Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Child Care

At some point in life, each person makes decision to begin a family or not. This decision can be an active or passive decision depending upon the person and situation. The decision to start a family often changes the spending of money from a purely "me" to an "us" centric view. Enjoying skiing or snowboard is no different. Justin Blackburn as SkiBlog does a good job of describing the costs of skiing with a family these days, so I won't rehash that. One area that he skips is day care for those children not old enough to ski/snowboard.

Resorts have long since realized a need for daycare and have setup services to help accommodate these clients. Ranging from day long kids ski/snowboard programs, to actual day care services the most resorts are ready to meet your any needs. It's not cheap to put your child in day care, but then again neither is skiing/snowboarding these days. But it's certainly better than the alternative...

I post this now having seen what I current consider the largest disrespect for life on the mountain. During my Christmas day off and riding at another mountain, I ran into an older couple who were out enjoying the fresh powder day. There wasn't much new, about 4" worth, but it was very light and crisp, enough to make a joyous day of riding and more was coming. While waiting for the chair the woman had fallen over and was unable to get up herself. Two lifties were required to help her regain her upright posture. I thought nothing of the two until a friend said "Do they have a baby or a dog strapped to their chest?" Taking a second look, the husband/father had a baby carrier attached to him, stuffed inside were numerous blankets that moved. They headed up the lift and we followed three chairs behind.

Once at the top, we tried to get a closer look of what was going on. The couple took off down the run in front of them before we could tell what was going on, with my friend and I in disbelief following them from behind. We watched as they headed towards the black diamond runs and briefly stopped to adjust the bundle on his chest. It was indeed a baby. With the conditions worsening, snowing with flat light and more crowds then early on, this just seemed like a recipe for disaster to my friend and I.

We headed off in front of them to find a Ski Patroller to give a bit of a heads up. The patrol group we found were more shocked than we were to hear this, one of them completely in disbelief that this was evening happen (saying something like "I've been here all day and not seen them"). We took this particular patrol member for a little hike back uphill to wait and see. Sure enough the family came past as we were hiking up.

End of the story? I don't know. I didn't stick around to see what would or would no happen. The rest of my day I could only imagine what would happen if husband/father were to crash. Please, use a day care service. If you can't afford them, it's best to re-think your day of riding. For everyone involved really.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Education for the Masses

Blue jeans can do anything, just ask the some millions of people who wear them everyday. Unfortunately skiing is not one of those things jeans were meant to exceed at (just ask Dick Cheney). Here's to the most recent and innovative sighting of jeans on the mountain...

A recent snow dump rendered a portion of our ski school unusable. A mix of a lot of snow and a wayward snow cat crashing into the lounge portion has forced off duty instructors to find shelter elsewhere. This has been both good and bad, as it makes us more visible in the lodge area during our off time, but also means we've all gone our own ways for things like a lunch break. A few good friends of mine now work in the demo/repair shop, so I've been hanging out and helping there in my off hours.

Last week our snow level shot up and we began to receive rain the early hours of the day. No lessons were going out, thus I'm in the demo shop. One gentleman comes in, rather wet I assumed from the weather, inquiring about waterproof clothing. I tell him that we don't have such equipment in this store, but the clothing/gear store in the main lodge would. Looking around he spots the bottles of Nikwax we have on the shelf and asks how that works. I explain the big bottles are wash in, and the little bottle is a spray on. He immediately buys the spray on and begins to coat his soaking jeans with it.

Throughout the rest of the day we watched him coat his jeans a few more times, the jeans of his friends, and those of what we assumed were his kids. Nikwax, not just for outdoor gear anymore.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ode To Christmas Day

Over on skipressworld they have a lovely little piece written by someone who sounds like they are still an instructor. The article, Skiing Christmas Day, is a nicely written account of the joys of not working on Christmas Day.

I expect my free Christmas Day will also be one of joy. The day after though, I expect to be throughly up to my eyeballs in folks with near gear needing help or lessons. Excitement!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Class Moments

I've been a little slack on posting recently due to the influx of work. The holiday season has apparently begun for some schools as the crowds have now gotten a lot larger. Two classes stand out in recent memory on the same day.

First is a mother who had skied "years ago", "is not an aggressive" skier, and has "put on several pounds since I last was active" (these are her own descriptions). We started with a run on the rope-tow/bunny slope to see how out of practice she was. Turns out, not too out of practice at all. I quickly took her up the chair lift and worked with her balance issues the entire way down. Making a few little fixes to her stance and movement settled her balance out, shot her confidence way up, and just made the class a lot of fun. After two hours she had gone from barely snow plowing to executing some beautiful advanced wedge christies. And she was able to do the same runs her daughter was doing. The two stopped by later in the day to thank me again.

Second is a snowboard class, I was pulled in to help. A "never-ever" group class with 8 students, all boys in the range of 10-14, most of them friends with each other.
Turns out 7 of the boys had some pretty serious riding experience, one of them was the "never-ever". Another instructor took the 7 guys for some good riding time while I worked on the first timer. Five minutes later it turned ugly and all my efforts were converted from snowboarding lesson to babysitting.

It's amazing how quickly this job can swing between a high and low point for a day. I did get the cheerful instructor award for the day from the lifties though. Apparently they're very confused why I can always be happy to be outside.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

School of Hardknocks

When I started skiing, the idea of a helmet was rather foreign. I rode with all the safety and comfort of a warm wool hat. When I began teaching I noticed a large number of riders generally being reckless, running into other riders, falling off terrain features, etc. After having been run into I think 5 times in two weeks (all from behind while standing still), I decided it was time to put a helmet on. When I started this blog, I made a post on my theories of why helmets are good and bad. I still stand by those comments.

What has been interesting to watch is evolution of helmet usage within the ski school. I like to think of it as how my use of a helmet has slowly influenced the other instructors. When I started, only one other instructor wore a helmet. A little joking around for a year or more and then within the last two years I've seen the transformation begin. More instructors arriving each season with a helmet. Some have a helmet, refusing to wear it until they get a little pressure regarding it.

Now that we've had several weeks of lessons, I've had the opportunity to meet all the staff again (full and part-time) and am happy to say only one ski instructor and 3 snowboard instructors are holding out on their helmet.

If only Giro could make a lightweight helmet for use while instructing only. Hrm...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Swiss Instructors

Found on SkiPressWorld, apparently the Swiss Ski Instructors are holding a competition to find the most handsome ski instructor. Check it out at

Great idea for a competition, and personally I'm in for the grand prize of an all included trip to Switzerland for a week. Don't sign up now, I want less competition for the grand prize.

Wrist Updates

Contrasted MRIs returned and the prognosis is good. Despite continued pain in my wrist at this point, everything seems to be fine. X-Rays show one bone fragment from a years gone by fracture and no other details of interest. MRI shows nothing bad. MRI with contrast shows a beautiful white semi-circle suggesting no ligament or tendon damage. There does seem to be a little tearing of cartildge in the wrist near the bone fragment, but nothing I should be worried about.

With that news, I went back to instructing this weekend. The left handed rope tow may take a little time before I revisit it, but for the rest of the days seem to be going well. We're currently experiencing a rush on snowboarding lessons, which has actually given me time to practice some skiing. I'm not confident on a board to know if my wrist will survive an impact even with the brace on underneath.

Having said that, my first group lesson of the season was a blast. A group of Israeli young adults who were just too much fun to work with. Having a group that returns the enthusiasm and energy you put into the session makes it all the more fun.

Environmental Awareness

Found on this morning - Search Resumes for Missing Snowboarders.

The news brief isn't all that detailed and it seems some of the details are a bit inconsistent (a Google search for "crystal snowboarders missing" shows a thread on Teton Gravity Research's forums with different details).

