Greg Kodila was once saved by the ski patrol.
As a teenager of about 16 years old, Greg was cut quite seriously by his own ski in a crash, and he remembers the snow turning red all around him as he bled out onto the snow.
It was under a chair lift, and he even recalls people on the lift screaming when they saw him laying there bleeding.
But luckily for Greg that day, ski patrollers responded in time, and staunched the flow of blood. The doctors at the hospital told him he’d been very lucky indeed, and he might easily not have made it without their help.
Perhaps that experience helped influence Greg’s decision when head patroller Alex Michael’s asked Greg if he’d like to join the volunteer patrol at Murray Ridge.
Greg said yes and has been one of the volunteer patrollers at Murray Ridge since 2008, and this year, he was voted Ski Patroller of the Year by his peers for the second time.
The first time was during the 2008-09 season, Greg’s first year as a patroller. This year, it was a tight race, but he managed to earn top spot again.
Growing up in Ontario, Greg had learned to ski from a young age. He learned in the icy eastern Canadian conditions of Terrace Bay on the north shore of Lake Superior, and he remembers skiing on Saturdays when he was young. Lessons in the morning and free skiing in the afternoon,
“I didn’t know what powder was until I moved to B.C.,” laughs Greg.
But as good as the snow was, Greg spent about ten years barely skiing at all, after moving to Vanderhoof.
With two young children, a wife who didn’t ski and with Monday and Tuesday as his days off (when Murray Ridge is closed), Greg’s old skis sat in the corner for awhile.
But once his situation changed and he was able to ski more often, Greg rediscovered his love for the sport, even buying new fat powder skis this year.
And apparently, the icy conditions out east can make for good skiers, because he’s a very talented skier. Head patroller Alex Michaels even commented on Greg’s technique, saying he was a beautiful skier to watch.
But it was more than his skills on skis that earned him the Patroller of the Year Award for the second time.
“I think that where his strengths are is his commitment, his willingness to help others, his dedication to constantly improving his first aid skills, his expert skiing technique and his friendly and outgoing nature,” says Alex Michaels.
I would agree especially with the friendly and outgoing nature.
Greg is in his forties, but he’s absolutely full of energy and always cheerful and looks far younger than his age.
He credits skiing as his fountain of youth, saying “it keeps me young” and it seems to be working for him.
I met Greg Kodila on the slops at Murray Ridge. It was the end of January and I was up taking some photos when I came across an injured skier.
My friend stayed to help the woman and I continued down the hill to alert ski patrol.
Greg was one of the responding patrollers at the scene by the time I made it back up to the spot with head patroller Alex Michaels.
At that point the patrollers were well on their way to having the hurt skier packaged and were just about to load her into the toboggan.
The patrollers were calm and professional, keeping the mood light and positive.
I didn’t speak to Greg much that first day, there was a lot going on after all.
But it did made me appreciate the job patrollers do a little more, and the valuable service they provide the community, keeping the hill a safe place to play for us all.
Every weekend, patrollers go out and ski, and while that is why they love it, it’s also a big commitment of time and even money.
According to head patroller Alex Michaels, patrollers must take intensive first aid and mountain rescue courses each year, totalling around 75 hours in training. Some have to purchase their own uniforms and in addition, they must pay a registration fee and they have to commit to a minimum of four days a month on the hill.
While that might not sound like much in a month, to a person with a full time job it means no sleeping in on days off.
And while he does miss sleeping in, Greg enjoys both the skiing and the adrenaline of helping people on the hill, even if he does dread the day he might come across a severely injured skier or boarder.
After what he calls “undoubtedly my best season” Greg is keen to keep on patrolling the Ridge.
He appreciates the open, relaxed atmosphere of the small town hill and doesn’t think he’d enjoy it as much at a more structured larger resort, even if patrollers at those hills do get paid.
“As long as I’m skiing at Murray Ridge I think I’ll stay involved,” he says.
I for one am grateful Greg and the rest of the Murray Ridge Volunteer Ski Patrol give up slow weekend mornings to help our communities enjoy what this beautiful area has to offer.