MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Ski Patrol plays a major role during Minnesota winters, and some patrollers at Hyland Hills in Bloomington have been keeping the slopes safe together for nearly 30 years. It’s the “chair lift of life” that keeps them coming back.

“We are out here when it’s 30 below and the wind chill is 40 below,” said Deb Endly.

Anyone who trains to be part of a Ski Patrol loves the sport, but loves the people even more.

“You wouldn’t come back over and over again all those years without the relationships,” said Mike Peters.

“These are my best friends. I love them like my brothers and sisters,” said Jim Andrews.

Andrews has had a longer run than anyone at Hyland Hills. He’s in his 49th year. That’s saying something considering a number of these patrollers have been working together for three decades or more. They even have “Geezer” hats to prove it.

“I give out a hat every once in a while to somebody and they are usually happy to get it,” he said. “It’s definitely an honor.”

Besides that honorary status, the “Geezers” are insurance agents, nurses, construction workers and dental hygienists. There’s even a biomedical engineer in the group.

“I have probably given, on average every year, 300-plus hours to the Ski Patrol,” said Endly, who is also the assistant patrol director.

Many have been here to help skiers since the movie “Ski Patrol” came out in 1990.

“You see people get married. You seem them have kids. You see their kids get married,” said Audrey Friedman.

In a group of this size there’s bound to be a love story or two.

“It’s brought us really close over the years in this way,” said Vicki Young.

Vicki and Scott Young met 28 years ago on the slopes. It was love at first patrol.

“We met at our outdoor emergency care training. She had a spot right here for me,” Scott Young said.

Julie and Dave Jorgenson also met in a training class. They ended up getting married, fittingly, after the historic Halloween blizzard of 1991.

“Dave was one of my instructors,” said Julie Jorgenson. “This is Dave and I out in a field and I have my hot pinks Sorel boots underneath that you can’t tell.”

The pandemic has made the circle a little smaller this winter, and some of the “Geezers” are starting to think about hanging up the skis. Still, for this group, the powder may change but the people stay the same.

“I think I need it socially. I think it’s healthy and it’s good for my emotional state. I think it’s good for me to keep going,” Andrew said.

Many of the Hyland Hills Ski Patrollers who have retired over the years, still stick around. They can be found in the patrol room as part of the alumni program.

John Lauritsen