Lefler is 'living on the edge' while helping keep skiers safe

February 10, 2006|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note - There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like ...

Keith Lefler

Age - 51.

Occupation - Paramedic for Anne Arundel County, Md.

Hometown - Linthicum, Md. Now lives with his family in Sharpsburg.

Where would you see Lefler? - Lefler admits he has the "adrenaline gene," which explains why you will find him on the slopes at Whitetail Mountain Resort as part of the ski patrol. He balances that with his shifts as a paramedic, a job he has done for 31 years.

Prior to that, Lefler served as a volunteer and paid firefighter, starting at age 16.

He started skiing when he was about 20, adding it to the long list of outdoor activities he enjoyed. Most of his early skiing was done at Ski Liberty, Roundtop or Wisp - before Whitetail opened - which was an all-day commitment traveling from the Baltimore area, where he grew up.


Nine seasons ago, Lefler trained for a mountain safety job, the yellow-jacketed staff who patrol the ski runs and assist as needed, from answering questions to accident investigation, but are not trained to administer medical services.

After two years, he decided to join the ski patrol, the red-jacketed members who, in addition to watching out for the safety of skiers and snowboarders, provide medical attention. He is one of about 90 on the ski patrol at Whitetail, many of whom share Lefler's love of extreme sports.

"From boredom to chaos in 30 seconds. I'm used to living on the edge," said Lefler, which applies both to his roles as paramedic and ski patrol.

Training for the ski patrol begins the last week of August and runs through the first week of December, Lefler said. Participants first must pass a ski test, then commit to two nights of classroom training per week, which shifts outside later in training.

They then must pass a written and practical test and must be recertified each year.

"It is a big commitment," Lefler said.

Lefler volunteers his time in exchange for season passes for his family and benefits such as food discounts. It fits well with his work schedule as a paramedic of 24 hours on and 48 hours off, allowing him to work six to eight weekday shifts per month.

The ski patrol is responsible for "opening the mountain," which means arriving by 7:30 a.m., an hour before the slopes open. They do daily maintenance checks on the sleds and first-aid equipment and also are responsible for marking trail hazards, such as bare spots in the snow.

Lefler will take turns with the other ski patrolers - about five strong during the week and about 15 on weekends - watching from several posts at the top of different slopes. The rest of the shift is spent skiing amidst the recreational skiers and snowboarders, ensuring their safety.

"I think just the adventure of being here - responding to emergencies and helping people" is what attracts Lefler to the ski patrol. "It's an exciting, fun thing."

Hobbies - Lefler's father was a farmer and shared his love of the outdoors - hunting, fishing and camping - with his son, who was an only child.

"That was my introduction to the big wide open," Lefler said.

An avid environmentalist, Lefler grows a large vegetable garden each year, enough to feed his family and share with friends and neighbors. He said whitewater kayaking is one of his passions, along with road and mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing and hiking.

"I'm always doing something," he said.

What does Lefler like best about Washington County? - "I like the rural aspects - the vistas, the wide-open farms," said Lefler, who enjoys the mountain view from the Sharpsburg home he shares with his wife and two daughters.

He admits he would move to Montana if he could. His dream jobs would be working as a paramedic at Yellowstone National Park during the summer and as ski patrol at Big Sky Resort during ski season.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or send an e-mail to

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