What’s in a pack?
I initially wanted to use this post to talk about my winter activity, which is Ski Patrol, but as I was thinking about what I wanted to say, I came up with another dimension to that topic. I first started ski patrol about a year ago. For most people, it takes them at least 3 years, and sometimes 4 years, to get jacketed and become a full ski patroller. I was therefore not expecting to be able to get my jacket; it was my junior year, and I knew I’d only have 2 ski seasons to complete what seemed like endless tasks — an OEC class, CPR training, becoming competent at skiing with a toboggan, learning assessment procedures…it seemed like a lot. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I’m pretty sure it was just that one day Mr. Manning asked me, “So, Abby, you’re gonna try to get your jacket, right?” And I decided that I was going to get my jacket.
About a month later, Mr. Manning came up to me in the patrol locker room carrying a ski patrol pack. It looks like this:
He told me that the pack belonged to a ski patroller who died in an accident on the mountain. I was allowed to use it for the rest of my two years in the program, and then it would be given to another, promising ski patroller for their time in the program. I was immediately humbled. But I knew nothing about Brad Cunningham, the previous owner of the pack. He was long before my time at Gould, but I knew the name sounded familiar. Putting two and two together, I soon figured out that he was the same person to whom this bench on campus is dedicated to:
(photo from Thomson Riley’s blog (found through google search, Thomson, don’t worry, I’m not that creepy))
Yesterday, after finally getting my pack filled up with trauma pads, gauze, and cravats, and realizing that my time as a candidate was starting to come to a close, I decided that I had to know more about Brad. Here I was, preparing to use this pack to help people on the mountain as a real live ski patroller, and I wasn’t even sure what happened to him, or what it really meant to carry his pack. So, lacking other research methods, I decided to do a Google search.
During my search, I also found this blurb on a somewhat unexpected site, in the middle of a short article about skier safety and responsibility.
“The heartbreaking and untimely death less than two weeks ago, of Gould Academy senior Brad Cunningham, is a reminder to skiers that accidents can happen to anyone, regardless of experience and ability level. Cunningham was an expert skier, and a four-year veteran of Sunday River’s Junior Ski Patrol program.”
The only part of this excerpt that annoys me is the phrase “Junior Ski Patrol program.” Gould doesn’t have a “Junior” ski patrol program. It’s a Ski Patrol program, as in, the students who put in time, effort, and dedication to this program become full ski patrollers. Brad wasn’t a “Junior” ski patroller — he was the real deal. That much I know for sure.
Like I said, I never personally knew Brad and I haven’t heard a whole lot about him, but just from knowing that he was a ski patroller, I know that he must have been an incredible person, just like all of the other patrollers, whether they’re Gouldies or not. I think that choosing to spend your time learning how to help other people says a lot about a person, so I like to think that even though I never personally knew Brad Cunningham while he was alive, I actually do know him: I know that he was inquisitive, compassionate, and talented at what he did up on the mountain. I know that as a patroller, he was dedicated to skiing and to helping other people enjoy it as much as he did.
I can only hope that as I finish up my training and (knock on wood) get jacketed soon, I can attempt to live up to this person whose pack I was given back when I was still a “never-ever,” as Mr. Alford affectionately refers to them. I also hope that whoever is given his pack at the beginning of next ski season tries to learn about Brad as well, and at least makes an effort to live up to his memory.