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Helly Hansen „ALIVE“ Interview with Ski Patroller Silvan Büchel

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Silvan Büchel is 33 years old and he works as a ski patroller in the ski resort of Arosa Lenzerheide since he is 20 years old. As a father and trained ski teacher Sylvan Büchel uses every spare minute in snow and fully trusts his Helly Hansen gear. Arosa Lenzerheide is one of 60 resorts worldwide, which equip their employees with Helly Hansen apparel.

Silvan Büchel your best friend in hairy situations

Silvan Büchel your best friend in hairy situations. Photo by Rico Kümin

1. How many Ski patrollers are currently working for your ski resort? How big is your team, when you are on duty?

Arosa-Lenzerheide occupies in total 31 ski patroller – 23 of them are on duty every day.

 

2. What exactly is the job of a Ski patroller?

The specific role as a ski patroller includes the preparation of the pistes so that our guests can enjoy skiing in a secure and accident-less way. Therefore we set up and control the piste-markings and the fencing off. An important part of our work is the safeguarding of the pistes from danger – for example the blowing up of avalanches. Naturally we control the slopes every evening and we are also responsible for skiers or pedestrians in the ski resort, which are involved in an accident. We prepare the slopes so that our guests can enjoy skiing in a secure way, with minimum accidents

Silvan Büchel an his Team captured by Rico Kümin

Silvan Büchel an his Team captured by Rico Kümin

3. What are the skills that a ski patroller needs to have and what are the requirements for someone who wants to take on this professional path?

It is crucial to be a very good skier and to enjoy the winter weather. As emergencies are part of the job, some medical experiences are needed. Personality wise, it helps to be empathetic and compassionate towards a person in distress, so the basic skills of a Samaritan are a prerequisite. The more explosive part of the job, blowing up of avalanches takes a lot of training and experience. 

 

4. Tell us a bit more about a typical ski patroller’s working day

Before the first gondola goes up we control and prepare the pistes for the winter athletes. During the day we are doing control-rides and we hold ourselves in readiness in case of an accident. When the day draws to a close and the skiers are back in the valley, we run through the end control so that the pistes-machines can start to work.

 

….. and an untypical one?

Suddenly the phone rings during dinner, it’s an emergency call – a ski mountaineer didn’t arrive at home. We start our search in dense fog, find him being completely exhausted after dark and we bring him home safe and sound to his family.

Silvan Büchel Helly Hansen Alive Ski Patroller

Silvan Büchel Helly Hansen Alive Ski Patroller by Rico Kümin

5. What do you love most in your job?

The feeling of being the first on the slopes is very special to me as well as being surrounded by the untouched nature in the mornings. In these certain moments I’m totally in harmony with nature. Furthermore the gratitude of the people who need help and also the thankfulness of their relatives give me a good feeling. 

 

6. What risks are you facing every day being a ski patroller?

 

My work takes place in high mountains – this exposes me to danger. Sudden temperature drops, avalanches, or rescue missions can cause life-threatening situations for the ski patrollers on duty.

Silvan Büchel on patrol

Silvan Büchel on patrol. Photo by Rico Kümin

7. How do you secure free riders that go off-piste?

We point out the current avalanche situation to “variant riders” and try to draw their attention to possible dangers. At the starting points locating-device checkpoints are available in case free riders get buried by an avalanche.

 

8. What are your most important security tips – on the slope and off-piste?

On the piste it is important to adapt the speed to your skills and to respect other winter sport athletes. Off the piste, it is important to be well prepared and never blindly trust other free riders. This includes a realistic self-assessment, safe equipment and knowledge about possible dangers. 

 

9. for each of us, the notion of feeling alive and triggers to get to the state of being when you truly feel something are different. can you share a special “feel alive” moment that you have experienced in your professional career as a ski patroller?

 

I feel most alive when I set out for the sunrise, ready to start my day of work. It is a special atmosphere, a unique feeling, when I set out in the dawn and I catch the first sunrays above the peaks. Then I take my time and I enjoy the ambience as long as possible.

Silvan Büchel photo and copyright by Rico Kümin

Silvan Büchel photo and copyright by Rico Kümin

10. Does being in the outdoors and working in the mountains help you have more “feel alive” moments daily?

I normally have a lot of those moments, because I love the mountains and winter. As my profession takes place outdoors, in the beautiful mountains, I have possibilities, which are unique. This means that I can be the first and the last one on the mountain, I drive a snowmobile through breathtaking terrain, I am able to blow avalanches and I can be in untouched, deep snow on regular basis – these are my “feel alive” moments.

 

11. How many hours a day and how many days per season do you work in the snow?

I am out in the snow for 7 month of the year – from Mid-October until the start of May, from getting up in the morning until falling asleep. Of course I spend my time in the snow not only during the working hours, but also during my free time.

 

12. In your job you spent most of the day outside – facing the elements so you need equipment and clothing that you can rely on. What are your requirements regarding the apparel you put on daily when working?

For my daily tasks the gear must be robust. Of course the garments should also be breathable, wind-proof and weather-proof – these functions are indispensable up in the mountains.

Silvan Büchel photo and copyright by Rico Kümin

Silvan Büchel photo and copyright by Rico Kümin

13. How did the clothing evolve over the last years?

An essential change has been the layering system. In the past, warmth and weather protection elements were designed in the same jacket, whereas today, we layer different clothing items to maximize protection and warmth. I definitely prefer the new layering system.

 

14. What do you like the most about Helly Hansen? Which one is your preferred Helly Hansen product – and why?

Helly Hansen products are unbelievably robust. My favorite product is my old jacket- I’ve worn it 3 winters in a row and it still fulfills all requirements. Proper care and cleaning prolong the life span, so it is important to take care of your gear.

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Helly Hansen, Helly Hansen Alive, Interview