By Heather McGregor
Reed Clawson had his mind set on being a professional ski patroller. He never expected to be working as a flight paramedic with a helicopter team.
“I wanted to make ski patrolling as viable a career as I could. But all these doors opened because of the training and schooling, and led me in the direction I went,” said Clawson, 34, of New Castle, a 2012 graduate of Colorado Mountain College.
Since April 2016, Clawson has served aboard Classic Air Medical’s Bell 407 helicopter, based at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. In 17 months, he has worked more than 150 medical flights.
“I like taking care of people. I also love that it’s not normal, not mundane. Every day, every flight is different,” he said.
The flight team includes a pilot, a nurse and a paramedic. Classic Air’s Glenwood Springs crew members – four pilots, four nurses and three paramedics – work rotating shifts.
“Our primary job is to care for and transport critically sick or injured patients,” Clawson said. Some flights transfer patients to or from Valley View Hospital; others are backcountry rescues where the flight team is often the first responder.
“Our goal is to get the person to definitive care as fast as possible,” he said. “You can really see the benefit of the helicopter. We can get to Denver in one hour, or to Grand Junction in about 35 minutes.”
The Glenwood Springs team also supports Classic Air’s helicopter and airplane teams in Steamboat Springs, Craig and Moab. The company serves Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming and Idaho.
Learning new skills leads to career change
Clawson arrived at this vital position, responsible for people’s lives and futures every day, after making a pivot as a CMC student. He was wrapping up his associate degree in ski area operations at CMC Leadville, which included emergency medical technician (EMT) training, and had started an internship on the Copper Mountain ski patrol.
“Reed was spurred on by the role of emergency medical provider. That lit a fire in him,”
said Roger Coit, one of Clawson’s CMC Leadville instructors.
After graduation, Clawson took an accelerated paramedic training program at Denver Health.
The training led him to paramedic work in Grand County, along with ski patrolling at Powderhorn and Aspen Mountain, until the Classic Air opportunity arrived.
When Clawson started his ski area ops studies at CMC in 2010, he had just returned to Colorado, out of money, after living abroad. “I was very determined to get into the workforce,” he recalled.
“I definitely got a return on my investment,” he said, citing CMC’s affordability and the high quality of instruction. “I was impressed with the knowledge and skill sets of my instructors. They set me up to be a professional in both of those fields. I was prepped to succeed either way.”