Probably depends on which mountain, and when you patrolled at that mountain. I was on Patrol at Mammoth Mountain for just one season, so I am by no means an expert, but I can share my experiences.For context, I was told that Mammoth is one of only a small number (under 10) of ski resorts in terrain categorized as "most avalanche prone." I imagine others include Alta/Snowbird, Big Sky, Jackson Hole, etc. Mammoth averages around 400" of snow each year, but also gets over 300 days of sunshine each year. So when it snows, it can dump quite a bit. A "snow day" for a patroller (aka an avi control day) is MUCH different than a sunny day. And at least when I worked there, Mammoth Patrol was run as a pretty tight ship. Mgt took the job seriously, and people who didn't, well they didn't act that way for long.Patrolling was one of the most grueling jobs I've had, and also one of my favorites (though this VC thing ain't bad). Lots and lots of schlepping stuff with skis on, often through deep snow. Lots and lots of shoveling snow. Lots and lots of first-responder work. And of course lots and lots of skiing. I think I got 115 days on skis "on the clock" that season.Typical (no avi control) week-end day:Week-ends are pretty busy at Mammoth. Mostly SoCal clientele, some amazing skiers but also many folks who see snow once/yr or less. A patroller gets assigned a "territory" on the mountain, and after doing a bunch of work runs to help set up the mountain for the day, you head to your "station" which is usually a lift shack at the top of the territory (so you can ski down to respond to call-outs). A call-out is a response to a reported injury. Week-end days, most patrollers on the mountain will respond to 4 or more call-outs a day. There are maybe 30 patrollers on the mountain at any given time, so that gives you a sense of the number of call-outs per day at a mountain like Mammoth. You grab your vest which is basically a wearable first aid kit, and grab a sled which is 80 lbs of metal unwieldiness, and rush to the scene. Generally no idea what you're going to find, not dissimilar to EMS. If it's bad (badly broken bones, head / neck / back trauma, loss of consciousness), you call for help, if not so bad, you package them up and bring them down to first aid. This often involves "skating" a fair bit while pulling 220+ lbs of sled and patient, can also involve skiing through areas you really don't want to (on your own skis which you destroy by the way). Can involve trying to control this massive heavy thing on really steep slopes with someone inside streaming in pain. Can be really exhausting. But also good adrenaline / excitement, and the satisfaction of using your skills to help someone in need. When done, you report back to your station.When not responding to a call-out, you do work runs like resetting bamboo (every piece of bamboo on the entire mountain gets pulled and reset every day, so they don't ice up and become impossible to pull), tightening rope lines, adjusting lift tower cushions as snowpack levels change, restocking equipment, etc. When those are done you can take free runs, keeping an eye out for people who may need a hand, and "being a cop" if for example you see people skiing too fast in a slow zone.Day starts at 7 am, ends around 5 pm after sweep. Sweep is where all patrollers at once travel pre-established routes at the very end of the day, searching for stranded/hurt/lost skiers. Often occurs at / after sunset.Typical (no avi control) week-day day:Like the week-end day, but with far fewer call-outs. Once the work runs are done, you can get a lot of skiing in on a week-day. There are certain high-speed chairs that are pretty steep, and if you are trying, you can just do laps at speed and log maybe 30k vertical feet or more in a day. You're in the sun (or the snow), the hard work for the day is done, the mtns are gorgeous, there's no one on the hill, and you're getting paid to do what others pay a ton to do. Sometimes more experienced patrollers will take you on something really hard, to test you / haze you / help you improve. Avi control day:If it's snowing in the evening or there's any chance of snow in the overnight forecast, you set your alarm for 4 am and drag your ass up to the mtn in the dark. The howitzer (Mammoth is too windy to use mortar style cannons) on loan from the government is already going off to do the initial clearing of the summit bowls, faces and chutes. Funny side note, the howitzer was threatened to be "unloaned" by the govt to be put back in service in Afghanistan: mtn had no idea what it was going to do without it. Everyone loads up in snowcats to head up the mtn, around 6 am. Patrollers get paired up assigned avi control routes. The more experienced is "the shooter", who lights and throws sticks of dynamite to trigger avalanches kinda right below where we stand, and the less experienced (rookies like me) is "the mule" who carries said dynamite in a backpack, hands each stick to the shooter when requested, and keeps track of what got "shot", any "shots" that did not combust, etc.Along the avi control route, after you "shoot", you "ski cut." THIS IS ONE OF THE SCARIEST THINGS I HAVE EVER DONE. If no slide is created by the dynamite, you ski along the part of the slope MOST likely to trigger a slide, and bounce along as you ski, TRYING to set off an avalanche. With your body. Often in a white-out while it's still snowing. Above some really scary steep long faces. So when you see long diatraverses in fresh snow it's not because some idiot got in over their heads and ruined a great powder face for everyone else. I got caught in two relatively small slides while doing this. One was in a complete white-out and I literally did not know it was happening until I was already knocked off my feet and disoriented. The other was small but it was amazing how quickly the "work-hardended" snow solidified around my legs. I had to take my skis off, pull myself out as if my lower half was in quicksand, and then dig my skis out with a shovel.Some of the avi control routes require a lot of trudging. When a lot of new snow has fallen (e.g. 4 feet in a single storm), these routes are absolutely exhausting. I was the oldest guy in my rookie class (but by no means the oldest on patrol), and I felt it. These folks are in great shape. I literally ate all I wanted and could not keep weight on when I had this job. I was in awe of the conditioning of some of the more experienced people on patrol (John, Bobby, Travis, Jason, Brent, Steve, Lindsay, Chris, CJ, etc.).After the avi control routes are done, there is a ton of work to do on the hill on a snow day. EVERYTHING needs to be shoveled out. I even remember for a few days putting on rope and harness to shovel off the steep (metal) roofs of the main lodge. All day, for a few days.When I started, I was a pretty good skier. I'd been skiing since age 4, raced in high school, raced in college, even raced in grad school. I'd already logged more than my 10,000 hours (see Gladwell's Outliers) and thought I was as good as I was ever going to get. But those 115 days of skiing, not getting to choose where you skied or when you skied or through what you skied, or carrying what while you skied, really upped my game and made me a better skier.I'm not sure my Mammoth experience is similar to working at other mountains. E.g. I spent a season at Alta (not on patrol), and after a big snow they open the mtn in stages over the course of 5 days or so after the storm. Mammoth is shaped such that the top flows into everything else, so they can't really do that: you work and work until everything you can open is open. Until this year (2013-14 season), patrollers at Mammoth were not allowed to have facial hair: it was kinda like the marines, rookie hazing and all (by a few). At other mountains I've seen packs of patrollers in uniform all free-skiing together (on a fresh snow day when there was obviously plenty of work to be done), which would never happen at Mammoth when I worked there. So maybe the job is more fun and less hard other places. Maybe more fun and just as hard. Can't say, but I expect every season at every mountain is a little different.Ski town life was great, days off I'd ski the resort, go backcountry skiing in the amazing Eastern Sierra, or head the 39 miles down to Bishop and go bouldering or climbing in the sun. I lived in a beautiful cabin in what felt like deep woods. It often required a shitload of shoveling just to get to the front door, and was heated only by a woodstove, so after said shitload of shoveling, I often had to start a fire and sit in the freezing cold for 30 minutes until the place warmed up: that may have contributed to the sense of how tough the job was. But overall it was a really great year. If I ever feel like risking my life for minimum wage (or thereabouts) again, I'd love to head back.