jblaskiI worked park crew in various positions for the better part of a decade. I was a much bigger jerk and pulled a ton of passes while doing that. I think in general, park kids tend to be the most obnoxious and biggest assholes on the hill. Being surrounded by them all day long made me way more jaded.
Maybe it was just the hill I was patrolling at but I found the race kids were 1000x worse than the park rats. Whenever someone hurt themselves in the park, the park kids were great about blocking off the feature before we got there, and would stay well uphill so they could warn anyone else coming down to steer clear. The race kids were a pack of entitled nightmares who figured that the rules of the hill didn't apply to them and seemed to take pleasure in fucking around.
To everyone else: yeah I'm a patroller at one of those small-sized small town ski hills a bunch of you are complaining about. We're talking about 148m elevation (150m above sea level) and close regularly for having "too much fresh snow" level of small. We're talking about first name only on the ski pass small. We're talking about also functions as a golf course AND a yacht club so they can stay afloat level of small.
So sure the older guys mostly patrol for the social aspect. Sure they spend a lot of time hanging out in the cabin warming up. Sure we have low standards for the ski capabilities of our patrollers, so some of them are mediocre at best. If the patroller can get to an injured person anywhere on the runs and get them out smoothly on a sled that's good enough. It shouldn't surprise you that someone being able to handle the medical-side of things well trumps being able to look flashy while doing it. And finally sure it may take us a while to respond - there may only be two or three of us and that chair runs just as slow (and stops just as often) for us as for anyone else. At least if the guys are lounging in the cabin rather than out riding you know they'll get the radio call immediately and be on the lift heading up in moments, whereas with all the shitty reception on the mountain them being out riding means they may not even hear the call for a couple minutes.
It also shouldn't surprise you that it's hard to get people to work for a ski patrol team like this. Nobody is going to do it for a free season's pass when the pass only costs $250 (that's $187US). Just taking into account the 60hrs of preseason first aid training, that works out to making $6/hr ($4.50US) and you haven't worked a single shift.
Some years it's worse. Last winter the mountain couldn't afford to pay for our first aid course so we had to pay ourselves. I spent $140 just so I could get that $250 pass. Subtract that and we're making less than $1.90/hr ($1.40US) for the time we're sitting in the course, and again haven't worked a single shift. Add in the assigned ski patrol shifts and we're under $0.95/hr ($0.70US). Add in the times I figured that since I was skiing I may as well put on the pack and jacket and I would be better off looking for dropped change in the bar.
Nobody is going to do it for the excitement either - most shifts we had no calls so our only role was to sweep the hill at the end of the day. Most of the calls we did get were for people who needed help getting down a run that was harder than they expected or had fallen and had a sore wrist. Or had lost a mitten off the chairlift. There was one big call I saw last year - I spent it standing at the bottom of the chairlift explaining to pissed off people that the chairlift was closed because there had been an accident at the top (remember what I said before about it kind of being nice to have patrollers hanging out in the cabin not-skiing? Our patrollers that had been skiing were trapped on the chairlift, it was those of us that were warming ourselves inside that were able to respond. Luckily it was a sunny weekend day so we had a bunch of extra guys).
We're not allowed to drink or go in the bar when we're patrolling. Hell we don't even get to skip the chairlift line unless we're on a call.
So what's left? You ski patrol because you care a lot about the mountain and want everybody to have the chance to enjoy it. And you ski patrol because then you have a good excuse to hang out at the hill every weekend with your buddies, break out the BBQ on the patio when you get bored and enjoy that one perfect run at the start/end of the day where the hill is closed so you have the space entirely to yourself. And these guys care a lot about the mountain. That's why they'll patrol for 20 years and their kids will join too as soon as they're old enough. That's why, despite only having two people assigned to a shift, we'll often have five people show up. That's why they'll also show up to run the ski swap or help clear brush from the new gladed run in the off-season. And that's why they'll host a BBQ so that everybody on the hill gets free hotdogs.
Sure some of the patrollers are douchey. Some people are douchey - if you give them a radio and a uniform they often become more douchey. If you want more cool patrollers join your local patrol team, and encourage your friends to do the same.