‘Chief’ of the mountain
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Rifle Police Chief Daryl Meisner exited the Segundo lift at Sunlight Mountain Resort as the call came over the ski patrol radio.
“We’ve got to scoot down to the park and talk to a customer,” Meisner said in his calm and direct tone before he pointed his skis downhill and took off.
Behind him followed Lee Martens, a fellow volunteer ski patroller at Sunlight Mountain Resort.
The two patrollers made their way to Sunlight’s Pump Haus Terrain Park, where a snowboader was riding the park without a purchased lift ticket.
Meisner approached the individual, the two spoke briefly, and then Meisner again pointed his skis downhill and was off. A few minutes later Martens followed. They skied down to the lift and made their way to the top once again.
“Let’s see if he complies,” Meisner said, as he rode the lift past the terrain park.
The individual strapped in to his snowboard, rode through the park, and left.
At first glance, one might think that for Meisner, being a volunteer ski patroller is an extension of his career as a police officer. But that’s not the case.
“For me it’s different, because it gives me an opportunity to get out and do what I like to do, which is ski,” he said.
Meisner has skied at Sunlight Mountain since it opened in 1966.
“We grew up together,” Meisner said about himself and the mountain where he spent much of his childhood and adult life skiing. He knows the mountain as well as anybody.
It wasn’t until 1991, when Meisner decided to join the Sunlight’s Volunteer Ski Patrol, that he found another reason to be on the mountain rather than just skiing.
“That’s when I was a candidate patroller,” he clarified.
It wasn’t until 1992-93 ski season that he was able to put on the coveted ski patrol “red coat.” He’s worn that red coat every winter for the past 19 years, and it’s been one of the most fulfilling decisions he’s ever made.
“In my regular job I can get pretty skeptical,” he admitted. “But, up here, it helps keep me grounded, being with good people and friends who will tell it like it is.”
“That’s what this is, a good time with friends on the mountain, because all of these people are my friends.”
Meisner joined the patrol in 1991 at the urging of his son, Jason, who was 16 at the time.
“He said, ‘Dad, I will join if you will,’ ” Meisner recalled, “I said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ “
“We got to join the patrol together,” Meisner recalled. “It gave me the opportunity to relate to my son as an adult.”
A few years later, Meisner’s daughter, Janeal Weisbrod, also joined the patrol at age 15. It’s an experience that Meisner holds dear, and he says that working with other junior patrollers is still very rewarding.
“It’s fun to help the young people learn about skiing and work ethic, and what goes into ski patrol,” Meisner said, “More than just buying a ticket and going skiing.”
Currently, Meisner is an ordinary ski patroller.
In his two decades as a volunteer, he’s served as volunteer ski patrol director for two years, and was the regional director for the National Ski Patrol, which covered nine ski areas in western Colorado including Sunlight, Ski Cooper, Powderhorn, Copper Mountain and Keystone.
He’s also been in charge of the outdoor emergency care training program and instructing candidate patrollers.
Martens is in his 18th year as a volunteer ski patroller. He said he joined as a result of Meisner’s encouragement. The two have known one another for 37 years. They still ski around the mountain as if they were 15 years old. Like Meisner, Martens says the best aspect is the skiing.
Martens said Meisner’s contributions to ski patrol over the years have made the organization better today.
“When he was director of this organization, I can tell you that a lot of things for the good of the organization got done,” Martens said. “It was all for the benefit of the ski patrol.”
Meisner said there are similarities between patrolling and being a police officer, particularly in helping people.
“Usually you are holding people accountable for things that they shouldn’t have done. We are serving the public at large, but often by negative means,” Meisner said of his police work.
“Up here, you get to be positive. I get to help people in a very direct way, by helping them if they’ve been injured, helping them find their way around the mountain, or whatever. It really isn’t like work.”
And just being one of the patrollers, and not being the “chief” is a nice change of pace on the weekends.
“As far as being director, I did it because it’s part of what you do as being a patroller,” he said. “Now, I just love coming up and doing the patrol job.”
“I don’t need to be the boss,” he said. “It isn’t necessary.”
He says that it’s not uncommon for ski patrollers to volunteer for multiple years. He said that being a patroller becomes part of your life.
“I think the commitment you see from our patrollers has always been phenomenal,” Meisner said. “This becomes part of their lives. Hopefully the healthy part of their lives. I know it is for me. It helps keep me in shape all winter, too.”
Being a patroller has just become a part of who Meisner is – just like skiing. And he doesn’t see any reason to quit anytime soon, either.
“I just love coming up and doing patrol,” he said, as he pointed his skis downhill and was off.
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