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Terrain Park Rangers Keeping Guests Safe

by Thomas Vendittelli

The sun rises over Wachusett Mountain State Reservation and guests arrive early for a taste of the fresh snow on the mountain. From the summit of Wachusett Mountain Ski Resort the view is majestic, providing misty glimpses of forest as far as the eye can see. Within seconds of opening the park gates, snowboarders and skiers alike are showing up to try their skills against Wachusett’s very intense terrain.

“Hey Buddy,” yells terrain park ranger Brendan Grierto the first boarder to arrive at the terrain park. “…Where’s your pass?”

Wachusett’s terrain park managers spend a lot of time on their skis and boards, listening to classic rock music and watching people wipe out. But there’s more going on there than meets the eye. There is a constant effort to keep every guest safe on the slope.

A ranger’s most important task is monitoring everyone who enters the terrain park to make sure they possess a park pass. A pass can be attained only after watching a videotaped program hosted by world-class freestyle snowboarder, Sean White. The rangers make sure that anyone who wants a pass understands the content of the video, which focuses on safety and responsibility.

Grierto quizzes the viewers to make sure they paid attention. “Guys, what are the 3 main points of smart style?” he asks a group of boarders when the tape ends. Only when the guests correctly answer the quiz questions are they allowed to purchase a pass.

While issuing and checking passes takes up a lot of a park ranger’s time, watching out for guests who may be an injury-risk is another huge responsibility. To prevent accidents, rangers must make sure the people who purchase a pass are at the appropriate skill and maturity level. “We see at least four to five bad injuries a day out here,” Grierto said, highlighting the importance of watching the guests carefully.

The busiest time for terrain park managers is the beginning of the season. They are charged with setting up the entire park when the resort is ready to open. It is a time consuming and genuinely tough job, yet they are allowed only one day to get it all done!

“The best part is when we get all the rails up on that first day,” said “Teddy” Straight, another terrain park ranger at Wachusett. “When the kids are all stoked about it – that’s a really good feeling.”

That is what a ranger finds most gratifying, Grier said. While he enjoys spending his workday on the mountain, fixing jumps and listening to good music all day, the most rewarding part of his job is “making sure everybody’s safe, and just making sure everybody has a good time.”

Thomas Vendittelli is a student at Wagner College in Staten Island. He wrote this article as an assignment for an internship with the Eastern Ski Writers Association, under the guidance of Janet Franz.

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