Downhill skier ready to react

Verneri Ruohoranta
Verneri Ruohoranta

The ski slope volunteer is both a skier and a helper, who is quickly on the spot when accidents happen. Eija Häkämies from Kouvola is on duty while spending time with her family.

A downhill skier rides down the slope without a helmet. Suddenly another skier runs into him. The ski slope volunteers are quick to find the unconscious skier, but he does not wake up before getting into the ambulance. In situations like these, immediate aid and the right actions are saving lives.

- Several different accidents happen on the slopes. Twists, sprains, bleeding, fractures, bone and head injuries, says ski slope volunteer Eija Häkämies.

Häkämies, 37, works as a nurse and has been patrolling the slopes for four years now. The volunteers are on duty with their Red Cross vests and radio phones in their pockets - amidst skiing.

- The days I work as a ski slope volunteer I get to spend with my family. When there is an alarm, I act quickly according to the situation, she says.

The amount of alarms varies a lot depending on the ski resort and the amount of clients. At Mielakka ski resort in Kouvola there are days with no alarms during a shift, whereas busier resorts might have continuous alarms.

The Häkämies family enjoys spending time on the slopes and soon they are off to Tahko ski resort. However, the ski duty officer vest will not be left at home, since volunteers also patrol other ski resorts while they are at it.

Common sense required on the slopes

When the alarm goes off, ski slope volunteers need to be cool-headed. They start off by making an assessment of the situation; they calm down the surroundings and secure the environment. Oftentimes the ski slope volunteers make use of the patient’s company, so that they can mark off the area and warn outsiders.

Naturally the ambulance cannot access the slopes, so the patient has to be carried down the slope with a snowmobile with the help of a pulk.

Many accidents can however be avoided by complying with common rules. Following marked routes, getting acquainted with the mounds and being conscious of one’s own abilities is the most important advice for downhill skiers. And of course using common sense, which should be protected by a helmet.

- You can always fix legs and arms, but head injuries are more dangerous. Using a helmet is a must when entering the slopes, Häkämies reminds.

A shared hobby

So the ski slope volunteer is needed when something happens. Other than that, the job is mostly about being on duty and of course about enjoying skiing. The children of the family, Oskari, Kasperi and Emilia and the father Kyösti spend time on the slopes together. Eija skis along if she is not needed at the moment.

- It doesn’t feel like work. This is selfish, somehow, since I get so much out of it myself. Besides being able to help, I get to spend time outside and exercise together with my family, she rejoices.

How are the children responding to their mother being a ski slope volunteer?

- I believe that the children take pride in a mother who is able to help others and friends. The kids have already got used to this. They know what happens when mom goes out to help, Häkämies says.

The volunteering history of Eija Häkämies is far longer than her years on the slopes. But being a ski slope volunteer has really become an essential part of her life.

- I have talked many into this and my surroundings haven’t been able to avoid my excitement. Others ask whether I still keep on doing it. I tell them that I will probably continue for 40 years onwards. I think this is something that I’ll never be able to quit, she sneers.

Join in as a ski slope volunteer

Text: Verneri Ruohoranta