Malone defined ski
33 years on Baldy
respected Bruce because he was fair, and he was very knowledgeable about
Ski Patrol business. He always looked after the well being of the
Sun Valley Ski Patrol director
Express Arts Editor
Malone took this patrol from being a bunch of guys doing cowboy rescues to
being one of the best professional patrols in the nation." says Mike
Lloyd, who succeeded his former boss as director of the Sun Valley Ski
his commitment on the mountain and with his kids grown, Bruce Malone,
center, hopes to take more trips like this one, taken a year ago to the
San Juan Islands. Photo courtesy Dan Collins
after 33 years as a patrolman, slope manager, and for 24 years director of
the Ski Patrol, Malone retired from the Sun Valley Co.
the year Malone joined the Sun Valley Ski Patrol, 1968: low-top leather
boots were state of the art, there were no snowboards, no high speed
quads, no grooming to speak of, no liability lawsuits, no personal
computers to track weather, few communication radios, no fleece, Gore-Tex
or other materials to protect skiers from the elements.
Bingham, assistant director of the Ski Patrol, who has worked with Malone
for 33 years, put it this way: "We were just 20-year-old kids who
ski-packed the slopes all day and carried Band-Aids and a compress."
even ended up here was serendipitous. In 1967 he was working in a rock ‘n’
roll bar at Mammoth Mountain in California. One night, the bar held a
dance contest, and the couple that happened to win mentioned that they
were from a place called Sun Valley, Idaho.
year Malone and some friends decided to check it out. He worked busing
tables at the Challenger Inn for a ski pass and helped patrolman Carl
Rixon build his house for $2 an hour.
years later the ski industry is a very different beast from what it was in
’68. It has become a high profile, big business industry. Guest services
have become paramount. Mountain users demand higher and higher levels of
emergency care on the mountain. Advances in technology and equipment
design have enabled more, less-able skiers to venture into sometimes
dangerous terrain. And, of course, legal liability hovers over the whole
became the director of the Ski Patrol in 1977, guided it through all of
One of the
bigger changes Malone observed over the course of his career was the
introduction of the modern binding.
transition year was 1971—people were going from the old long thong to
the forward release binding. The average rate of ski injuries went from
about eight injuries per thousand skier days to today’s rate, somewhere
below two injuries per thousand skier days. And then skiers began to tear
ligaments rather than fracture their lower legs," Malone said.
significant change he witnessed was the advent of grooming.
to the ’70s grooming was done by skiers on skis." In other words,
the ski patrol was the grooming department. As Sun Valley began to groom
with machines, the size of the patrol was cut in half, from about 40 to 21
workers per day. The emphasis of the patrol shifted to first-aid.
"The medical care became more sophisticated," he said.
emergency first-aid care at ski resorts took another quantum leap in 1986.
It was a step Malone had a big hand in. He met with the executive director
of the National Ski Patrol and the ski patrol directors from Winter Park,
Vail and Steamboat Springs, Colo. He was asked to help form the
Professional Division of the National Ski Patrol. Malone suggested they
create an emergency care curriculum specific to the needs of ski patrols.
Out of those meetings came the Outdoor Emergency Care curriculum, the
industry standard to date.
standard Malone helped create was in the realm of lift evacuation. He and
the then director of Vail’s ski patrol, Brian McCartney co-authored a
book on lift evacuation techniques.
summed it up this way: "Bruce brought this patrol up to the highest
level of professionalism."
last 10 years, Malone was very involved with the National Ski Patrol. In
1991 he was elected to be the Professional Division’s representative to
the board of the NSP. In that capacity he was instrumental in
communicating policies and protocols between the national board and the
regional patrols. Since 1995 he has been the director of the Professional
Division of the NSP.
Malone was at the center of many of the broad changes in the ski industry
on a national level, he always made sure the Sun Valley Ski Patrol
maintained high standards and was a working team. Bingham pointed out that
while Malone "pretty much built this whole patrol," one of the
reasons he has been so successful over the years is he has excellent
people skills, and was able to "spread out responsibilities. He was
very good at using all of the different expertise up here to everyone’s
added, "Everybody respected Bruce because he was fair, and he was
very knowledgeable about Ski Patrol business. He always looked after the
well being of the patrol."
veteran patrolman, Jack Parker, had another idea why Malone succeeded: it
had to do with his sense of fun. Practical jokes are always a part of any
ski patrol. "Bruce was one of the best. He had a very clever mind
when it came to messing with people," Parker said. He relayed a time
when the young patrolman Malone took some white parachute cord and
anchored it in the snow near the patrol shack. He then tied the other end
to Joe Maruka’s ski, the patrol director at the time. Later, Maruka
hopped in his skis and took off down the steep pitch in front of the
patrol shack. He got about 10 yards when the cord went tight and he
exploded out of his equipment. And yes, he did have an audience.
other stories, of course, but you’d have to convince a patrolman, not a
particularly loquacious species, to kiss and tell.
As to why
he is calling it quits after so many years, Malone thought long and hard
about that question. "For the longest time I had to keep defining the
job up there—as the industry kept changing. There never really was a job
description. And that was challenging. But towards the end, it became too
much like a routine 9 to 5 job, if you can believe that."
quick to praise the people who worked for him over the years. "Since
I quit, people have come up to me on the street and said, ‘You finally
got a real job.’ But full-time ski patrolling is about the ‘realest’
job I’ve ever had. It’s a very physical, grinding routine. The guys
and gals on the patrol are definitely not there for personal gain. They
are told to come to work tomorrow and then at the end, it’s ‘see ya
later.’ The only accolades they get are from the public. In the business
world, a ski patrol is considered just a cost center."
the best testament to Malone’s skills as a leader and effective manager
is the degree to which he kept so many patrolmen together as a unit for so
long. Two years ago when some restructuring of the patrol pay scales was
done, it was determined that the average patrolman on Baldy had 19 years
of experience, an average much higher than that of most ski patrols.
hired as the director of the Ski Patrol when he was 27 years old; he was
one of the youngest ski patrol directors in the nation. Remembering that
time he said, "All of the patrolman on Baldy were about the same age
as I. So we pretty much grew up together on that mountain. It was a great
life for 24 years."