During the FIPS meeting in Passo del Tonale in 2016, Predrag Milosevic, of the Serbian Mountain Rescue Service (GSS), gave an invitation to other ski patrols to visit them in Kopaonik. In February, Gerard Cameron and John Holmes from BASP and Marie Nordgren, Poul Kongstad and four other representatives from SLAO, the Swedish Ski Resorts Industry Association, took up the invitation.
Gerard and John arrived in Belgrade to be met by Bojan Marić, who kindly and knowledgably gave them a guided tour of the city, before going back to the airport to pick up the Swedes. All of us were taken up to the ski resort of Kopaonik via an introduction to Serbian cuisine at a restaurant in Kruševac.
Kopaonik is Serbia’s largest ski resort and has skiing between 1,258 and 2,017 metres in the south of the country. 97% of the runs are covered by snow cannons and most of the skiing was on artificial snow. Ski Patrol is covered by the GSS. This a central organisation which provides Mountain Rescue services in general, patrol services for the ski resorts, cave rescue, “vertical rescue” for both rural and urban environments and a small amount of swift water rescue service. As far as Ski Patrol is concerned, the GSS is contracted to provide ski patrol to a ski area. Trained members are then supplied as teams on a weekly basis but work as volunteers, usually in their own time. Training is pretty intensive and some very high technical standards are required to be able to become a member. As a result, there appeared to be a very high level of motivation which was seen with a fair degree of party bonding (!).
The patrollers themselves are only responsible for the management of casualties on the slopes, in retrieval and then delivery to the Medical Centre (part of the Serbian national health system) with whom the responsibility for treatment and further management rests. Casualties can be X-rayed and simple fractures treated on the spot. Other simple procedures such as suturing can be performed by doctors seconded, often from Belgrade. There was a consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon on duty during this visit. The patrollers also have no role in the maintenance (such as signage) of the runs. This is done by employees of the ski company, but taking advice from the patrol as necessary.
The group was shown around the resort for two days and had the chance to meet the patrollers and watch them working both on the runs and in the patrol centre later. Data collection was on a smart phone at the scene and this was later transferred to a central database.
After two days in Kopaonik the group were transported back to Belgrade to return home. Gerard and John were treated to a meal in Belgrade by Bojan Marić, his brother (a surgeon, and member of GSS) and two other committee members of GSS. They were extremely interested in the activities of BASP using First Aid training as a source of revenue, as GSS relies on the ski companies and sponsors for financial assistance.
It was a very enjoyable trip professionally, not only to see how other organisations worked, but also to renew acquaintances and make new friends. Our Serbian hosts were extremely friendly, kind and hospitable and we are very grateful to have been given the chance to visit them.