Cody Sheppard, the ski patrol director at Ski Santa Fe, grew up in the tropics, but—as the Texans like to say—he got here as fast as he could. After learning to ski back in the 1970s, during college at St. John’s, Sheppard took up ski patrolling. He’s been doing it ever since, and he’s psyched for what looks like a promising ski season.
SFR: We’ve been getting plenty of snow in town. How’s the mountain looking?
CS: This is awesome for October. It’s unbelievable. I’m looking out the window here in the base area, and if you didn’t know better you’d think it could be the middle of the winter. I just walked down to the quad [chairlift] and it was probably over my ankles…It’s an amazing start. I’m just watching a couple of snowboarders carrying their boards and walking up the hill as we speak.
Yep, they’ve already built some little jumps. They’re anxious to get it going, I guess.
How did you become a patroller?
I had never really been around snow much until I moved here. It took me a few years to bring out my skiing skills, but I was attracted to patrolling right away. When I looked around the mountain, I thought, ‘Boy, if there’s a job here I want, it would be [ski patrolling]’—not just because you’re participating in the sport directly, but also because it involves emergency medicine. That’s a very rewarding part of the job. As much as I love the skiing and being on the mountain, there’s a huge personal satisfaction in helping people.
What do you do in the summer?
This year, I’ve been working on building a new ski patrol cabin at the very top of the mountain. That’s really been hard work, but really fun learning about how to build a log cabin. We didn’t get a kit; we did this from scratch with local wood from the old Viveash Fire out in Pecos. So that’s been pretty much my entire summer.
Is it done?
It is almost done. It’s usable as is, but we just need to do some of the interior finish work—cabinets and heating and all that. But yeah, it’s a gorgeous building.
Are you a skier or snowboarder?
I only tried snowboarding once. I’m primarily an alpine skier, and the thing I’ve really gravitated towards in the last few years has been randonnée gear. Going downhill, [it’s] just like alpine skiing, but it enables you to release the heel when you’re going uphill so you have a normal stride, just like a Telemarker would.
It sounds like the best of both worlds.
Absolutely. With Telemarking, I could kind of do it, but I didn’t feel that confident in more extreme conditions. Randonnée gear [was] the obvious solution for me.
What do you ski on?
An all-mountain ski, the K2 Apache Xplorer. I have other skis, but those are definitely my favorite ones. They have amazing versatility. We don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘Oh, we’re just going to ski the groomed runs today’; we have to go everywhere—moguls, powder, trees. Having a ski that you can rely on for all conditions is really important.
Describe your idea of ski-related heaven.
Being the first one at the top of the mountain on a clear morning when it’s just dumped a bunch of light snow—blue skies; deep, light powder; a couple of choice friends and family.