Stay safe when playing out there. Sounds like these boarders planned ahead somewhat by telling others when to expect them back. Given the brash of bad weather the rest of Washington seems to have been subjected to, it just may not have been enough. I hold out hope for the best though.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Friendly Gear

Like most folks working in the outdoors during winter (and people who like to play in the outdoors), I've been a long time fan of layering. To that end I've found the under layers to be one of the best options out there for staying warm, but the least fun for being social. Synthetic layers tend to retain the natural body stench pretty well, allowing it to seep out from any opening possible. On the other hand I've found the same synthetic layers to work the best (plus you can quick wash them in the hostel sink if need be) to keeping warm outside. I've long since been a fan of Patagonia not just for their quality control, but their stance on recycling older layers. It makes me at least feel like I'm doing some part to maintain the environment as long as I forget the amount of energy needed to send the pieces back to the company.

I've got a silk layer or two, and they work fairly well. I'm not sold on them being the best.

Wool is the one area I've avoided. It's a few days old now news wise, but FirstTracks had an article on the Red Mountain Resort and Australian Wool Innovation giving out wool underlayers to Red Mountain employees for the season. In trade the employees had to provide feedback to AWI regarding the performance and issues with the gear. Two thoughts on this.

First, it sounds like I should really re-think my stance on wool underlayers.
Second, way to go Red Mountain! AWI how do I sign up another mountain for this opportunity?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Safety Bars

These days, most lifts provide a safety bar of some type to help prevent a fall off. Typically in a class we teach to bring the bar down to keep yourself safe during the travel time. Typically during a normal run, most of the instructors do not even bother with the bar, making us slightly hypocritical. It's not until you find a news bit like this that forces you to re-think your daily actions.

I've been spending part of the day today to try and remember how/when/where I stopped putting the safety bar down. So far, no specific moment comes to mind.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Not being typically concerned with fashion in the sense of specific labels, gear, etc, most of my gear consists of random portions I could find on sale nicely. Usually my hard shell pant of choice is an easy going black, not only because it's the official uniform color for the ski school, but also because it won't clash too badly with anything I may wear on top. Now the debate... suspenders or no suspenders?

For the past few years I've been using The North Face Freedom pant. It's a fairly good pant. I've never been cold in them, the zippers have lasted, the gaiters work well enough, the cuff scuffs are large enough, and for the most part the pant fits well. Where it falls apart for me is while teaching, having to frequently bend down, I find the pant continuously creeps lower over the day. Eventually though these pants met their match, and that match happens to be little kids skis. A nice long tear through the leg had forced me to do some duct tape repair midway through last season.

When the season got a little warmer last year, and everything went on sale, I picked up some Arc'Teryx pants similar to Theta SV Bibs although not bibbed. Actually they look more like the Alpha pant, only without the removable suspenders. Extremely durable, with full zippers up the side (making venting an odd spectacle), the pants have a few major drawbacks. The venting for one, but these were bought for the warmer weather days. The gaiters just barely fit around my ski boot requiring a complicated process to get them on. The suspenders aren't a great feel either.

I've been informed that wearing the "duct tape pants" this season wouldn't be a wise idea if I wish to continue teaching. So I've been on a hunt for new pants. I can easily find the same North Face pants, but there had to be something better. I tried a few Burton styles, some Marmot, Mountain Hardware, etc but none seemed to stand out. Enter Patagonia.

Anyone have any opinions on the Patagonia Rubicon or Primo pants? Trying them on at the Patagonia store, both are EXTREMELY comfortable. Both have an odd venting system that is not a meshed covered hole (look the snow on that tree is in your pants now!). The Rubicon has a most ingenious waist line that seems to hold up to numerous squats, bends, spins, and kicks. (Yeah the folks in the Patagonia store got a kick out of me jumping off of various items in the store.) The Primo has suspenders and a full leg zip, but they pants are extremely durable and comfy too. Suspenders or no suspenders?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Live the Life

I'm not really sure how I found the link anymore, it's just an open tab for me right now. But... How to Find a Job in a Colorado Ski Town is an excellent answer to the questions I hear a lot. Actually you could almost take out the word "colorado" and insert any big name ski town (most little guys aren't so difficult).

Alright, no more blogging. At this point it's time to start the holiday trips. Enjoy your Thanksgivings and I'll be back soon with stories.

Holiday Rides

Seeing that this is now post 100 (yippie) and the Thanksgiving weekend, I plan to take a short trip with a few friends for some weekend skiing. As my school hasn't opened just yet, the question of where to go has been up in the air. I had suggested Gore or Belleayre Mountains in the Catskills, both a few hours drive. Neither seems to have snow. Bolton Valley, about the same story. Mt Snow seems to have a few things open, although I'm not sure how well their tree runs will be covered with a 6-18" base. Smugg's claims they'll be opening on Friday with 4 trails. My friend has offered to fly us out to Colorado in his small airplane if we'd pay for the hotels, rentals, and his lift ticket(s). The debate there is where to go?

Ah the joys of a holiday weekend, how I've forgotten them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Existing in the Small

It's no secret that I'm a fan of smaller resorts. I really enjoy the personalities of each resort, the non-crowded nature, the easy access to a lift, and the more laid back attitudes found on the slopes. One problem with smaller resorts is they don't receive the attention that many larger resorts do. Case in point, a friend who recently moved to the Ashland Oregon area (say hi to Bruce Campbell for me) sent me this bundle of a link.

Mt. Ashland this summer declared it would be closed on Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday nights. Apparently the locals put up enough of a fight that Ashland brought back the Monday night service. Running a Google search, it took 5 pages of searches to finally find one commentary on this from a news site. This one comes from an Oregon news channel site(limited link availability I think). To be fair, a lot of the search results were regarding an important expansion attempt by the resort and the court hearings attached to it (which apparently were resolved in Sept this year).

One of the reasons cited for the closing during these times: the rising cost of fuel, insurance, labor, and maintenance. Very sorry to hear this Ashland! Hopefully with the predictions this winter, you'll find yourself in a killer season with plenty of cash reserves for later.

Combined Training

Due to the small size of the resort and instructor classes, we intermix our returning instructor and our new instructor training sessions into one. Returning instructors requiring less training than new instructors, most only attend a day to make the insurance companies happy.

This intermingling creates an interesting classroom environment for new instructors, where they can easily achieve information overload. Since we were limited to indoor maneuvers only, a lot of the time this past week was spent dissecting each others teaching methods for new beginners. We had a few instructors pass their ACE exams this past season and they've brought with them a whole host of new twists to our progression.

Biggest take aways from the session:
  • Get certified for setting/fixing bindings from the rental shop.
  • Do not set/fix bindings from local ski shops (legal liability issues)
  • Have fun this season

Monday, November 19, 2007

Wrist Update

X-Rays prove that I didn't break any bones, the MRI proved inconclusive. Next step is a second MRI with contrast of some type. On the other hand, I've been keeping my wrist brace on constantly, icing down the wrist twice a day, and I'm gaining back mobility.

I still can't pick up objects over 2 lbs with that hand, or unlock my front door with a twist of the left hand... progress is slow. The doctor didn't say stop skiing, but he also didn't say keep doing it. I'm thinking of keeping the wrist brace on, buying a larger pair of gloves, and just hoping for the best.

Worst case, surgery with a season ending recovery time. Keeping fingers crossed until the next MRI scan.

New Instructors

After a summer's worth of searching, the new instructors are now ready for training. For all the effort spent in attracting potential instructors, we found a crowd of 3 new recruits this year. It almost covers the loss of instructors we had from last season. Almost. On the other hand, we did gain two instructors who had left the area and are now back again wanting to continue teaching.

Even better for me, I may have found a coworker to car pool up the mountain with. Thats exciting news for me. :)

Thanks to stormy weather though ("look its snow like crazy", "look it's raining", "look its... its.. hailing?", "look it's a blue bird day suddenly!", repeat) the training and refresher courses were canceled for the weekend.

