Hannah Baybutt is a Ski Patroller in Sun Valley, Idaho. For her, living and working in the mountains means being part of something bigger, feeling connected with the people around her and knowing that her team has got her back.
Her job can be both physically and mentally exhausting, but being a part of a team of experts on the mountain helps Hannah to trust in her abilities and maintain focus when she needs it most.
In the following short film Hannah shares the responsibility she feels wearing the ski patroller cross, and the hurdles she’s navigated in a traditionally male-dominated industry. She recognizes the strong female patrollers that inspire and empower her, and how teamwork allows her to trust herself and feel a sense of belonging—in her career and on the mountains.
WORKING AS A SKI PATROLLER
What were your first days as a patroller like, and how and when did you find your stride?
The first days of patrol, the first weeks of patrol, they call it your 45-day review, and it’s like drinking from a firehose. There is so much information, and I even felt like I had a little bit of a leg up having grown up in the area and being familiar with the mountain.
And in my rookie class then, there were five of us, but only one other person was brand new like me. So, through the first and second year it was cool to find our stride together. To have your buddy at work to go on adventures with, I think those were the moments of finding strides and finding points of like “oh yeah, I can do this!” or “I got this”. And especially in the first year, helping someone and then having them reach out to me – they were moments of pride and moments of realizing, “I’m getting the hang of this”. Finding your niche, finding your people up there and finding those small moments of joy in between big chaos, it’s cool.
Who paved the way for young women like you to find your way in a career field that is typically male-dominated?
I think in the ski patrol industry, there are a lot of women who have paved the way that I should give thanks to and for. Especially female athletes – big alpinists and professional skiers – as well as women in leadership roles like guides. I also look to my mom. She has led the way for me. And also a woman named Pam Street, who taught me to telemark when I was a kid. She is a badass!
Do you have any mentors? People that inspire you to push and carry on in your career?
The women I work with at Sun Valley – Kjirsten, Sarah, Emily and Angie – and all these incredibly strong women that I’m around in the Patrol. Kjirsten controls medical and puts up training cells and pushes us. And Sarah has been a huge mentor as far as supporting with our patrol dog Jake and trying to tackle that challenge [of he and I working together].
What qualities do these women carry that you find compelling?
I think all of these women are really strong – strong in their beliefs, strong mentally, strong physically. And they kind of bring you into the fold. They want you to excel, they want you to succeed. I think that in a role where it’s easy to have doubts about yourself, these women help push you to see the good that’s in you. They bring out the best in me.
And when things go sideways, I think that I also look to these women because they are so dialed, and they know exactly what needs to happen and when and how. I look to them for stability and for that strength.
TRUST & BELONGING
Do you ever doubt yourself or your abilities as a ski patroller?
Yeah, I second-guess my abilities all the time. I ask myself: “Am I strong enough? Am I good enough? Am I representing myself well?” And I think that a lot of times having those doubts and being able to counter them with, “yeah you are, you can do this,” makes me better at what I do. I think when you’re going to a wreck on the mountain you should have that slight bit of fear, because it gives you an edge.
However, that doubt can overcome and be a negative thing – and that’s when I reach out to the people that I love and trust to help bring me back to a center point of balancing the doubt with the confidence. You don’t want to go too far either way.
How and where do you find that balance within yourself?
I think it ebbs and flows. Life comes in these swells, if you want to think about it like a swell or like a mountain, you’re going to have these ups and downs. And I think knowing this and having the ability to adjust is important. And knowing the people who have your back during the lows. People and community are huge for me. They’re my sense of belonging, they’re my sense of community, my sense of re-finding myself.
What does it take to become a trusted team member?
Trust is earned. Trust isn’t just given on the first day of being a patroller, I think it’d be silly to assume that. I think you gain trust. People begin to trust you when they see you doing certain things. For my first year someone gave me the really good advice that as a first-year patroller, you want to prove to people that you know how to shovel. Not shovel people out but help the dog handlers shovel dog holes, shovel out our picnic benches. I think that is a small building block of trust. They trust you with that and they see the way you carry yourself and interact with patients and that builds another block of trust. Or they see the way that you run a toboggan. It’s like checking off boxes of trust.
It’s also hard to trust someone you don’t know. So, I think spending more time with people in the patrol shack helps to build trust too.