The Work: As king of the hill, you scout for dangerous trail conditions, track and discipline renegade out-of-bounders, haul slope-battered accident victims to safety, throw avalanche bombs, evacuate faulty lifts, bond with rescue dogs, splint broken fingers, calm panicky skiers, haul unwieldy toboggans, and serve as a paragon of sanity among hordes of reckless downhillers. Off-season, you're a mere mortal, working construction, guiding fishing trips, mixing margaritas.
Time Outside: 99 percent during November-April season, including hot-chocolate breaks.
Payback: Ski resorts pay by the hour: $13 for rookies, $15-$20 for six-year vets, $25-$27 for patrol directors.
Prerequisites: Brilliant in the bumps, fast and unflappable on the steeps—while towing a sled, of course. Plus a certificate from the National Ski Patrol's Outdoor Emergency Care Training Course (303-988-1646; www.nsp.org) and CPR training.
Networking: Make the rounds to ski area job fairs, held annually from mid-October through early November. Call the National Ski Patrol (303-988-1111) for dates and information.
Peon to Pro: A patroller with at least one year under his or her belt must pass expert ski or snowboarding courses, sled-handling clinics, and leadership seminars.
Drudge Factor: Succumbing to big-toe frostbite while standing for hours at dangerous trail junctions, yelling at yahoos to slow down.
Outlook: Ski with caution: Due to resort mergers, the number of salaried positions has remained flat at 8,000 since 1996.