Good Sports: China Peak Ski Patrol dedicated to mountain safety

Stephen Hicks Image
Saturday, December 10, 2022
Good Sports: China Peak Ski Patrol dedicated to mountain safety
EMBED <>More Videos

Even in the offseason, volunteers with the China Peak Ski Patrol continue with their own training for potential emergencies, including lift evacuation.

LAKESHORE, Calif. (KFSN) -- Inside the China Peak Ski Patrol sits a group committed to the safety of the mountain.

"We have saved lives, yes. That's what we're here for, is to serve the community," said John Higginbotham, who is volunteering for his 25th year as a patroller.

The staff is made up of mostly volunteers.

"Its a big commitment, but we do have other lives," said Julie Winter, director of the China Peak Ski Patrol.

They're the first responders to the skiiers on the hill.

"The sport is worth saving, and helping to preserve it. And that's what the ski patrol is all about, risk management," said Jim Simmons, toboggan advisor for the patrol.

Even in the offseason, they continue with their own training for potential emergencies, including lift evacuation.

"Most people on the hill don't realize that the people on the hill have such time invested. Not just here on the hill, but also their skills and their training," explained Winter.

Earlier this year, that hard work was honored.

At the national awards banquet, China Peak won or finished runner up in the top four awards, beating out much bigger ski patrols from across the country.

For more than half a century, Rich Bailey has served as the leader of the patrol at China Peak.

"I literally have blown up almost every rock on this mountain," said Bailey.

At that same banquet, Bailey was inducted into the National Ski Patrol Hall of Fame as its 86th member.

The patrol at China Peak is filled with experience, which is why the team is focused on finding the next generation of volunteers to carry on its legacy.

"The future is the young kids, certainly not me," Bailey said.

As for the secret that makes this one of the best ski patrols in the country, Bailey calls it the Ohana, otherwise known as a family feeling cultivated from his crew.

"There's more to it than just skiing. Skiing's fun but it's skiing with a purpose, and that's kind of fun," said Bailey. "Makes you feel good, a do- gooder."