Snow dripped onto my face, ran down my cheek, and slowly found its way to the warm cradle of my neck where it settled into a small puddle. If I moved my arms to wipe the snow off my face, more dripped. It was a futile attempt since I was buried a few feet under the snow in a small cave about the size of a coffin. Only inches separated my face from the snow.
There was no space to move, but I quickly realized the reality—I was a lot more comfortable than I would be if I were really buried alive in an avalanche.
Earlier that morning Nicole Deaver arrived at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and got ready for the day in the Ski Patrol Locker Room. The patrollers arrive whenever they want, so long as they give themselves enough time to get amped up on hot coffee and are dressed and ready to go by 7:45 a.m. At the daily meeting before heading out to the slopes, Deaver was assigned to Bump 3, the ski patrol tower at the top of Face Lift Express.
The 34-year old California native is a ten-year veteran of Mammoth Mountain Ski Patrol. She moved to Mammoth Lakes after graduating from Arizona State University to ski for a season. After a year of working in local ski shop, she made the switch to ski patrol and decided to make the Eastern Sierra her home.
A few minutes before the ski lifts open to the general public, the patrollers ride Broadway Express – Chair 1 up and ski to their assigned zones for the day.
“Hey, I heard you’re buying lunch today,” says a smiling lift operator as Deaver loads the chair.
“I’m nice,” she says, “but not that nice!”
Read the full story online at the Mammoth Lakes Insider Blog.
Photo: Nicole Deaver and Duke / © Monica Prelle