Ski resorts rely on patrollers to keep visitors safe, help them when accidents happen and find them when they get lost. Many patrollers are volunteers, and some commit decades to their local patrol. Its always good to see long term volunteers recognised. Lake Mountain ski patroller, Mike Sutton has been honoured with a National Medal for his many years of volunteer service.

Mike, a founding member of Lake Mountain Ski Patrol (LMSP), was nominated for the award by the Australian Ski Patrol Association (ASPA).

Currently the treasurer, Mike is the longest serving volunteer with the patrol and has held most leadership roles throughout his almost 40 years of continuous service. He was vice captain for many years up until this year and is a LMSP Life Member.

mike suttonMike said while he was honoured to receive the National Medal it was important to acknowledge all those who volunteer their time to assist others in so many different ways.

“It has been incredibly fulfilling to contribute as a volunteer in an environment that I love and help share with others my passion for the outdoors and cross country skiing,” says Mike who celebrated his 70th birthday this year.  

“Seeing the relief of patients and their families after we have helped them, and the friendships I have enjoyed with other patrollers have been particularly rewarding.”

Mike, from Bentleigh East, is also proud of his daughter Cathy who has incorporated service to others as an important part of her life. Having been a frequent visitor to Lake Mountain since before she could walk, Cathy is one of youngest volunteers to join LMSP after signing up in 2006 as a 20 year-old. She has been a valued patroller ever since and also a pivotal member of the LMSP committee

LMSP is an integral part of operations at Lake Mountain Alpine Resort, Melbourne’s closest alpine recreation area and one of the world’s busiest winter playgrounds for day trippers. With as many as 130,000 visitors each winter, the weekend volunteer patrol plays a vital role in keeping the mountain safe for visitors, providing first aid services and general advice to the public, and assisting with searches if the need arises.

Mike’s association with Lake Mountain dates back to the early 1980s when he first started exploring the winter wonderland on cross country skis.  He soon joined the Victorian Nordic Rescue Service that provided assistance on the mountain and was part of the group that formally founded LMSP in 1985.

Over the years Mike has seen Lake Mountain develop into an extremely popular day-tripper resort with many of the associated trimmings and changes in management structure. Significant events include the Black Saturday bushfires which raged through the resort in 2009 and even more tragically resulted in the loss of lives and property in the region including in the local gateway township of Marysville. Also, the ongoing impact of climate change; and, more recently, the changes to operational procedures due to the COVID pandemic to ensure the safety of all.

Given the visitor numbers and potential risks, patrollers today are more highly qualified. There is an expectation that they obtain ASPA certification in Advanced Emergency First Aid as well as develop other skill sets on-mountain including competency in radio communications and skidoo driving.

“Volunteer patrolling has become a far greater responsibility over the years with the rapid growth in visitor numbers to Lake Mountain. It is very satisfying to know that our first aid skills and knowledge enable us to deal with virtually any incident on the mountain while waiting for an ambulance that can take up to two hours to reach us,” says Mike who has been gradually reducing his more active patrolling in recent years but providing invaluable support and knowledge within the LMSP centre and mentoring younger patrollers.

“Lost skiers and visitors have become a bigger part of our work with most found in a few hours, but on some occasions searches have been all night and into the next day … We’re kept busy treating people of all ages mainly for sprained ankles and sometimes varying fractures. Once we provided assistance and skidoo transport for a skier who broke his jaw after hitting a tree stump face first on a more remote trail.”

Having contributed as a trained instructor for ASPA’s first aid course for many years, Mike has also gained great satisfaction from knowing he was “part of a team making our high-country wilderness areas safer for visitors”.

A history buff and woodwork enthusiast, Mike’s volunteering extends well beyond LMSP and reflect is other life-long passions. His other involvements include helping with the Karkarook parkrun as a marshal, timer, photographer, and barcode scanner; the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron’s archive and history subcommittee; the Australian Furniture History Society of which Mike is vice president, and the Hand Tool Preservation Association.