It did force me to bring out the new boots and give them a trial run. I think a little more work will be needed on them. I picked up a pair of Atomic M90s that needed some initial work done to them. Mostly blowing out the front of the foot a bit. Outside of that, a better foot bed and these boots are feeling pretty good. They're a bit tight on the ankles, and the boot fitter thinks that should be blown out some too. I may still do that, as I'm not really sure if that will help me get my Q-angle back or not, but I'd also like to get a few runs in them first.

All said, bring on the season

Thursday, November 15, 2007


A few weeks ago I woke up with a sore wrist that has persisted since. I've been sleeping with a wrist splint on in hopes of helping whatever was wrong heal. Since I can't recall any reason why it happened, I automatically assumed I had slept on it poorly. Over the weekend I finally stressed it beyond the point of reason by opening a jar of olives.

Since then doing most anything has just been painful. According to the doctor I saw yesterday, I've more than likely strained or torn a ligament or two. The index finger for certain and possibly the middle finger. Until an MRI can be scheduled there is no knowing how bad the damage really is, but the only free time for scanning won't be until after Thanksgiving.

Before that happens, I've got new instructor training to attend. I think it's time to get some under the glove wrist guard for this.

Friday, November 9, 2007

What Makes a Terrain Park

Over on First Tracks they have a blurb about how the Resorts for Canadian Rockies (RCR) are removing big air jumps for reasons of safety. Considering the Big Air and Sno Jam is typically held at Fernie (an RCR owned resort), this is surprising news.

From the article there are a few interesting tidbits:
“We have found that one of the main issues that increase the likelihood of serious injury on our mountains is big air. When we are making decisions about safety at our resorts, the big jumps in the terrain parks always come into the equation. We decided to make a change.” -- Matt Mosteller, Senior Director of Business Development for Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR).
To start with, actually there is nothing wrong with the initial reasoning for investigation. They were seeing a large number of injuries in one area and realized something needed to change. Although I'm not sure what options were presented, but my guess is something like:

  1. Do nothing - financially a known research and development cost, although with an unknown total cost for injury support per year. An average can probably be determined.
  2. Require training before allowing riders into the big air section - financially this should funnel some new money in to the Ski/Snowboard school per year. The downfall is you'd have to pay someone to check tickets/certification before allowing them in the park.
  3. Remove the big air section - financially this will cut costs. Park crew will spend less time building the jump, snow won't need to be pulled in from other areas, and the potential loss of riders will probably be less then the yearly cost for injured riders.
  4. Change the big air jump somehow - financially the complete wild card of the options. It would either require option 1 or 3 to happen in conjunction with it, which can add significant cost to any enterprise in the short term. The long term payoff is high, provided the resort is willing to try something new.
Breaking down the choices financially, it makes sense why they've selected option 3. Injury count is obviously something no resort wants, but what's not shared is how high is the injury count? The park has never been about providing an injury free area that is part of it's attraction. (One could argue that riding the groomers should not be considered an injury free area.) Pushing one's self towards the limit of your ability is what keeps people coming back for more, a fairly solitary man-vs-nature challenge. At the upper skill limits is also the area where the most number of injuries happen. Back to the point, injuries numbers. Once you've taken out big air jumps as the number cause of injuries, you have new number one. How long is it before a decision to remove that feature from the resort happens? What happens when that feature is the double black terrain?
"However, we believe we have a strong moral obligation to not compromise the safety of our guests.” -- Matt Mosteller, Senior Director of Business Development for Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR).

Wow. The signed release waiver obviously isn't enough for RCR. Nor is providing trained instructors and emergency services for the guests and staff. Nor is personal responsibility for where I go and what I do. Nor are the numerous signs that typically surround the terrain parks warning of injury or death.

I clearly don't agree with the decision to remove the big air jumps, and I'm not even a fan of them. What will be interesting to see is at the end of the year what impact this decision has had on their business, and which other resorts may follow suit.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Seasonal Recruiting Efforts

Over the past few weeks, we've been pushing for new instructors for the school, both ski and snowboard. Being part of the team to train the new recruits (and retrain the returning instructors) has given me a little insight towards what I expect this season to be like.

The current running tally on the returning instructors:
-3 AASI Level 3 instructors (out of 4)
-1 AASI Level 2 instructor (out of 2)
-3 PSIA Level 1 instructors (out of 9)
-1 PSIA Level 2 instructor (out of 3)

The recruiting efforts netted us an interesting yield this year. 25 possible new recruits to train, evaluate, and hope they mix well with the vibe of the ski school. Out of those 25, only 4 are potential ski instructors. It will be a season with long working days again.

Chasing the Endless Winter

Ricky B has posted an entry (titled: Getting Ready for New Season(s)) talking about chasing the Endless Winter for a year, which brought to mind a couple of things.
I found the whole passport-work-permit-visa-having-enough-money thing too difficult for me at the time. Now that I know more about it, I'm hoping to take the right steps to make it happen for after this season.
Hey Ricky, if you get the chance, I'd personally enjoy seeing some blog entries on what you've discovered. How long it takes to get a work-permit visa, when to start applying, how much it costs, and what the expected income levels are (although given the current conversion rates for a dollar, it's gotta be better than anything here...).
That is if I can also get past the am-I-going-to-miss-summer thing.
For me, it's not so much missing the summer, as that is the hottest time of year. Instead I'd miss the longer daylight hours and the excitement seasons bring. I know as spring starts arriving, I begin to look forward to my days kayaking, cycling, and hiking. I also know that when fall hits, the leaves begin changing colors, I will dearly miss the excitement and build up that typically follows over the next few weeks for a new ski season. On the other hand, talk about an amazing experience.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Spiritual Sports

I'd like to welcome Kristen Ulmer to the world of blogging. Her blog seems to be more focused on the experience of skiing, to the point of being religious. I'm not sure how well she'll maintain the blog, given that her first post consists of:
Behold a blog about my life and the work I'm doing with regard to Ski to Live and wisdom sports facilitation! WHEW* I've been resisting doing this blog for awhile now- years- because I thought I'd have to write about my insanely wonderful and exciting life and that seemed not to be in integrity.
Given that the blog started on October 4th and there have been only 3 posts since then, I'm hesitant to add it to the daily reading. Post a little more Kristen and get your ideas and thoughts out there!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Return of the Season

This past weekend marked the first real sign that the season is about to begin. At least for those of us who will be conducting lessons this year. With very little fanfare the local resort instructors gathered to plot out schedules, coordinate clinic days, and general put everything in motion.

Typically this is an event for the Technical Director only, but this year my school opened it up to many of us lesser instructors. It's basically an effort to help push some new thinking into our way of doing things. I'm joining the festivities as part of my training for the next level of PSIA certification. Not sure if it will help, but it at least gets me face time with many of the clinicians local to the area.

On the other hand, it's been fun realizing how much I've forgotten since last year. Quick, what are the four types of learning? Can you recite Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and how it applies to the world of snowsports? How many CLOVERS and what do they stand for? The difference between a wedge turn and wedge christie is? Which muscles best initiate a turn?

Am I the only one that tends to loose all this information over the course of the summer? Is there some secret to retaining it (outside of reading the books again)? In any case, the books are my new best friend for reading material in the morning.... even if it's a bright, sunny, clear day with no snow expected as we've had for weeks now.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Choice Quotes

A few select choice quotes and stories from a recent stop at a local swap sale for your enjoyment.

"I'll totally show up for my job interview in this." -- said by a 30 something male while checking out some new pinstripe pants from Burton.

"Do you have any way to make it, less windy?" -- heard indirectly through a co-worker who being asked why the top of the mountain had to be so windy.

And finally for some entertainment value... this conversation was not only overheard but interjected upon my ears while waiting to pay for some new snow pants.

