‘Part of who I am’: These ski patrollers have spent 50 years volunteering at Bogus Basin
On Friday evenings in the winter, patrons can see Richard Jayo at Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, donning a bright red jacket emblazoned with a ski patrol cross. He regularly sweeps the mountain as he keeps an eye out for injured or lost visitors who may need assistance.
It’s the same routine Jayo, 68, has had every Friday during ski season for decades. Jayo and fellow patrollers Holland Williams, 71, and Terry Thomas, 75, have devoted their time to ski patrol for 50 years — more than half of Bogus’ 80-year existence — most of that as volunteers.
Over their tenure, they’ve seen massive changes at Bogus Basin and the ski industry in general, but the community has kept them coming back year after year.
Patrolling has long held an allure
Jayo grew up in Boise and learned to ski at Bogus. By the time he was in high school, he was an experienced skier and signed up to be a junior patroller in 1971. The junior patrol program was put on by the National Ski Patrol, the same nonprofit that offers education and resources for hundreds of member ski areas, including Bogus Basin.
Jayo said the junior program involved more training than patrolling, but nonetheless the job had “a certain allure.” He began patrolling professionally while he was in college, using his earnings to pay for school and even spending time working as a patroller in Europe.
When he returned to Boise, he returned to patrolling at Bogus on the Friday night shift. Now he spends most of his time in McCall but still makes the drive up Bogus Basin Road on Fridays.
“It became kind of part of who I am, to tell you the truth,” Jayo told the Statesman. This season is his 53rd.
Williams, who reached his 50th year of patrolling this season, also volunteers for the night shift. Every Wednesday he drives in to Boise from his home in Hailey and spends the evening on the mountain.
Williams grew up in New England and started skiing when he was 4 years old. After college he moved out west, where the quality of skiing captivated him.
“That made (skiing) all the more fun,” Williams told the Statesman. “There are bigger mountains, more snowfall.”
He began patrolling at Crystal Mountain in Washington in 1973. Eleven years later, he took a job in Boise and began patrolling at Bogus Basin. Williams has covered Wednesday nights at the Boise-area mountain for 30 years.
Like Williams and Jayo, Terry Thomas also grew up skiing as a child in California. When she left for college, she told the Statesman, finding fresh powder was a big factor. She found it in Utah at Beaver Mountain Ski Area.
When Thomas joined the patrol there in 1967 — a great way to get a free lift ticket as a broke college student, she joked — it only allowed one woman on staff at a time.
Two years later, she moved to Boise and joined the Bogus Basin ski patrol, where there were several other women working. Once she settled at Bogus, Thomas said, she never left. This season marks her 56th as a ski patrol member.
50 years of change at Bogus Basin
Plenty has changed at Bogus since 1969, Thomas said. For starters, many more women work and volunteer with ski patrol, including ski patrol director Denise McLaughlin.
The longtime patrollers said they’ve seen major advancements in everything from the mountain’s infrastructure to the kind of equipment visitors use.
“When I started my career, there was no such thing as a snowboard,” Jayo said.
“I can remember looking down from Bogus Basin 50 years ago at the Boise Valley,” he added. “Just looking down at night from the mountain has changed dramatically.”
Like Boise itself, the ski area has grown. Now Bogus has high-speed ski lifts, more runs than ever before, a growing terrain park and a record number of visitors.
“As Boise has grown, so has the number of skiers,” Williams said. “It’s quite a bit busier than it was when I joined.”
A busier mountain and upgraded ski and snowboard gear means the injuries that ski patrol deals with are a bit different, Jayo said. In the 1970s, skis were longer and skiers were slower. Most of their injuries were leg-related, he said. Now Jayo said he sees more upper body injuries as skiers and snowboarders try to break their falls, and more serious injuries related to high-speed accidents.
Just last month, Jayo was wrapping up his patrol when a snowboarder crashed into him, cracking his ski boot and breaking one of Jayo’s ribs. He has kept up with his weekly patrols nonetheless.
“We could have a day in ‘69 where there wasn’t an accident on the weekend, or if there was, it was just a small one,” Thomas said.
Williams said the bad accidents are the most troubling.
“Most of the outcomes are favorable,” he told the Statesman. “It’s nice to help people out when they’re cold, apprehensive, not in a great state. Our goal is to stabilize them and transport them to our patrol room to warm up and wait for further medical assistance.”
Shifts are much busier now. But the patrollers said the changes haven’t just created challenges. In many ways they’ve also improved the mountain. Patrollers have better technology to communicate with one another, transport patients and treat injuries.
Jayo said one huge advantage has been lighting installed on the back side of the mountain. It wasn’t lit when he first started as a patroller.
“When people got lost, they really got lost,” he said.
Jayo tries to take it all in stride. That’s been one of the keys to his longevity, he said.
“Change is inevitable,” Jayo said. “One of the things that’s kept me going is I’m trying to adapt with it.”
Community keeps volunteers coming back
In spite of those changes, the Bogus Basin ski patrol community has been a constant, and it’s what has kept Jayo, Williams and Thomas coming back.
Thomas said the patrol has become like a family to her.
“This is the group you were associated with, and this is who you expected to have your back and you had theirs,” she said. “It became a habit, you just went up (to Bogus) because you want to see your family.”
It was tough to step back on the mountain this year after losing her longtime patrol partner, Omar Fricke, who died in December, Thomas said. She and the rest of the patrol honored Fricke and other late patrol members in a “final sweep” toboggan procession at Bogus Basin earlier this month.
Williams and Jayo said they’ve also forged deep bonds with the crew at Bogus.
“I have relationships with patrollers around the globe, but truthfully the most important relationships I have are the ones right here,” said Jayo. “Every year when the season ends as it inevitably does, there’s a hole, there’s a gap. That’s how tightly intertwined this has become in my life.”
McLaughlin, the ski patrol director, said it’s becoming more and more rare for patrollers — professional or volunteer — to stay with the job for more than 10 years.
“It’s a hard job,” she told the Statesman. “You’re outside all day, you have the elements to deal with, plus all the work we do. We’re always carrying something or hauling something somewhere, so it takes a pretty special individual to keep it up for that long.”
McLaughlin said the three longtime patrollers are “remarkable people” whose dedication is much appreciated.
Williams and Thomas said they’ll continue patrolling so long as they’re able to keep up with the physical demands. Jayo said he may retire in two years, when he plans to retire from his day job. But he knows a vacancy will be left in his Friday evenings.
“In my personal life, it goes beyond patrolling,” Jayo said. “The takeaway for me is to get behind something you love doing, and do it the best you can for as long as you can.”