My Turn

A letter to Taos Ski Patrol: A thousand times more, thank you


Dear Members of the Taos Ski Patrol,

I was among the many volunteers that stepped up to assist with the avalanche rescue on Jan. 17 and I am writing to express my admiration for the manner in which that rescue was conducted.

As some of you know, I worked as a heli-ski guide for 10 seasons; I am now the safety officer for Heli-Ski U.S. - an association of helicopter skiing companies that focuses on safety in backcountry skiing. In that capacity, I have observed guide training programs with numerous companies and have conducted safety practice audits of nearly every heli-ski operation in the United States. In short, I know how a rescue is supposed to look when it is done properly, and what I saw at the base of the K-chutes on Thursday was a flawless, professional and well-organized rescue.

I believe that everything that should have been done was done and in a timely and effective manner. From your deployment of the avalanche dogs to the way you put probe teams to work and coordinated their efforts, to the exemplary concern you showed for the well-being of the rescuers, I applaud your professionalism.

I am certain that the events of Jan. 17 weigh heavily on your collective minds. I am sorry that is so because it obscures a very important fact: over the preceding 31 years that I have lived and skied in Taos, you have kept me, my spouse and our close circle of friends safe, time after time, without exception and without anyone taking particular notice. Day in and day out, from boilerplate early season snow, to days of deep powder and days of spring corn you have done your jobs quietly, efficiently and seamlessly. For me the bottom line is this - for decades you have kept our community safe and this has not been said enough: thank you, thank you and a thousand times more, thank you.

Tomorrow, without hesitation or second thought, I will place my safety in your hands again. God willing, I will do so for another 31 years. Thank you for making it possible for me to pursue my passion in a protected and safe environment.

Very Truly Yours.

Joel P. Serra lives in Valdez.


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