Clerk: Your card has been rejected, do you have another?
Blonde High School Girl (BHSG): Huh?
Clerk: Your card has been rejected. It won't go through. I can't let you take your purchase.
BHSG: I don't get it.
Clerk: It's been denied. Do you have another card to try?
BHSG: Daddy!

As if that weren't enough to make me laugh, I swear the next portion is true...

BHSG: Daddy this guy is telling me my card isn't good.
Daddy: Did you pay the bill?
BHSG: I mailed it in this morning! (it was now 11am)
Daddy: Well, maybe it hasn't arrived yet. They do want their money first honey.
BHSG: That doesn't mean they should stop my card from working!

At this point I laughed, Daddy got upset with me, and all I could do is apologize while pushing them out of the way so that I may finish my purchase.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Warren Miller - Playground

Had the opportunity to catch the grand-daddy of all snow films, Warren Miller's Playground. Every season, Warren Miller Entertainment puts together a snow film and brings with it an experience like none other that I've attended.

As far as the film itself goes, there's nothing too exciting about this film versus any other. Same locales, a few different riders highlighted, a custom soundtrack, and a lot of shots of people doing some great lines on the snow. Where it differentiates itself is in the presentation manner, with a more narrated format versus the "here it is in your face" style seen elsewhere. Oh, and the overly blatent product placement moments. Gotta show the sponsors some love somewhere. Typical formula was applied, intro segment, allow segment to run, end on some little joke. Send staff member to crazy locale, film it. Find people doing stupid fun things on snow, film it. This year included a very short segment on a guy jumping out of a helicopter in a bat-wing suit. It was so brief and confusing, I'm not entirely sure why it was included. MSP did a much better job of this stunt this year, and WM has done a much better job with the same stunt in Higher Ground. Whoever called for that segment to be kept in should probably be kicked out in the snow in their undies only for a few hours.

Where the Warren Miller exceeds is in the crowd participation, the pre-show excitement, the intermission, and the post-show parties. I had the opportunity to attend this year with a couple of first-time show attendees. They've all seen a WM film on DVD somewhere before, but never on the big screen presentation. The pre-show events this year weren't as exciting as years in the past. REI was there this year giving out... REI branded lip balm? The rush to fill out the page of questions from the program for a chance to win stuff was still in effect (I remembered to bring my own pen this year). The theater itself wasn't very full, a surprise for me. The opening act/speaker did an alright job of getting people excited. She was actually able to throw shirts and what not further back than the first 4 rows, but that was about it.

The intermission held more of the same. Fairly short, a brief round of things being tossed out by the MC. The highlight was watching the MC read off the name for the entry to the new Jeep contest, realizing that the kid was only 12, throw it back, and pull another. Nice job! None of us stuck around for the post-show party this year, but other friends tell me it was just as crazy as years before.

After the show the energy persisted, and the first-timers were completely ready to go get on a mountain and started skiing. It's great to see the excitement reflected in other riders.

Oh yeah, one thing that completely caught my attention this year. MatchStick Production's Seven Sunny Days contained a large collection of shots from a fairly late season shoot at a resort (lot of rocks and what not sticking out). If I'm not mistaken, during the second half of Playground it looks like WM was at the same location as MSP shooting the same footage. Case in point, we watch a skier in a white and green outfit hiking up the edge of a half pipe with the same background out of focus. Not sure if I'm seeing things or if that really happened. If it did, is this a sign that MSP is coming to replace WM, or that WM has sunk that far in production?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tales of the Rope

In the past two weeks I've mysteriously started receiving issues of SKI magazine. Not that I'm to complain about skiing literature to read, but the addition of another magazine to my home has me completely overwhelmed on reading time. Regardless, I still read it. As a magazine goes, it's an interesting toned down bit on the outdoor lifestyles of skiers. Seems to be written for a mostly maturer audience. I'm not so sure I like their "learn how to do it" sections' presentation method, but thats for another day.

In the first issue I received, the back cover has an opinion piece written by the one and only Warren Miller. The article centered on the joys of a rope tow and how it taught so many, was simple, was cheap, etc all in the Warren Miller nostalgia manner. He closes with a bit of a rhetorical question with an allusion to the changes in skiing culture that centers on the idea of "Where did all the rope tows go?"

To answer your question Mr Miller, if you leave the confines of the big destination resorts for a little while, you'd find that those mysterious rope tows can be found at the small resorts of America. I have several destroyed pairs of gloves to attest to this. But more importantly it's at the smaller resorts where you find regulars mixing freely with new comers and the staff.

Now if you were to ask about the T-Bar... thats a whole different topic...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Review: PowderWhore's 07

Had the opportunity to catch the latest from the PW film crew as they traveled through. I've said it before, I'm not a big tele skier. Having successfully navigated my way down the mountain a few times on some teles, I can say the feeling can be very similar to lunges. I've only been successful on one ascent attempt with them. I'll have to keep trying this season.

Anyhow back to the film. This film is strictly a telemark skier film with asentions and decisons going on all film (I think there was one shot with a snowboarder at the very end, but the powder made it hard to tell). Initial reactions from friends and I:

It felt very short. Coming in at about 45 minutes in length, the overall movie feeling was much less. Outside of (possibly) adding in more stoke shots, I'm not sure there was much that could be added to the film to change that feeling. I'm also not sure that's a bad thing.

Awkward filming. Having watched my fair share of these films, there get to be some expectations in the style of shooting. For example most of the bigger budget films set up angles to show the rider arriving towards the camera or on a constant follow from a distant peak or helicopter. PW07 contained a lot of shots like this, while including several following shots where the skiers would ride past the camera only to disappear into the distance. This gave it a feel for an extremely low budget film, but did provide a nice change.

Optics quality was lacking. Without giving away some of the film, one of the most awe inspiring moments comes with a horrible focus blur problem. It's obvious this was an unfortunate attempt at using a digital zoom and not an optical zoom. Several other shots of long untouched powder we speckled by red, blue, and green dots from the digital camera sensor brightness level being overloaded. Probably should have had a tint and polarizing lens on there. At least invest in a better optical zoom lens, it will make all the difference for the film.

Big mountain riding. These guys had absolutely no reason to go play in the park. They had some great shots of big mountain riding, and the pure bliss that comes with it. The few riders who did try some grabs, weren't spectacularly amazing grabs, but enough to convey the air time they were enjoying. There were certainly a couple of ridge lines I wish they'd have ridden though.

Editing. For the most part the editing was fine. The comedic montage of personal statements felt like a bad edit at first, but made more sense as it went on.

Comedic gold. I'm not sure if the guys planned every moment I found humorous, but they obviously love what they're doing and love that they can do it. It shows in how they dealt with each other.

Repeat shots. I did get confused a couple of times during the film. Was I watching a ski pron or was I watching an episode of "Walker Texas Ranger"? While not nearly Walker level of annoying, the constant showing of a shot from multiple angles allowed some drops to be understood a lot better. On the other hand that is the job of the editor, to pick which are the best shots. After the second time of seeing the same drop from 3 different angles I got tired of the effect.

Bunch of teases. Not only did they show some amazing powder, backwoods, and climbing shots to get my psyched for the season... they also teased me with a raffle where I won absolutely nothing. Talk about leaving you high and dry...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Peak Peformance: Stop Go Stop

Looks like Peak Performance went and did something really nice, they made a ski film! Not only that, but it's also available online for free. Go check it out at As far as a video goes, it's rather enjoyable. Some nice musical syncs, some great moments in the snow, big mountains, a few tricks, a good couple of crashes. Well worth watching.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A-Basin back again

By the time this makes it to post, it's old news for any powder hounds, but whatever.... A Basin is open! Let the 2007-2008 season officially start. Anyone make some turns today?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Review: Matchstick Productions - Seven Sunny Days

The previous two years I've found Matchstick Productions films to be some of (if not THE) best of the films produced. Hence, it was with great anticipation that I awaited the arrival of Seven Sunny Days.

