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Geoffrey Ferguson, MD ‘74, known to many as “Fergie,” has spent the last 35 years dedicated to helping people in the Alpental valley. This three-sided canyon is tucked away on the North Side of Snoqualmie Pass, Washington — an area as beautiful as it can be brutal.
If there’s a serious accident on the ski hill, Ferguson is probably on the scene. An optimist might say he’s always at the right place at the right time, but the reality is that he’s hustling as hard as he can to help the patient and the responding team.
Ferguson graduated from the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1974 and has spent his professional career as a vascular and interventional radiology specialist. In 1988, he completed the prerequisite medical training, now known as Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC), to become a ski patroller.
When Ferguson joined the Alpental Ski Patrol in the late 1980s, all four base areas at Snoqualmie were separate ski areas with separate patrols. When the resorts merged to become the Summit at Snoqualmie, the four different patrols also merged. One of Ferguson’s first stamps on the area was developing a consistent training system for all patrols.
“He joined at such an important time and continues to help tremendously by keeping the patrol and fire department working seamlessly together,” says Jay Wiseman, fire chief of Snoqualmie Pass Fire and Rescue.
Keeping skiers safe during COVID-19
Before every ski season begins, you can find Ferguson up at one of the Summit’s first-aid rooms, preparing for the season ahead. Leading up to the 2020-21 ski season, he would face his most difficult pre-season challenge yet: developing a plan to keep guests, patrollers and employees from getting sick during the COVID-19 pandemic and creating a response plan in case they did.
After growing frustrated with how long it took for employees to receive COVID-19 test results, he brought rapid on-site testing to the mountain. When Ferguson learned that COVID-19 vaccines were becoming available to first responders, he put all of his energy into making a dose available for every patroller by working collaboratively with Snoqualmie Valley Hospital. By March 2021, every patroller who wanted a vaccine was fully vaccinated.
“It feels like this is him giving back to the world,” says Rob Gibson, director of the Summit at Snoqualmie Ski Patrol. “With everything that he does with patrol, with SPART (Ski Patrol Rescue Team), his medical practice, photography, what he does is just tremendous.”
A lifesaving legacy
Ferguson has responded to hundreds of emergency calls, and everyone who has worked with him has a story to tell. Wiseman recalls a skier who panicked after fracturing his clavicle, refusing to allow anyone to touch him; only Ferguson’s calm demeanor could reassure the patient. Another volunteer patroller at Alpental remembers crawling into a tree well with Ferguson to realign and splint a knee injury before extracting the patient, saying that Ferguson made a difficult rescue seem routine.
One especially well-known rescue was featured in the book “Found: A Life of Mountain Rescue.” Ferguson and a team of approximately 60 volunteers saved the life of a skier caught in an avalanche and who had suffered a broken leg and a fractured pelvis with severe internal bleeding. The team pulled the skier out of the Slot Couloir and back over Mount Snoqualmie through “The Notch” on the shoulder of Mount Snoqualmie in a 13-hour rescue effort in high avalanche conditions.
Over the decades that he’s volunteered at the Summit, Ferguson has received 17 awards from his peers, including Outstanding First-Aid Room Patroller and Most Inspirational Patroller for the 2020–21 season.
Yet, despite his many life-saving rescues, Ferguson remains humble. Aside from an incident debrief, you’d never know how instrumental he was in saving a patient’s life unless you asked him — and even then, he’d likely pass the accolades to his fellow team members.
To recognize his many contributions and the important work he’ll continue to do, Ferguson’s legacy was recently etched into Alpental’s history with a run named in his honor. The run, tucked under the entrance to Shot Six and next to the second “Danger Cliff” sign at the far end of Breakover, will forever be known as Fergie’s Forest.
Written by Andrew Kollar, with contributions by Stephanie Perry