SAGAMORE HILLS TWP.: Zach Konrad said it was frightening last year when his buddy Blake Salisbury broke his collarbone after falling on the slopes at Brandywine Ski Resort.
While his friend was unconscious, the 13-year-old Rocky River boy ran to find a member of the ski patrol, a volunteer corps of first aid-trained volunteers that he knew could lower Blake off the course and get him medical help.
“They knew just what to do,” Zach said. “They do a great job.”
But this week, the patrol has turned the spotlight toward the skiers themselves at Brandywine and its neighboring sister resort Boston Mills.
As part of a national Snow Sports Safety Week, they have been handing out “Lead By Example” pins to average kids caught in the act of doing above-average things.
Dana Zedak, chairperson of the local effort and a member of the ski patrol, said rewarding youngsters for making “good safety choices” reinforces that behavior and hopefully motivates others to do the same.
“Every sport has its risks,” added ski patrol director Tom Ciranna. But if everyone is looking out for each other, it helps reduce that risk.
By the time the week officially ends Friday night, the patrol will have given out 200 medals.
In addition to rewarding those who help an injured skier, the patrol has handed out medals for everything from returning lost property to picking up garbage on the lodge floor.
“It’s actually a pretty big thing when you see a kid pick up something that was dropped and not walk past it or brush it into a corner. How cool is that?” Zedak said.
Brandywine and Boston Mills in nearby Boston Township share a volunteer ski patrol corps of 285 members.
It’s the largest ski patrol in the United States, Ciranna said.
Unlike more notable ski resorts in mountain states that are open during the day, the Summit County attractions are open as late as 2 a.m. on weekend nights. The local patrol is unpaid but undergoes 120 hours of training, including 10 weeks in the spring, 10 weeks in the fall, and yearly refresher courses, Ciranna said.
While a trained patrol is crucial to the operation of the slopes, this week’s safety effort is a reminder to all skiers that everyone plays a role in reducing injuries, even if it’s something as simple as wearing optional headgear.
Zach, Blake and 13-year-old friend Ben Fitzgibbon all had their helmets on late Wednesday afternoon. They were among 700 youngsters skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing — most of them members of ski clubs from Sandusky to Youngstown that keep Brandywine hopping every night of the week.
While Snow Sports Safety Week ends Friday, Zedak said she hopes to order more pins so Brandywine and Boston Mills can continue rewarding exceptional efforts the rest of the season.