For the most part, the film did not disappoint. Some truly beautiful jumps and landings to be had throughout the film. MSP continues to push the viewer "into the action" stages with their creative camera angles, placements, and usage. I'm not sure how many cameras they end up destroying each season, but some of the results are certainly worth it. The continued inclusion of creative comedy skits is always welcomed. My favorite scene has to be the helmet cam shoot-through the crevice on (what I swear was a) one foot maneuver.

My main complaints with this seasons' film, it felt more like a park and pipe movie with less mountain riding, and MSP it's time to grow up and get larger venues! You know, with seating, or at least a non-crappy dance club speaker system. Yikes! I couldn't understand a word being said during the movie, but on second hand I really didn't care either. The cute burnette next to me was reason enough to be distracted from the dialog.

The big take away from this film, slowly but surely all these films are becoming very similar to Warren Miller's original style, minus the over dub.

Snow Dumping

The folks over at Kahru have a brief post about some of the northern Cascade ranges and their snow. My personal favorite line:

Up high in the North Cascades, Mount Baker received 20” of new snow yesterday (Ed: 10/4/2005)
20 inches. In October!

Snow Stoke Part 3

Looks like the fine folks at Nike's ACG group have gotten together and put up some great little snow stoke videos online. My personal favorite seems to be the Hokkaido Japan trip with some beautiful powder. Go check out a few, it's certainly worth it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ricky B's Guests and Pro Snow Sport Insight: Opening Day at Monarch

Over at Ricky B's Guests and Pro Snow Sport Insight blog, he's started talking about opening day and one of the more difficult points I've found as an instructor... convincing others. Read his full post Ricky B's Guests and Pro Snow Sport Insight: Opening Day at Monarch.

At the resorts near me, there is a large shortage of instructors as a whole, leaving each resort to cannabolize the other. The larger resorts obviously pay better, leaving the lesser resorts ill equipped for the season on staff. At the resort I work at, we have a burn rate of instructors that looks something like this.

  • Recruiting
While the director claims to do massive amounts of recruiting around the area, we typically find only a handful of instructors at a yearly ski and snowboard swap done in town. Occasionally we'll grab a few eager high school students as well, although this tends to backfire on us more often than not. We talk up the opportunity, introduce them to the rest of the regular staff, and feed them with great food all to sucker them into the family mentality.

  • Training
Typically done one or two weekends before opening day, it's been sometimes skipped due to a massive dump forcing an early opening day. When it's skipped the new trainees are taken during the day by random instructors to fill the teaching stepping stones. The time is spent covering how to address the students, working on movement patterns for first time students, demos, and most importantly building instructing confidence. It's during this time that many opinions are formed about how well each will do. It also includes a drop out rate of about 2 or 3 students each season.

  • Shadowing
Instead of letting the fresh trainees lose on the populace, we require that they shadow a returning instructor for a bunch of hours (i.e. 10 or so). This gives the trainee a chance to practice what they've learned with supervision. The word from the director is the trainee is not supposed to interact with the class, but I've found that using the trainee for demos helps them feel more confident. I also spend time during this period to talk with them and see what they'd do next, or how they'd correct some problems being seen in a student. Usually we lose none of the trainees at this point.

  • Let Em Lose!
After the shadow period we let them lose, and this is where the tie in to Rick's post comes. With all the training, many of trainees are afraid to take the plunge into actually instructing. Most are fearful of saying something wrong, teaching something incorrectly, or hurting a student. All of which are concerns that should constantly be in the back of the mind of any instructor. All of which are why instructors spend a large amount of time learning. Intructing is clearly a dynamic knowledge base, with minor enhancements, tweaks, and perception changes happening on a daily basis. I've likened this fear to another fear my students, the "It's too steep" fear. Telling them they'll be okay, their strong or skilled enough to handle the slope, etc has never worked. Talking to them, listening to their concern, and addressing it directly while applying it back to what we've learned has. The same works for instructor trainees. Remind them of the training techniques covered and let them know a safety net of an experienced instructor will be with them. Oh and that it's very unlikely they'll be taking a first time student off the rope tow / beginner lift area helps too. Instructor loss is kept to a minimum here as the thrill of teaching is still new.

  • End of Season
Most of our new trainees disappear at the end of the season, having done one year and deciding "yep this is hard work, it's cheaper just to buy a pass". The sad point is, they leave before joining groups like the PSIA and receiving many of the benefits of working for a ski school. Out of the 10 or so trainees we had last season, typically one returns. At least it means more food for me at the recruiting day party. :-)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Another new link for the day

Looks like Rick Boucher, a Colorado instructor, has started blogging recently as well over at Ricky B's Ski Students and Snow sport Professional. Welcome to the group Rick.

Corporate Hype

As far as skiing goes, I'm not a crazy back country style rider. I've had an interest in learning some Tele each year, but the time factor seems to be a strong determinate in what I can do. Meaning I've got no free time. This doesn't limit my ability to follow the tele scene a little bit though.

Karhu recently re-vamped their website. While a few people are raving about it, I'm not terribly impressed yet. A lot of "coming soon" options if you click around. What does impress me though is the new blog, Where Will You Ski. It seems to be less a corporate blog and more of a get you pumped up and ready for a season style blog. For that, I'm adding it to my list of links on the side. I do suggest checking it out.

Signs of Life

From the weather news, it sounds like Colorado received the first good dusting of snow sometime yesterday. Looking at Loveland Ski area webpage, the countdown reads 14 hours and some minutes until they begin snow making. On the other hand, Breckenridge's winter site has actual photos showing the snow that fell on the 17th.

Let the race to be the first open begin! Very cool.

Oh yeah, the new Farmers Almanac states that New England is where the good powder will be this season. Sounds like a good enough reason to me to revisit the resorts of Vermont!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bad Fashion Designers

I'm at a loss for words on this one. From SkiPressWorld comes this article on fashion designers who've obviously landed on their head one too many times. Link provided mainly because the site's image is needed to full appreciate the post.

Actually this site seems to have found some other pictures of it in alternate design modes.

I am so confused.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Season Fever

Finally, it's September, which means for many of the snow obsessed like myself that the new season is on it's way. The remnants of deals from last season are just about gone, with the new equipment now arriving on shelves. Season passes are on discount for early bird purchasing, and most of my friends are busy trying to figure out where they'll be this year (the debate, back to the larger resort, or to the smaller resort with the new expanded coverage area).

For a handful of my friends it means something entirely different, time to get back into shape. Yep, after slacking off all summer long it's time to get the body back into shape of being on the slopes regularly. In my world that means returning to a regimented diet, cutting out beer for about 3 or 4 months, and hitting the gym on an almost daily basis. This summer has been particularly poor for me, with little to no cycling done at length like I had wanted for a variety of reasons. In the end I made the choice to not get on the bike though. I'll probably be posting some of the routines I've been using online as I go.

The debate I'm having this year is a sizable one. I love where I am geographically, but I've reached my tolerance level on my second job (the job that pays most of the bills). There is a severe lack of employment in the area for jobs that pay any kind of reasonable money, which has been why I haven't left yet. A friend suggested that I apply for a full time job at one of those destination resorts as an instructor and I've been seriously considering it. It'd be one of those learning events for the season, but the unknown afterwards is something that limits my willingness to attempt. Opinions?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Return of Kastle

It disappeared a few years ago after making skis forever, or so it seemed. But now it's been brought back, revived close to it's original home, and they're making skis again. I'd like to try some out.

