The Bluebird Patrollers on Skiing, Snow Safety, and a 32-Year Bromance

Ski patrolling is a notoriously difficult job, and like in any tough gig, the coworkers in the trenches are bound to get close. Even still, Bluebird Backcountry patrollers Bob Tierney and Pat Ahern are an exception: After meeting on the job 32 years ago, these two are still best friends.

“It was 1988, and we were both new patrollers in Breckenridge,” Ahern says. He remembers first spotting Tierney in a first-aid class as part of their training. Before long, they were officially coworkers, and they found they gravitated toward one another.

Then, that first Christmas on the patrol, Ahern, a Breckenridge local, helped Tierney cut down his first holiday tree. “We ended up forging a long-term friendship,” Ahern says.

 

Pat Ahern (left) and Bob Tierney (right) have been ski patrollers and best friends for 32 years.

 

Over the years the two grew up, got married, had kids, and switched jobs, slowly moving up the ranks in the world of avalanche safety and big-mountain patrolling. But they stayed in touch, vacationing with their families, and skiing together whenever they could.

“We’ve really helped each other out during some hard times,” says Ahern. “When I was brand new at Silverton Mountain, it was really scary and there were lots of obstacles because we were a small patrol tackling a big mountain. Bob gave me a lot of advice and support during that time.” 

By the time Bluebird Backcountry founders Jeff Woodward and Erik Lambert started looking for their first head patrollers, Tierney and Ahern came as kind of a package deal.

“When the opportunity came up, Bob was the first person I called to see if he was interested,” says Ahern, who Woodward and Lambert had contacted through a friend. “I got lucky to get someone with so much experience, enthusiasm, and strength.”

As Tierney tells it, Ahern got lucky for other reasons, too. 

“We live together for the season in Kremmling. He’ll make me breakfast, I’ll make him lunch. And then I usually make dinner because I’m a better cook than he is,” Tierney laughs.

 

a ski patroller evaluates a snow slope for avalanche safety

Bob Tierney evaluates a slope for avalanche risk while planning out Bluebird Backcountry’s snow safety strategy. Photo: Jeff Woodward 

Working at Bluebird has given Ahern and Tierney a chance to reunite as coworkers after all these years. It’s also given Bluebird a top-notch team of seasoned patrollers who work seamlessly together.

“We really don’t have to communicate what we’re going to do as much because we know each other’s patterns and strengths and weaknesses,” Tierney explains. “We are able to work really well together. There’s not a lot of ego between us.”

The job has also provided the two lifelong skiers a way to give back to the backcountry community in a new way.

“Backcountry skiing can provide a lot of peacefulness,” says Tierney. “It gives people a break in their lives. It helps them see more beauty.”

Bluebird, he explains, provides a unique opportunity to share that beauty.

“The way Bluebird is set up, the main goal is to educate and enable people to get out into the backcountry in a safer manner. And it is exciting to be a part of it, not just because it’s new but because it’s different from any other ski area,” says Ahern. “Hopefully with Bob and I’s experience over the years, we can add to that.” 

two ski patrollers at Bluebird Backcountry

With over 60 years of combined snow safety and ski patrolling experience, Bluebird Backcountry guests can rest easy knowing Pat and Bob are on the job. Photo: Justin Wilhelm