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Holladay Journal

The woman in charge of Snowbird Ski Patrol

Apr 05, 2024 01:10PM ● By Genevieve Vahl

Tina Biddle, Snowbird Ski Patrol director since 2017. (Photo courtesy Tina Biddle)

When Tina Biddle started out on Snowbird Ski Patrol in 2001, she was one of four women. In 2024, there are now 18 women. With 80 patrollers total of varying schedule commitments, that makes 22.5% of Snowbird Ski Patrol women. Still only a little over one fifth of the team, more and more women are appearing in the male dominated industry. Biddle, director of Snowbird Ski Patrol since 2017, has been cultivating a culture of care and hard work on her team, guiding the crew by example. 

With 23 years now under her belt at Snowbird alone, Biddle never has let the boys' club mentality deter her from doing her job best. She leads by example. Like how her own coach, a five-year patroller at the time named Karen Davis, showed her the ins and outs of the job her rookie year in 1997 patrolling at Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado.

“And how to have fun,” Biddle said. “To be serious when you had to be serious. But don’t take it too seriously. And the detail orientedness of the job.” 

There is a tediousness often left as unseen actions of their duty that keep the resort safe and operating. Like last season, when patrol had to raise tower pads and rope lines practically every other day because of the historic snowfall that just never seemed to stop. 

“Everyone was like, we have to do this again? But it’s like, you get a powder run to get there,” Biddle said. “Karen really helped me keep that in perspective.” 

Even as the highest rank on patrol, Biddle still does work projects with the rank and file, finding it more fulfilling than sitting at a desk inside, which is just as much her job as using explosives to trigger avalanches or making snow safety calls over the radio.  

“There are some times where I just want to be a patroller. I will go out and dig out tower pads with the crew and do work projects with everyone,” Biddle said. 

An act of someone in leadership who has clearly been a rank and file themself, to know the efforts, struggles, triumphs of such a rigorous job. 

“I have had a couple patrollers from different areas say that their patrol director would never have been out there digging tower pads with us,” Biddle said. “I try to lead by example, and I want to go out there because it’s a really good time to get to know people.”  

But when asked how being a woman manifests in her practice of leadership, it wasn’t even a factor. “I am just doing my job,” Biddle said. “Put your head down, do your job.” 

Coming to work, the team supports one another through the inevitable challenges everyone faces out on the mountain. "We are like one big dysfunctional family.”

Emphasizing the unproductivity of the age-old hazing and bullying that comes in a field densely packed with having to prove oneself to find your place in the ranks. 

“When I first started, it wasn’t even the tough love thing, it was bullying. It is so unproductive. But I think that has gotten better, slowly. I’m trying to get them to embrace the new people, to show them everything they know because they might be digging you out of an avalanche one day,” Biddle said. “We all rely on each other.” 

“I think of it as having a lot of brothers and sisters,” Biddle said. “We are watching out for each other outside of work as well.”  

Though still only about a fifth of the patrollers are women at Snowbird, there has undoubtedly been an increase in interest and career paths taken for women over the past 20 years in patrol. 

“I think gals are realizing they do have what it takes. That it is not just a boys’ club. That if you work hard, no one has anything to give you a hard time about,” Biddle said. “The guys muscle the toboggans into place, whereas females have to finesse it. It’s just a little different. But we still get the same end result.” 

Susan Becker was a police officer for the city of Milwaukee for 25 years. She spoke to the City Journals about being a woman in a highly male dominated field during the pre-2000 era. 

“There were no uniforms for women. You had to go in and get fitted in a man’s uniform,” she said. “And we had to have our hair short, we couldn’t have long hair.”

With an uncannily similar sentiment to Biddle’s: “You just did your job and had your partner’s back,” she said. She also mentioned the finesse she needed to develop to succeed versus the muscling through things, which the men on her crew relied on. 

“I was not a good fighter,” she said. 

She couldn’t pick fights, she could not get loud in people’s faces to solve her conflicts. She couldn’t use force or loud aggression the way the men on her squad would because she would get beat up, literally. She couldn’t rely on her strength to muscle her through conflict. She had to find a nuance and finesse with her rapport with people to find resolution. Using a calm, collected voice to gain trust. Using finesse, like Biddle said, to get the same, if not more, optimal results. 

Ultimately, for Biddle, it is the community and active lifestyle that has kept her patrolling the slopes for so long.  

“The people, I laugh every day,” Biddle said. “The skiing, being outside, being active is why I do it.”

She has a steadfast assuredness that women already have everything it takes to succeed as a patroller. 

“Have the confidence in what you do,” Biddle said, “because we are all capable.” λ