Check it out: Kaestle Skis.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dynastar's New Pro Deals

Looks like Dynastar/Lange has finally outlined what their new Pro-Form style sales will look like. The only details to it I've found come from SkiPressWorld in this article

The short version of the details:
Specifically, legitimate pro skiers will go to Dynastar's Prostaff Website where they'll be able to explore all there is to know about the brands before being directed to some of the most passionate, pro-friendly ski shops anywhere in the world. These shops will make the sale. And shop and pro will have greater familiarity with each other and the sport. Dynastar, by working with PSIA, will aggressively promote these "Pro Specialist" retailers to PSIA's membership as well as to the greater skiing population at large.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Find a Jobby Job

Justin over at has found an interesting little project, called One Week Job. Justin does a good job explaining it, but the short version is this guy Sean is traveling around Canada taking a job for a week. Why? Hopefully to find his lot in life, but also because it makes for a pretty cool adventure.

For the most part the site is a blog of his adventures that include some great commentary. I'm hoping we'll see more of the compiled videos though like this one.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Another Teaser

Thanks to an anonymous comment, another teaser from Adventure Film Works, this one titled "Weather We Change". The teaser looks like it's pretty interesting, some nice shots of the slopes, the powder, and includes a little of the socio-political commentary the film is geared towards. The really killer part, they had a link to the website, a listing of the soundtracks to all the ski movies from years gone past.

Find the better quality teaser here, but you can also just watch the YouTube streaming trailer down below:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Yet Another Trailer

"8 Years Later" the teaser trailer from Shine Line Productions has been put online. Since they don't provide a direct link to the player, a few rules to follow to find it. Click on this link, find the graphic button "Launch TRAILER Time", and finally click on the video you want.

Or since they do provide an option to embed the trailer, just sit back and watch...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

2007 Teaser collection

I started it in the last thread, but found this just recently:

The Teton Gravity Research forums collection for the 2007 Trailer listings. A much better collection than one I can make anywhere. To keep things simple here is a snapshot of it (thanks to AplineDad for the compilation so far):

TGR - Lost & Found - teaser / teaser 2 / discussion thread
Abisinthe Productions - Optimistic - trailer
Alterna - Apples & Oranges - trailer / discussion thread
Coreshot - Linescore - trailer / discussion thread
Gaper Day - trailer / press release
First Tracks - Hello, My Name Is - trailer / discussion thread
Level 1 Productions - Realtime - trailer / website / discussion thread / preorder
Mack Dawg Productions - Picture This - teaser
MSP - Seven Sunny Days - teaser / tour / discussion thread
Off Trail Productions - Catchy Title - teaser
Poor Boyz / Studio411 - Idea - website / teaser 1 / teaser 2 / footage / discussion thread 1 / discussion thread 2
Powderwhore - PW07 - trailer / website / tour
Rage - Enjoy - teaser / discussion thread
Right on Brother - Return of The Nina - teaser
Tanner Hall - Believe - teaser
Theory-3 - PNW - trailer large/small/mp4 / discussion thread
Thrillhead Creations - Return to Schralptown - teaser/trailer trailer 2
"Warren Miller" "Entertainment" - Playground - teaser / discussion thread

This doesn't seem to include a few others like:

Online Videos Day

Free time is an evil thing when one has access to an internet connection. Given the rash of heat and wild fires recently, I went looking for deals on new gear this year. Mainly boots. Justin pointed out some great deals on Beast 10s at the end of the season, unfortunately I had to send them back due to my "size" not fitting. Thus I'm back to finding some again. Instead, I found a whole bunch of videos to enjoy this year.... so without further wording from, a link list of videos.

  • SkiWorldPress has their poorly done online web video system with a collection of "Go With a Pro" videos (the PSIA/AASI snow-mercials). They're fun and got me excited to work on the bumps again (my consistent downfall). Check them out at
A couple of the snow pron videos I've found online:

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gaper Day Video

It's the middle of summer with many of us not thinking of cold winter past (unless you're in Arizona or Vegas where it's 100+ outside). What better way is there to remember the sweet moments of your 2006-2007 winter season than to view a classic season closing day. Without further waiting and rambling by me, found on the Internet, the trailer for Gaper Day. It's quite funny too. Hopefully the embedded video below works, if not click that link above.

Goggle Fog

I'm not sure if this a serious solution or some elaborate joke video, either way it did make me laugh pretty good. Check out Marks Infinite Solutions vlog on how to de-fog your goggles.

While not really relevant to the discussion, I love his gaper style, and am a bit confused as to skiing in Indiana.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Mid-Summer Snow

I've been quiet for awhile on the posting side, mostly because I've been busy with non-snow related activities. After all, it's the summer here in the northern hemisphere and snow ceases to exist when it gets just a little hot. I've heard rumors that there are few places one can ski in the summer, and I've always thought it'd be fun to try it.

One reader, Libby, left a comment about Regina Lewis having made a stop a year ago to Timberline Lodge at Mt Hood, which oddly enough was the destination for me this past week(end). I removed the roof rack bicycle connectors, re-attached the ski holders, grabbed two friends, stuff the Subaru full of gear, and off we went for a very long drive. Some classic moments of confusion arrive when driving through 80+ temperatures with snow skis/boards on the roof.

Timberline Lodge itself is absolutely stunning. Nothing more can really be said. If you're ever in the area, stop in to the see the hotel (the ski lodge isn't that exciting).

The snow? It clearly wasn't light, nor fluffy in 70+ degree temps. But it did consist of that magic frozen state long enough that it was worth every penny. Lift tickets were $45 for use of the main two lifts (Magic Mile and Palmer) and only open until 1:30(ish) PM. Lots of amateur racers to be found on the runs, as well as regular every day locals needing a fix.

The resort claims Palmer to be a black or double black run. I'm not terribly convinced of this. The slope itself isn't very steep, nor do you have any visual landmarks to help you realize how fast you may (or may not) be going. Instead, I think most of the rating comes from the need to be an active skier, one who avoids the rocks poking out.

In the end, our choice of gear selection was poor and we were hot. Buying a few pairs of cheap shorts and what not, my newly sun burnt legs are a testament to the fun we had. Tomorrow starts the drive back. Talking with a few of the locals, it sounds like the next summer road trip will be going to British Columbia. I can't wait...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Deer Valley Use Technology

An article over on SkiPress is that Deer Valley is going to put new technologies to use over the summer to help riders find the pow. Using some GPS and stuff... quote from the article:

But before skiers even hit the hill, Deer Valley’s new Snow Scan Ground Penetrating Radar, combined with a GPS system, will provide color coded maps of snow depth on any part of the mountain, so that it will be even easier to find the best powder.
Not much else to the article though. Anyone know more details?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Pro-Forms Commentary

Following up on my Alpenglühen: Industry Pro-Forms post, I thought I'd share my thoughts on the whole deal.

The idea of a local rep who rides on the same mountains showing off the latest and greatest from company XYZ is rather out-dated. The number of times I've actually run into a specific company rep on the mountain in the last five years can be counted on one hand. I'm fine with this position disappearing with one caveat; ensure that your authorized retailers have a full line of demo skis (models and sizes) for use. I'm not sure if all local reps do this, but when I was looking at purchasing Volkl's a few seasons ago, the local rep not only knew the skis very very well, but more importantly knew who had them locally (and who to ask about for second opinions). This made a huge difference in my decision to buy anything. This will put more overhead on the ski shops but potentially return the sales to them as well.

In my mind, ending the Pro-Form system as a whole isn't the best idea. As employees on the mountain, the management constantly encourages us engage the customers throughout the day, especially as we directly deal with customers. Often this involves riding a lift as a single with a group of other riders for the day, helping fallen riders, or cleaning up some of the trails. Since a lift ride can be long and boring, it's more fun to talk about something; the riding for the day, or the equipment someone is using. I've never considered myself a sales person for the gear, more an ambassador of the mountain, but I've had on numerous times been quizzed on my gear and my preferences. I've even seen the results of such recommendations, a student or rider coming back days later to complain or thank me for a recommendation.

