Joanne Palmer: Hug a ski patroller today |

Joanne Palmer: Hug a ski patroller today

Joanne Palmer

In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at or

— Here's a little-known fact: Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, may have been one of the first people to introduce social networking to the Internet, but social networking has been alive and well in Yampa Valley for years.

Oh, yeah.

While that little whippersnapper Zuckerberg still was in diapers, savvy residents of Steamboat Springs were rocking social networking all on their own, without the benefits of high-speed Internet access, cellphones or laptop computers.

The social media hub in our beautiful little town is located about 9,000 feet above sea level in a place lovingly referred to as PHQ — ski patrol headquarters. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, these hard working men and women do not know. They know, in excruciating detail, who has been naughty or nice. They know exactly who closed The Tugboat Grill & Pub last Friday night and who did too many lime Jell-O shots on St. Patrick's Day. They know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the name, rank and Social Security number of the person who last skied out of bounds and the foolish local who decided to answer the call of nature in the trees. And you can bet they know Betty Sue went home with Billy Bob last Saturday night.

They know where the best powder stashes are on the mountain, and believe me, they aren't going to share that information with you, my friend. In fact, if you ask them, they'll tell you to head on over to Buddy's Run.

They know exactly which ski gear is hot and worth owning and which gear is only owned by gapers. Forget the Weather Channel or the weather bug app on your smartphone, if you want a minute-by-minute weather report, just ask a patroller. They are the authorities.

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PHQ is the ultimate water cooler. Once news hits PHQ — it travels faster than even David Lamb can ski down the mountain to the base area — all bets are off. It next could appear on 9 News that night.

Patrollers have sources that would put most reporters to shame. Do not attempt to fudge the facts or cover your tracks because patrollers see it all, hear it all and know it all. They are the eyes and ears of the mountain, which is why smart parents of teenagers have PHQ on speed dial.

I am in complete and total awe of Steamboat ski patrol. They are the unsung heroes of the Yampa Valley.

Seriously, could you ski down the mountain pulling a toboggan behind you?

Ah, nope.

Could you stabilize someone with a broken leg?

Ah, nope.

Could you willingly click into your bindings when it's 25 below and get on the gondi?

Thought not.

Have you ever looked at what a patroller carries? They are mobile hospital emergency rooms and carry 35 pounds of supplies. They have everything from tape and bandages to carabiners and a radio. And that's on a good day when they are not pulling a toboggan, carrying fencing or marking hazards. They are required to ski like an Olympian, enforce rules like a policeman and treat the injured like a medical doctor — all for less money a year than Peyton Manning will earn on his first snap of the ball.

It's a labor of love, and we are lucky to have them. Hug a patroller today. But while you are locked in that embrace, be careful what you say or do, or you may just be tweeted about or posted on somebody's Facebook page.

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