The Woman Behind Women of Patrol
Coalition Snow Ambassador Kari Brandt created the organization Women of Patrol, a platform for women ski patrollers to chat, meet and join in clinics specifically for themselves. Learn more about her here.
Name: Kari Brandt
Home Mountain: Snow Valley, CA
Coalition Snow Gear: SOS All Mountain Ski
When Kari Brandt stepped into the role of a ski patroller at Snow Valley, she knew it was the career path for her. However, the lack of other women in her field was thoroughly noticeable so she set out to be the change she wanted to see. Throughout the past seven years, Kari has made it her personal mission to shatter the glass ceiling in order to create a more inclusive and friendly patrol environment for other women to join her.
She currently develops the emergency medicine program for risk management program at a local theme park, serves on board of directors with Association of Professional Patrollers (APP) and works as a ski patroller part-time at Bear Big.
Can you give me your personal history of ski patrolling?
It started when I was a little kid. I grew up in a really small town called Green Valley Lake in Southern California. There are only about 250 residents. My godparents founded a local ski hill and my mom and dad were both ski patrollers there. My sister and I on weekends would always be at the hill, ski around and hang out in the patrol hut.
When I was four years old I distinctly remember getting a 101 Dalmation fanny pack. I would fill it with bandaids and wet wipes and ski around with it. One time I saw there was this guy who was probably in his late 20s who had fallen. At four I skied up to him and asked ‘Hey do you need any help? Need any band-aids or wipes?’ And he was like, ‘Uhh no I’m okay! Thanks!’ And I was like, ’Okay, good have a nice day,’ and just skied away. I hope he still shares that story too.
How did Women of Patrol get started?
It was after my second season of patrol, which was six years ago. I went to one of the APP clinics in Oregon and met a bunch of the patrol ladies from Crystal Mountain and found that a third of their patrol are women. My rookie season of patrol I was one of three, which was really cool, but after that I became one of one woman on my patrol. It was really cool to see a ski area with a really strong women’s program. After that clinic myself and another female patroller we wanted to expand the women’s program with APP.
We started doing on-hill women’s clinics, I did a couple of down here in Southern California with the National Ski Patrol. I still wanted to have a larger impact.
What do you do in these clinics?
It depends. I first started focusing them around skiing because, obviously, we are in this profession because we love skiing. The toboggan clinic came around because when I learned how to pull a toboggan it was only guys teaching me so they’d say, ‘Oh just lift it up and pull it over here.’ I realized I didn’t have the same strength to do that and had to figure out on my own to get the toboggan to work for me. I didn’t have another woman to learn those tricks of the trade from, and I wanted to take what I learned and share it with other women.
We have conversations and talks on what it’s like to be a female patroller and what the culture of different areas are. The last two years at the annual conference at APP we’ve hosted women’s forums that are open to the entire membership of the organization. Last year our focus was on how to increase women’s participation in APP and the ski patrol world in general.
This year the focus in the forums was how to create more inclusive places in the outdoors and in the patrol industry. We talked a lot about mentorship in general, which is broadening the topic of how do we get more women, but how do we create more inclusive environments.
Why do you think it’s important to have a more inclusive environment for patrol?
I think it creates better teams, there’s plenty of numbers out there that show a diverse team is a better more effective team. Ski patrol for a long time has been an all-boys club. But the job has evolved to be so much more, so having women involved in that really helps to diversify that team and make a better patrol. Squaw in Tahoe is a great example - they’re probably 30-40% women now and they have a super strong team. It’s not a whole crew of the same person anymore.
The Squaw women patrollers made a calendar a couple of years ago, right?
Yeah, that was a few years ago! All the money raised went right back to their patrol team. I do want to start doing events outside of APP and just the woman of patrol that have outreach at places like that. I think the Squaw ladies and Crystal ladies are really the pioneers of raising awareness about women in the patrol industry.