by Sherry Hartel
Our last duty of the day as ski patroller’s is to sweep the hill.
We are the last people to load the chair at 4:20 pm at Holimont. Once we hear over the radio that everyone is at the top from Greer to Sunset in one sweeping motion we collectively make our way down for the final run of the day and sweep any remaining skiers to the bottom of the hill. In the process we make sure every person is safe-no one left in the trees, no one launched over the edge somewhere, no one left behind. All home safe.
Then we let communications know the Hill is clear.
On Saturday March 18th Holimont’s Ski Patrol had a special sweep, a Memorial Last Run, to honor the memory of two patrollers who have left this earthly plane and traveled to their final home. We carried the jackets and pins they earned through their years patrolling down one last sweep of Expo in a sea of red jackets that appeared as red cardinals floating to their safe place at the bottom of the hill. Near the bottom came the endearing sound of bag pipes from ski patrols’ own Mike Bailey as the sadness in his own heart resonated in each note to bring tears to each of our eyes. In a salute to those who have gone before us, once at the bottom of the hill, the patrol lined up in formation the same way we do to welcome new patrollers to our family – in 2 lines, so that the Laurette and Michelle’s jackets and pins could pass through and make their way into a final service to celebrate their lives as patrollers. The patrol clicked out of their skis in unison with a sound that surprised many of us with its effects on our hearts. Then we stood in silence as two lanterns were lit in remembrance of our friends and set free with their spirits to fly home. It was a beautiful heart warming scene.
I am grateful and proud to be a part of Holimonts’ Ski Patrol. Many, if not all of us, consider it a second family. Patrol at any ski resort is special, we are out there in all kinds of weather – rain, sleet, snow and sun sometimes missing out on other events happening in our worlds to keep people safe and caring for those when the unfortunate happens. We share not just a compassion for the sport of skiing but a desire to help and care for other people. “Working side by side we get to know each other and trust each other. We have fun together and yes, we even mourn together.”-Gary Gossel. In the celebration Doug Oak spoke of his wife and Peggy Kent spoke of her friend Michelle Silliker. They spoke of the accomplishments of these incredible women and shared their human sides that had us all laughing and smiling at the memories these women created for us to cherish.
The women and their stats:
44 years of ski patrol service, patrolled at Holimont since 1977, a First Aid examiner since 1972, National Appointment #5506, Friday Hill Chief,
Retired 2007, Married to patroller Doug Oak, She raised 2 wonderful children Cindy and Jeff and enjoyed 5 grandchildren. She was the 1955 US National Target Archery Champion-favorite to win the World Championships in Helsinki Finland, placing 10th. She competitive in adult racing, a Life Master Bridge Player and an accomplished competitive sailor.
Laurette means Little laurel; The laurel tree or sweet bay tree is symbolic of honor and victory. “Laurette had game,” Doug said so fondly, whatever Laurette went into it was with excitement and to win. Osteoporosis forced her to stop skiing-could be related to the many bones she had broken over her lifetime. But she set an example for us in that she never lost her enthusiasm for what she could do and she never lost her smile. When people asked if she missed skiing she would reply, that she had many good ski trips and she could still hike and snowshoe and with a smile she would say, “And I only feel 55.” Laurette was content with her life.
Michelle Silliker, 65 years old
30 years of ski patrol service, OEC instructor, Retired Dec 2016, Married to Alan Silliker, son Jared and her beloved grandson Owen. Her life outside Patrol focused on caring for others as an ER nurse then as a family practitioner in the local area. Michelle enjoyed family gatherings, travel with friends to Europe and closer to home, sailing, skiing, shopping, cooking and wine tasting.
Michelle means gift from God. If you ever met Michelle, you’d understand how true that statement is. From the voice to the laughter to the skills she strengthened for so many as a first aid instructor to the valiant strength she had through her final days, we are grateful for this gift. Even though she knew her prognosis was poor, she had stage 4 ovarian cancer, she continued to live and love and take in every moment she could -to have a full life and not give up.
The Holimont Ski Patrol has a team in the ride for Roswell that will be riding in Michelles Memory for anyone that would like to donate to the cause DONATE TO ROSWELL
A special note for a third patroller who left us last year, Brian Armstrong. A memorial service was held by his daughter in his memory last December. Although Brian was honored as “Patroller of the Year” and received an award for 30 years of service, one of his most treasured plaques was for “Ambassador of the Slopes.” He lived to ride single up the chairs so that he could chat up whoever was lucky enough to sit beside him. “Brian had the true spirit of what the founding members of HoliMont hoped for in which being at HoliMont was like being with friends and family.”
I am grateful for the time spent with them and their families and the beautiful legacies that follow in their tracks. So as you ski through Holimont, if you think of it, take just a moment to give thanks for the tracks they made before us, to keep the tracks flowing at Holimont. Their tracks carved the way for us fellow ski patrollers to become family, to care for those that get hurt and of course sweep the hills to make sure all make it home safe.
Communications the hill is clear.