Ski patrollers come to the mountain |

Ski patrollers come to the mountain

Sierra-at-Tahoe granted a favor that made a mountain out of a mole hill.

Volunteer ski patrollers from a small Southern California resort were left high and dry for the second year in a row as winter weather fronts failed to reach the Mount Waterman ski area, which rests on the edge of the Mohave desert.

Mount Waterman’s National Ski Patrol director said he needed to borrow a mountain that had snow to test and train about seven newcomers to the patrol.

“Thank god for e-mail,” Director Mike Gunning said. “I got on the National Ski Patrol Web site and went to the Far West Division and got in contact with someone from Sierra-at-Tahoe. The next week, they welcomed us to come out and use their mountain.”

As Gunning and seven other Mount Waterman patrollers made the eight-hour drive north, a blizzard blasted their mountain. The new snowfall allowed the resort to open its three chair lifts for the first time this year on Saturday. Last year, the resort opened for only two weeks.

“It happens every time, plan a trip somewhere and you get snow at home,” Gunning said. “But we’re very, very fortunate for Sierra’s generosity.”

The visiting patrollers tested their toboggan handling and skiing skills Friday through Sunday on Sierra’s advanced terrain.

“This mountain is much, much larger than ours at home,” Gunning said. “We have about 55 percent advanced terrain and a lot of advanced skiers at home and the runs at Sierra are perfect for training for that.”

Though just visitors to the area, the extra red coats were a help to Sierra patrollers on the resort’s busiest weekend ever.

“We were able to help out on four accidents on Saturday,” Gunning said. “And we helped with sweep at the end of the day.”

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