To enrich the professional, cultural, and linguistic lives of the ski patrol personnel of the communities of Aspen and its sister cities.
The communities of Aspen and San Carlos de Bariloche have a rich tradition of being leading destination ski communities in their respective countries and both are world renowned. It is only logical that both communities have a great deal to share and teach each other in providing services to their skiing guests and residents. With this in mind, both communities employ one member of the other’s ski patrol for the entirety of their respective ski seasons. This program began in 2012 and has exchanged “patrollers” each season since. The administration of each ski area feels that in addition to being professionally beneficial to their respective organizations, the experience is also culturally enriching for the participants.
Since 1993 The Aspen Skiing Company and the Compagnie du Mont Blanc (originally the Society of Telepheriques du Mont Blanc) have benefited from a successful professional, technical and cultural exchange of ski patrollers. The two towns of Aspen and Chamonix have been uniquely paired from the onset. Aspen Mountain ski trails and gondola emanate from downtown Aspen and Le Brevent de Chamonix trails and telecabines begin just above central Chamonix. Ski trails descend from lofty summits directly into town where modern cablecars transport skiers back up to their peaks. The Aspen and Chamonix Sister Cities (Jumelage) programs developed and administered the exchange programs. The programs could not have succeeded without the unfailing support of their ski companies.
The exchange grew out of a generous and progressive proposal from Chamonix Sister City President Pierre Perret to the Aspen Sister Cities. Both patrols have enjoyed over 26 years of “cross pollination” in trails management, avalanche control, medical response and evacuation and customer service. In addition to technical skills the patrollers have mutually enjoyed common and uncommon customs, food, schools and sports, family dynamics, idioms and humor.
The ski patrol’s onus of mountain safety and rescue and sometimes life saving situations foster unusually close bonds between ski patrollers. The fraternity that has developed between the men and women of the Aspen and Chamonix ski patrols over the past quarter of a century of exchanges cannot be expressed in words. Franco-American patrollers have shared the joys of marriage, child birth and career development and the sorrows of injury, separation and untimely death as one family. A patroller is welcomed into the community not as a tourist but has the invaluable experience of living daily life on the inside of the culture. Numerous patrollers have brought their families with them and their children have attended local schools. In 2011, Cedric Gex became the first “second generation” ski patroller to exchange where his father had worked a decade prior.
Coincidently, the Aspen Ski Company and the Compagnie du Mont Blanc each have four ski areas within their purview. The exchange has evolved into a perennial rotation to extend this extraordinary opportunity to patrollers at each ski area. In 2015 the Aspen Skiing Company assumed the administration of the exchange with Sister Cities support.
The international ski patrol exchange has been a life-changing event for many of the grateful patrollers and families it has embraced.