As of this past season, I've stopped recommending my favorite ski shops to people for a variety of reasons, but mostly because they're too damn expensive. I've printed out little business cards to hand out that have a list of local ski swaps, meets, and used gear retailers. I point out that ski shops are great if you want to be sure of a purchase that day. Outside of that these alternative methods are much cheaper and depending upon your purchase time frame, can be a much more lucrative purchasing option.

Industry Pro-Forms

I haven't kept on top of the whole debate, and I'm fairly certain I don't know enough of the details to make a solid opinion. But it seems one of the better deals for being an instructor, the Pro-Form, is going away or at least being drastically re-designed.

I had heard from the Volkl rep (owned currently by K2) towards the end of the season that K2 was going to discontinue it's Pro-Form deals. Rumors abound that Elan/Dalbello will be following with some unspecified changes (most likely similar) too. The NSSRA Message posted on the PSIA website confirms some of these statements:

At the membership meeting, Tim Petrick of K2 Action Sports announced that K2 is eliminating all proforms and shop employee forms. Petrick said that, in the future, K2 prostock dealers will be listed on the K2 website. PSIA and other pros will be directed to that list. An official announcement and policy statement will be forthcoming.

As I have always understood the issue, it's not so much the Pro-Form itself that is an issue, it's the "Bro-Form" deal. Some have suggested it's not so much the Bro-Form as it's the local shops complaining about being undersold. Maybe things aren't as dire as they initially sound either way some clarification really needs to happen with this.

There seem to be a large amount of Internet debates regarding this already. Check out Epic Ski or Teton Gravity Research's community boards for some nibbles of information. ]

Friday, June 1, 2007

Free Ski

Looks like the fine folks at Crested Butte figured out something good again; the return of the Free Ski. There's no mention on the site yet about the changes, but to me this seems like a no brainer. Get a few people in on early season where they can see what the mountain has to offer. Get them psyched up, addicted, and then cut them off and charge for that ticket.

Make a Ski Film

Looks like the good times won't continue to be rolling for the wonderful guys at Teton Gravity Research. In a now rather lengthy post on their forums, someone outted the news that they were for sale. A follow up post on SkiPress had no more details but significantly less juvenile name calling.

If you've ever wanted to have your name on the big screen, or even small screen, now is your chance. Put in a bid for the company and make some great films.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Selling A Friend

My living arrangement is small. Very small. As it stands, there is very little room within it for myself, my toys, and the few spartan bits of furniture I have within. Partially because I cannot afford the next step up, partially because I spend too much on outdoors equipment and gear, but mostly because I spend so little time indoors I don't see a reason to be extravagant.

It's with great sadness that I've had to sell a best friend recently. My Cannondale R1000 is now in the hands of another. It felt weird to sell it. I've traveled through large portions of the roadways with it and will always have a fond spot in my heart for it. But room was needed for my new toy... Lemond Chambery. A sweet carbon/aluminum frame on a bike long enough for me.

Next step, to work on those mountain climbs...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Camera fun time

Recently found online from The Independent Woman, a nice spoof on ski films and what not titled "Blood Bath Gulch". It made me laugh, check it out:

Considering she's drinking National Bohemian in one of her other videos, my guess is she's somewhere near Baltimore Maryland.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Banff Mountain Culture

Every year Banff Canada puts on a mountain life festival, usually around the end of October and beginning of November. The point of the festival is to, well, highlight the mountain and outdoor culture that exists through various means. One of my favorite outcomes from the entire process is the film festival World Tour and the Radical Reels sections. Probably because those are the few bits of the festival that I actually get to see since they tour around the US for our viewing pleasure (and a few brief moments of giggling at the Canadian accents).

Highlights for me this year from the World Tour:

  • Aweberg - Nothing prepares you for the sound as these guys try to climb icebergs. The sheer crack heard not only sounds vaguely like bones breaking, it also instinctively signals to your brain "get off".

  • Teton Gravity Research - These folks consistently put out amazing quality videos. Great locations, some tightly tied in musical selections, and pushing the "being there" feel of snow pr0n. Hey TGR if you're ever looking for some help shooting, let me know!

  • Asimet - Although I thought this one was a bit long, the actual story telling mechanism was brilliant and the trip itself outstanding. Although I kind of wish they included more of the inter-personal fights that I'm sure occurred at many points.

I've often thought of putting together a submission, and each year I never get around to actually making a full video. The Mountain Festival World Tour is essentially done now, but the Radical Reels will start up later this fall. I high suggest checking it out when it comes through town.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Somehow I missed this contest, but the fine folks over at Frequency didn't.

The contest: If Ullr Was A Girl
The prize? Eh, some money, but pure bragging rights for a summer season. Maybe Whistler should tie in an offer of first chair next season to the winner. Anyhow, the event is over, but the site is still up. Worth keeping note for the end of next season!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Level 3 and Beyond

I received a short but sweet mass email last week from a good friend of mine and former co-instructor. The big detail in it she mentions, passing her AASI Level III exam and being told that she and another girl in the exam were probably #59 and #60 female Level III snowboard instructors. Congratulations are in order for Carolyn and getting that far.

Next on her agenda is the free style list, followed by heading for a DCL position. Yikes, she's got ambition.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Public Perception

While preparing for my certification exams this season, I'd often spend a lot of my free time reading and studying the printed material, commentary from other instructors, and even watch some videos to practice motion analysis. I often found the free time needed on the regional rail train while traveling back into town for my other job.

I'd occasionally get questions on the material, from other passengers who'd ask what medical exam/field I was studying for. It took me awhile to realize they'd only catch glimpses of the muscle or skeletal diagrams and assume only a medical professional would study such material. On one particular ride a young lady sitting across from me asked what I was studying.

After telling her, she made a joke about needing to actually be on the snow to learn skiing, not reading from a book. I corrected her on what I was learning and she went back to whatever it was she was doing. A few minutes later she piped up again with a statement like "Isn't skiing just for rich white kids?" This statement caught me off-guard. Looking at the young lady key features included that she was white, long dyed black hair, young (possibly early 20's but doubtful), overweight, and dressed as what could be described as a mix of skater punk and just punk.

I asked why she thought that and had no answer. I asked her if she watched a lot of TV (yes), if she's ever been to the mountains to ski or snowboard (no), and did she watch a lot of 80's movies (yes).

The last one is of particular relevance to her mental image. During the 1980's Hollywood produced a series of movies that poked a little fun at ski culture, and I'm sure somewhat helped to define it a bit too. South Park took the theme to a new high in one of their episodes. Very good stuff.

Through the 90's skiing basically disappeared as skateboarding and snowboarding surged in popularity, and the image of mountain culture changed once again. Since then skiing has come back to the forefront some, but more in the image of snowboarding only on two boards instead of one.

I pointed out to the young lady how Hollywood tends to poorly represent any concept it tries to show, using a couple of movies that covered the punk and skateboard scene as inspiration that she knew. She became a more animated when describing how these movies were so thoroughly wrong and no one acted like that in the scenes. At which point I asked if she thought the same might be true for skiing as well. Her instant response of "No" was followed by silence and me listing off some of the great 80's films that included ski scenes (Hot Dog, Better Off Dead, Aspen Extreme, etc).

She was shocked to realize her opinion on skiing had been so influenced by Hollywood films. I told her a bit about the mountain lifestyle, how many of the employees are from South America, how modern snowboarding and skiing has altered the landscape from Hollywood's perception, and how most of the classes I teach are for adults and kids of Indian, Middle Eastern, or Mexican descent. The rest of the ride she was silent. When I got up to leave she thanked me and said she'll be up on the mountain soon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New Sitings

I got a little yesterday and spent time searching the series of tubes on the Internet for ski blogs. Found an interesting one from Planet Jackson Hole. While it doesn't render properly in Firefox (stuff overlapping everywhere), it's at least a mildly entertaining read.

