There are fears injured skiers will face lengthy waiting times to be repatriated from Ben Lomond in an emergency after the volunteer ski patrol unit has been relieved of its services.
Ben Lomond Ski Patrol president John Marshall took to social media over the weekend to express his frustration at Parks and Wildlife, who advised him they would not need them this season.
Because the ski lifts have been shut down due to COVID-19, PWS advised Mr Marshall that ski patrol would be stood down.
“What is frustrating is that they have pulled a random clause as to the reason why we are not required, but it has not been a problem before,” Mr Marshall said.
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A Parks and Wildlife spokesperson confirmed Ben Lomond Ski Patrol had been advised they were not required on August 14.
“Under standard, existing protocols that have been in place for several years, ski patrol is only required if the tows are operating,” the spokesperson said.
The decision was made after advice from Alpine Enterprises, who run the ski lifts on Ben Lomond, and was executed under a clause in the Ben Lomond National Park Management Plan from 1998.
PWS said the protocols had been “in place for many years”.
Mr Marshall said the ski patrol had been serving the mountain community for 58 years and this year was his 44th consecutive year.
The Ben Lomond Ski Patrol is made of volunteers who are avid skiers, who respond to emergency incidents on the mountain.
Typically, they could respond to up to 200 incidents during a snow season, and while this season had been shorter it had not been without incidents.
“So far, this season has only been a few days, but we have responded to a critical incident where a person had a collapsed lung up on the mountain, they could have died if we weren’t there,” Mr Marshall said.
“Other incidents so far, and we’ve responded to half a dozen incidents, include a broken arm and others where people have slipped and hurt themselves on the ice and snow.”
The ski patrol are also part of a rotating paid officer position who does a mid-week check on the slopes during ski season.
Mr Marshall said he was concerned about what would happen if someone was critically injured on the mountain this season.
When asked who would respond to critical incidents on the mountain if ski patrol wasn’t there, the PWS spokesperson said Ambulance Tasmania and Tasmania Police would respond.
However, Mr Marshall said it would cost more and would be more time consuming for patients to wait for those services.
In his post on social media, Mr Marshall said ski lifts typically accounted for less than 1 per cent of injuries.
“Mountain users in 99 per cent of cases injure themselves plummeting down the slopes on skis, snowboards, toboggans, sheets of plastic or walking and not always on the slopes. How and when they get up there is irrelevant,” he said.