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SPY kids give patrol new blood

Training for the Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol (MSSP) is a serious commitment for an adult. It takes a quality kid to make the grade.

Eric Edwards, 18, a senior at Mt. Spokane High School, is in his third year on the patrol. He coordinates Mt. Spokane’s Ski Patrol Youth (SPY) program. It’s his job to develop teens aspiring to become members of the patrol. Carolanne Christiansen, 16, a Spokane home-schooler, is MSSP’s only other teen.

Leaders of the ski patrol would like to change that.

“Bill Hofer (MSSP patroller) started the SPY program this year to generate interest in younger individuals,” said Dan Edwards, MSSP director and Eric’s father. “The average age of patrollers here is in the 40s. We want to lower that average to keep the organization thriving.”

MSSP wants to get the word out to young people about MSSP’s annual mountain orientation. Skiers and riders of all ages interested in joining the ski patrol are invited to show up at the ski patrol chalet at 9 a.m. on March 8.

“We feed them breakfast and lunch and spend the day with them,” Edwards said. “People learn all about the program. We explain how it works, what class time is all about, what the costs are and what our expectations are. Then we take them up on the hill and run them through the drills.”

After orientation, candidates are invited to enroll in the Outdoor Emergency Care course starting April 6. The course parallels Emergency Medical Technician certification. It runs 10 weeks with two three-hour sessions a week. Candidates regroup next fall for four weeks of practice and another test. Training continues on the mountain after Thanksgiving.

SPY membership qualifies kids for the training. Eric Edwards has eight SPY members under his wing.

“SPY is about all aspects of the mountain,” he said. “We want to make sure kids interested in ski patrol really want to do it and understand the commitment.”

Every other weekend throughout the season, SPY members check out different parts of the ski hill operation. Last Saturday they were at the ski school. By the time the snow melts, kids in the SPY program will know a little about everything from lifties to winch grooming.

“A kid can get in SPY at 15 and be a patroller by 16 if he or she is willing to make the commitment,” Dan Edwards said. “They have to step up, get there on time, get involved and be every bit as competent as an adult. Once they make the patrol, they’re treated as equals.”

SPY kids experience a winter of adventure and learning. They also get free skiing every other weekend. If they advance to the ski patrol, the perks can last a lifetime.

“By the time they master all the skills, these kids are excellent skiers,” Edwards said. “For a young adult it’s a prestigious honor to be a part of such a great organization with worldwide connections. It also looks great on a resume.”

After he graduates in June, Eric Edwards plans to attend a local college. Next season he’ll direct the SPY program, setting up the next generation of patrollers.

Bill Jennings can be reached at

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