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Lori Spence talks about being first woman to lead Aspen Highlands ski patrol

Aspen Highlands ski patrol director Lori Spence and her avalanche dog, Meka, stand in front of the patrol hut at the top of Loge lift. Spence was first hired by longtime Aspen Highlands ski patrol director Mac Smith in 1985, and she became the first woman to lead patrol at the mountain after Smith retired last year.
Eleanor Bennett
/
Aspen Public Radio
Aspen Highlands ski patrol director Lori Spence and her avalanche dog, Meka, stand in front of the patrol hut at the top of Loge lift. Spence was first hired by longtime Aspen Highlands ski patrol director Mac Smith in 1985, and she became the first woman to lead patrol at the mountain after Smith retired last year.

Lori Spence is the first woman to be director of the Aspen Highlands ski patrol and the second woman to be hired by Aspen Skiing Co. as patrol director at any of the company’s four ski areas.

“I just hope women realize we can all do this job,” she said. “We all bring different strengths to the position.”

Spence has been ski patrolling at Aspen Highlands for more than three decades.

In February 2021, she took over for longtime patrol director Mac Smith, who retired after 42 seasons on the job.

Lori Spence leads the morning meeting at ski patrol headquarters on top of Aspen Highlands on a recent day. Last February, Spence became the second woman in SkiCo history to be a patrol director at any of Aspen’s four ski areas.
Eleanor Bennett
/
Aspen Public Radio
Lori Spence leads the morning meeting at ski patrol headquarters on top of Aspen Highlands on a recent day. Last February, Spence became the second woman in SkiCo history to be a patrol director at any of Aspen’s four ski areas.

“We have 41 patrollers on the roster right now and five women,” Spence said. “That’s the most we’ve ever had since I’ve been here for 37 years and one or two years I was here by myself.”

Spence patrolled through two pregnancies and a breast cancer diagnosis, and she raised her kids on the mountain.

“My boys came up here quite a bit, and they were able to grow up with their mom ski patrolling in the valley, and it was great,” she said.

Lori Spence and her fellow Aspen Highlands ski patrollers pose for the annual group photo in front of the Highland Bowl shortly after Spence was hired in 1985. During her 37 years on the team, Spence was one of just a handful of women patrollers.
Courtesy of Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol
Lori Spence and her fellow Aspen Highlands ski patrollers pose for the annual group photo in front of the Highland Bowl shortly after Spence was hired in 1985. During her 37 years on the team, Spence was one of just a handful of women patrollers.

The only other woman to be patrol director at SkiCo before Spence was Roine Rowland St. Andre, who patrolled at Buttermilk for 29 years and served as patrol director there for three years.

She also broke trail as the first woman patroller at SkiCo in 1970.

“I think it’s a change from years ago, for sure, because it’s such a male-dominated field,” Spence said. “I feel lucky I am in this position and can be a role model for women in the future.”

SkiCo recently hired Crested Butte patrol director Tessa Dawson as the first woman to be head of ski patrol on Aspen Mountain.

Aspen Public Radio spent a day with Aspen Highlands ski patrol director Lori Spence and her avalanche dog, Meka, to learn more about what it has been like to be one of the few female patrollers on the mountain for over three decades.

Listen to the story above.

Copyright 2022 Aspen Public Radio . To see more, visit Aspen Public Radio .

Growing up in the valley listening to KAJX in her parents’ car on the way to school, Eleanor learned the power and urgency of community storytelling. She was further captivated by the medium while interning at APR after graduating from Middlebury College in 2015.