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Ski patrolling about family, commitment and fun

George Rodda and John McIvor have been keeping the local slopes safe for decades

When winter draws near, Mount Jamieson ski patrollers look forward to gliding through the powder, skiing down the slope and riding the lift back up to do it all over again — the adrenaline, the fresh air, and the beautiful surroundings leave them wanting more. 

Skiing has been George Rodda's passion for decades.

“Skiing became a passion of mine the first time I got to the resort … I did not think about being a patroller right away, several of my friends, when I was a teen, were members, and when the opportunity arose for me to join, it was an easy decision,” Rodda said.

For John McIvor, volunteering as a ski patroller is one of the best decisions he has ever made, knowing he's helping the community and the region. 

Given the extensive training, being a ski patroller is a position people earn.

“It is a serious commitment. People who do join are usually (called) lifers — to commit to helping the community — which is nice. We do special events, summer, winter, spring, and fall. On average, we volunteer anywhere from 2,200 to 3,000 hours a year on helping provide services to the community,” McIvor said.

Ski patrol is responsible for keeping the hills and slopes safe for users, providing medical aid on the hill, and transporting the injured. 

The job can be physically demanding.

“Our first job of the day is to prepare to make sure that the hill is safe for the public, and then during the day, we ski and respond to any accident that requires assistance, and then the evening we close the hills, to make sure that no one is left behind, injured, or lost, and we make sure that the hill is empty before we leave the property,” Rodda said.

Rodda quipped that the best day is when there is no commotion or accident on the hill, only “a good ski day."

“You don’t need to treat any injuries, you don’t have any negatives, it’s all a positive day and you see smiling faces, the chairs are full, the restaurant and the bar are doing well, and the relationship between us and management is complementary,” he said.

Both Rodda and McIvor are instructor trainers who pass along the learning to future instructors. They've been volunteers with the ski patrol for 36 years and 25 years, respectively.

It's the sense of family among the 22 members that keeps them at it.

Meeting McIvor and Rodda, you feel welcome, and they treat you as a long-time friend. They have this positive aura that they openly share with people they meet.

“It’s a family atmosphere, where people know you by name, you’re comfortable, you get to socialize, people are generally appreciative. We have great support for everyone, it’s fun. You can see people grow and family members grow,” McIvor described.

Rodda said that he and McIvor call each other almost every day even outside their volunteer work, they are like brothers who never got tired of each other’s presence.

Outside of ski patrol, the members and their families gather together and do fun activities like pickleball, golf or kayaking, and volunteer at other events.

Both also shared fond memories of seeing multiple generations of families joining the ski patrol.

 “When you see a family skiing, having fun, you see smiles on people's faces, and you actually watch them grow up, year after year after year. Being there for almost 25 years, you get to see the kids become teenagers and become adults,” McIvor said.

“Now you’re seeing the grandkids," Rodda interjected.

"The" Merton Lake

Aside from their welcoming spirit, both resonate with calmness.

McIvor said the group sees Rodda as the Merton Lake, the group's founder, of ski patrollers. 

"George is the Mert Lake [standard] that we all try to achieve," McIvor said.

Rodda was fortunate to have met Lake and became his mentor. He said Lake instilled in him the trait of professionalism, being proud, and passion.

"I learned mostly to be calm, to treat people with respect, and to do my best to leave the impression of a competent first aider. He instilled these characteristics in me and I try to pass these traits on to [atrollers I work with," he said.

Lake was a lieutenant with the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War. He was known to be active in volunteerism, serving as president of the Timmins Ski Club, and Timmins Lions Club. He was a life member of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce and a founding member of Spruce Needles Gold Club.

Lake also rendered services for the City of Timmins Committee of Adjustment for 29 years, a member of the Canadian Ski Patrol System for over 40 years, an ambassador of ski hill, and among others.

As a person, both described Lake as a statuesque, tall man, who was very calm and a true gentleman.

Rodda said that once he decided to retire from being a ski patroller, he believed that Lake’s legacy will live on in every members of the team and will continue.

“I see these characteristics in many of the great people that I work with, some of us have been together for decades. When I finish my career as a patroller, I have no doubts that those remaining and those joining will carry on this tradition,” he said.