Arapahoe Basin’s Tony Cammarata keeps the slopes safe | SummitDaily.com

Arapahoe Basin’s Tony Cammarata keeps the slopes safe

On Sundays, staff at the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area know to avoid Tony Cammarata. The Massachusetts native, and ski patrol director for the area, spends the day ignoring phones and televisions so as not to see the score of the most recent football game.

Today, the New Englander is hoping to celebrate another Patriots Super Bowl win with native fare — "chowdah and lobstah."

Cammarata moved to Summit County nearly 20 years ago. On the East Coast he had been a rafting guide and volunteer ski patroller. Like many, he expected to spend a single season here, shredding on the mountain and working as a liftie. But after getting a job as a lift operator at A-Basin in 1997, things changed.

"Of all of the places that I saw, I fell in love with the Basin, like right off the bat," he said. "It was what I envisioned of the Rocky Mountains before I moved out here, and I just think it has that classic look and feel to it."

After working the lifts for a year, a ski patroller left, giving Cammarata the opportunity to go back into that field. At the time, there were 12 patrollers on the team. Cammarata also had experience as an EMT.

"I was a project for them for three years," he said. "They had the old school fellers teach me everything I needed to know about the place."

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Cammarata continued working as a ski patroller before being promoted to director during the 2010-11 ski season. In 2010 he was also Colorado Ski County U.S.A.'s ski patroller of the year.

In his years on the mountain, Cammarata has dealt with a number of calls. Although only a small percentage of his job is going out to rescue people who have been hurt, he said that on those days training can make all the difference in the world.

"Ultimately the reason we're there is bad things happen to good people sometimes," he said. "You'll only be involved in half a dozen instances over 20 to 25 years where you're like 'All of my training came together and it was just fortunate that we all did what we did.' You make a difference in some people's lives."

Knowing how much the Basin means to people is what makes Cammarata strive for excellence when working with ski patrollers. Their vigilance keeps the area safe.

In between the serious calls as a ski patroller, Cammarata said that he's also dealt with some pretty funny ones, including a fistfight between costumed pugilists dressed as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and Jesus. In fact, Cammarata joked that people frequenting A-basin love their costumes.

"I was standing at one of the slow signs on Sundance and I saw a guy in a banana outfit," he said. "I'm just about to go out and try and slow him down, and then I notice there's a gorilla straight-lining behind him, and I was like, I can't stop either one of them, that's really funny."

During the shortened summer season in Summit, when Cammarata has finally taken his ski boots off, you can often find him in flip-flops enjoying the quiet of local rafting or paddle boating with his wife, Julie. He said he's been fortunate enough to raft the Grand Canyon, but his favorite spots are off the beaten path. He has a favorite on the Green River called Through the Gates of the Door.

With both rafting and skiing, Cammarata prefers solitude. After a long day of talking with people at work, sometimes he enjoys the time with just his skis and the fresh powder.

"It's amazing when you don't have to talk to anybody, when you don't have to communicate, I think it changes the experience," he said.

Sometimes this means making "incognito" trips to Copper Mountain Resort on his days off because people are less likely to recognize him there.

But what Cammarata enjoys most about Summit is that he doesn't have to travel far to enjoy his time skiing or rafting, his two great loves.

"Now I couldn't see myself working anywhere else," he said. "I love the fact that what I do for my livelihood, during the winter time, I'm skiing on it one day and then I'm boating on it on the Blue the next day. I like the way it connects everything, my entire year together. That's probably why I've never left."