Monday, April 13, 2009

A Woman in a Men's World

Lilly Bujas (38) is the only female ski patroller employed by Zermatt Bergbahnen AG in the Matterhorn ski paradise. It is the former bank clerk’s seventh winter on the mountain helping out skiers who have had accidents.
She shares her job with 26 male colleagues, who work in shifts and wait around the mountain for their assignments. She is "on call" so there’s lots of waiting around to be done; fortunately, it has to be said. On average, Lilly sets out three or four times a day into the Matterhorn glacier paradise to help out skiers who have had accidents. She receives a radio message, grabs the sledge – a stretcher on runners – and is at the accident site less than ten minutes later. "I make sure I don’t rush around. I make sure I’m always calm. I often tell people to slow down. People get so stressed. Yet they’re on holiday".
Leave stress behind. But how? Lilly knows. After working for 13 years as a bank clerk, Lilly, who comes from Zurich, had had enough. "I went to Goms, to Bellwald, for two years and worked there as a children’s ski instructor" Then she returned to her old job for three years, but the call of the mountains had become stronger. "I like being outside in the snow. I have always been fascinated by the rescue services". In order to become a ski patroller, she needed to do a course in first aid and emergency assistance. She hopes to do the job for as long as she is fit enough. And what’s it like working in a world of men? "I have never had any problems. Indeed the opposite is true”, says Lilly and laughs. “We get on well". Occasionally Lilly, who is 1.85 metres tall, helps with piste preparation. Ten percent of her job consists of transporting things using the snow groomer. Does she return to Zurich occasionally? "Yes, mostly to see my parents. But city life is too stressful". In her last holiday she went to Finland, "the colder the better". In her free time she enjoys telemark skiing. And when she gets home in the evening? "I make myself comfortable. I laze around, read. I think. Study. I don’t do anything. Is it really necessary to do something all the time?".
The Swiss Ski Patrol Championship will take place in Zermatt on 21 and 22 April. 160 participants are expected, twenty of whom are women. The Swiss National Ski Patrol Association (VRP/ACP) trains 70 new ski patrollers every year. On average, two or three of them are women.