Alyeska Resort promotes Ben Habecker to Director of Ski Patrol
November 29, 2010 (Girdwood, Alaska) – Alyeska Resort has promoted Ben Habecker to the position of Ski Patrol Director. Habecker has been working for Alyeska Resort since 2003, beginning his career at the resort as a member of the lift operations crew, tram operations crew and Volunteer Ski Patrol, before spending two years as a member of Alyeska’s paid patrol staff.
He then spent two years as the night patrol supervisor and two additional years as the assistant patrol manager before moving into the top spot after long-time director Peter Zug announced his retirement. “I learned a lot from Peter Zug’s management,” says Habecker, “And I hope to carry on in his footsteps in a positive direction.”
Habecker, a native of Michigan, received his introduction to the field of ski patrol in Loveland, Colorado, where he received Outdoor Emergency Care Training and gained on-hill experience. Ben eventually moved to Alaska in search of bigger mountains and deeper snow. Patrolling in Alaska is a unique and challenging experience due to the weather extremes and continual transitions from warm weather to cold, along with the huge amounts of annual snowfall.
Since the U.S. Forest Service classified Alyeska Resort as a Class A Avalanche area in the 1960’s, Alyeska Resort has had a very aggressive avalanche mitigation program. The resort’s Ski Patrol department works hand-in-hand with the Snow Safety Department to ensure safe recreational experience in-bounds.
Alyeska Resort Ski Patrol is made up of 33 full-time patrollers and 21 part-time patrollers. Pro-patrollers wear bright red jackets and are available in multiple locations at the resort. Patrol also benefits from its 67 Volunteer National Ski Patrol members, who lend a hand on busy weekends and holidays when the resort has more skiers on the hill and inevitably more need for experienced patrol staff.
The Ski Patrol also has three Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers in its Avalanche Canine
Program, a program that utilizes highly trained air scenting rescue dog and handler teams. The goal of the program is to broaden the available avalanche safety tools that Snow Safety and Patrol have on-hand at the Resort.
Alyeska Resort is working towards a year-round mountain patrol presence in order to be on-hand to respond to accidents and incidents. In the summer of 2011 the resort plans to add tram-accessed mountain biking on the weekends. The addition of down-hill biking, along with increasing traffic on existing mountain nature trails, translates into additional summer patrol and rescue support necessary in keeping Alyeska’s summer guests safe.
“Summer patrol is more involved than winter rescue,” says Habecker, “In the winter, response times are somewhat quicker due to access on-snow with skis. In the summer, rescues can involve long approaches and more variable terrain. With the growth of summer activities at the resort, we are committed to additional summer presence so that our hiking and biking guests can adventure safely.”
Alyeska Resort has hired Heather Thamm as assistant patrol director for the 2010-11 ski season and Michelle Jedlicka was promoted to night patrol supervisor.