. Floyd, known to his teammates as "Pink," won the event by pointing his skis into the couloir and tucking it with nary a turn.
"It was the most amazing thing the guys at Blackcomb had ever seen," Reynolds said.
Steamboat did not fare as well in the event that required them to search for avalanche beacons.
However, Boat roared back in the "patient packaging" event, which requires them to securely load a patient for transport onto a backboard.
Reynolds said even though the backboard and straps were of a design unfamiliar to the Steamboat patrollers, two firefighters on the team had the experience to complete the task in one minute 23 seconds, easily the fastest time of the day. Steam placed fourth in the event.
The next event was a wild affair that required patrollers to ski in relays, towing a rescue toboggan, boarder cross style through the terrain park at the ski area. Blackcomb won the event, with Steam in second.
The host team locked up the Cascade Toboggan North American Ski Patrol Challenge by winning a ski relay that required each patroller to stop and apply some form of injury protection to a patient, for example, a quick splint.
Steam finished second in the event, just seconds behind Blackcomb and Boat placed third.
Blackcomb won the overall title over Steam by a mere two points, Reynolds said.