Another site that I haven't fully read through but am interested in is Become and Expert Skier. A handful of good tips in there I've found so far.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tales from the Rope Tow #1

Not every resort believes in the use of a rope tow for teaching. Some resorts prefer to use the Magic Carpet (basically a conveyor belt put on the snow for easy step on and off access). Others prefer to create a real beginner lift that runs maybe two towers, really slowly, and helps get over the fears of the lift quickly.

At my resort, we're firm believers in the rope tow, having a total of three for pleasure of destroying instructor knees. Two of these are located near to the ski school. This simple little fact can sometimes lead to some of the most humorous moments ever.

A rather large young woman had decided to learn how to snowboard this season. From what I was told she wasn't really interested in learning from the instructor in the class, and pretty much was set on doing things herself. During the class, they never made it to the rope tow itself, instead hiking up the hill each time due to her constant heel side turn. Her instructor returned to the ski school and called all of us over to watch as she tried the rope tow a first time.

Her first attempt at grabbing the rope ended up with a face plant, not uncommon (close your hands slowly, honest!). On the second attempt she was successful at starting to move, although the rope was sliding through her grip still. As she moved forward, she dug her heel side edge in and began turning out of the rope path. She pulled on the rope hoping it would bring her back into the path, but it only caused her to lean harder on that edge pulling her even further from her goal.

It was at this point we knew what was about to happen; the rope would be pulled off the track, shut down, and hopefully fixed. But that's not what happened. Somehow she had now made it to almost half the width of the beginner run with the rope still moving. Suddenly she let go and the rope took off.

In the blink of an eye, the rope had snapped back to position like a rubber band. Only the momentum carried it well beyond to the other side of the beginner run, clipping two other beginners in the chest and head. The beginner who was hit in the chest was able to perform a complete One and Half flip before landing back on their face. The child hit in the head was picked off from her skis and laid on her side. A little dazed she continued on skiing as if nothing happened.

Point of the story, if you fall out of the rope tow track, let go of the rope. Or when near the rope tow, make sure to be aware of what's happening on the rope tow.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Riding the Closeout Wave

It's getting to the end of the season everywhere, which is sad news on some aspects. On the other hand it's also the only moment of the year when I get to really travel to any kind of non-local (meaning more than 4 hours drive) away. It also means I'm between seasonal positions right now, which allows me the chance to do foolish things like spend money. With that in mind, a group of five of us took off to enjoy foreign mountains. That's partially what caused the lack of posting. The other is I'm still not sure what to continue posting in the post-season.

I've had my first big mountain experience at Big Sky in Montana, all I can say is... wow. If you get a chance, certainly go check it out. Words really can't describe the different feel found here. We stayed in a camper out on a parking lot that belonged to a friend of a friend kind of deal. It wasn't the cleanest, it certainly was cozy, but it was also free. I'm told Jackson Hole is the next place for me to check out. Next season my friends, next season.

We were hoping to hit Silver Star or Big White but weren't sure of the travel time before it closed. Instead we hit Schweitzer for a two day run before driving back to Bozeman for our flight home.

In the upcoming week(end), if everything happens correctly, a long road trip to reaching Mammoth will occur. I haven't been there in a few years but remember having a blast. Even in low coverage, it's such a different mountain. The people are partially to blame for it, the ratio of A-list ski/snowboard stars is high.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Money Well Spent

Closing day was rather slow as far as instructing was concerned. The beginner rope tow area had melted off sometime during the week, despite the best efforts of the grooming team and the relocation of snow. The lower elevation runs had many large swaths of ground break running through them, making it feel almost like a run out of bounds. It's amazing how one solid week of warm weather and rain can completely destroy a several foot base.

Inside the school, I was helping field the many calls from customers regarding the state of affairs on the mountain. More specifically the purchasers of the 3-pack system we sell (3 days of instruction, lift, and rental for beginners). A lot of these calls were coming from people who had purchased the system but had not utilized all three sessions yet. Typically each phone call went through a three step process like so:

  • Refunds - As each sign around the school, on the agreement paper, and all over the ticket sales states, no refunds are given. The only case where a refund has been given as I know it involved a student who was inadvertently injured while waiting for their class to start.

  • More Time - When a refund isn't available, the demand for the resort to stay open longer is made. As with any seasonal sport, it's hard to determine how long a season will be exactly. All the resort has is past performance to predict with. There are no special deals with Mother Nature and no tricks that can keep snow from melting. Once the snow is gone, it's gone until next season. You've had all season ( on average 4 months ) to use those two other visits, don't blame the employees for your lack of ability. We even went out of the way to call you two weekends ago to warn you of the possible end of season.

  • Roll-over - Can't we roll over the unused sessions to next season? Unfortunately, no. Just as was described to you before the sale verbally and on the signed agreement, we can't offer this feature. They are use them or lose them days, and you've had 90+ days to use them. We just don't have the administrative capacity to keep records like this.

  • These were the calls I could understand. You missed out on the season and want to at least try to re-coup your loses. The group of people showing up on closing day looking to purchase first time lessons are the ones that confuse me even more. We made sure to explain that it was the last day the resort would be open that season and they still persisted to purchase a first time ski package. An even smaller sub-set of those customers insisted on purchasing a 3-pack ticket. Any and all ability to rationally describe the savings by purchasing just a single lesson that day was lost on the customers. The resort would gladly take their money, but as a front-office representative it's hard to watch such a purchase happen.

    Season: Closed

    This weekend marked the end of the 2006-2007 season for my resort. It's been a fantastic year. The season, while not as long as those in the past, was filled with plenty of light powder days, blue skies, and remarkable experiences as a whole. I've learned a lot over the year, especially regarding school operations.

    It's unlikely I'll able to continue on the Level II/III on snow exam expected next week. The exam hosting resort was forced to close it's doors this weekend too thanks to the weather.

    In the end, thanks to everyone who has helped make this year amazing. Now to figure out what to do with this blog until next season.

    Thursday, March 29, 2007

    New Site and Posts

    Lots of posts today. I apologize for the rapid posting, I had thought I posted these, but they were still in draft mode now for a few days.

    New link today, Patagonia sent out an email on their "pro" list about their blog, The Cleanest Line. It's pretty interesting nature lovers bit, but also contains some commentary (always in favor of it seems) their equipment or even reviews from their users. Anyhow it's pretty neat stuff and worth reading.

    Boot Death

    This past weekend my boots finally died. I've been riding with some Nordica W12's for the past two years, finding them incredibly comfortable. There was never a BRO (Boot Release Orgasm - the moment when your foot escapes the confines of a ski boot and your body realizes it can flex again) moment when taking the boots off. I had looked at Justin's suggestion of the Beast 10's he found on sale. I tried some on locally and thought they fit pretty well. Unfortunately the online dealer had none in my size. Right now my boots sit at the Nordica boot dealer in hopes that they can repair the damage done to them. Underneath the top buckle system are two rivets that allow the boot to flex in a specific pattern.

    How did they break?
    While teaching a Level 2/3 class and demonstrating a flattening of the foot maneuver my shorty skis (123cm) got stuck in the super wet and slush snow conditions. A fellow snowboard instructor on course down the hill caught an edge behind me and slammed into me. The force apparently was enough to break the rivets. The collision allowed one nice change, no more squeeky boots. Unfortunately they now flex in lots of directions never intended by the plastic.

    I demo'd some Atomics for the rest of the day. Much stiffer and a less comfortable fit to me. Let's hope the dealer can fix the boots before two weekends pass as that's my Level II/III on snow exam time.

    Destination Snow

    I got a comment from a reader asking "What's a destination resort?" The question caught me off guard as I believed this to be a rather universal term. Anyhow my explanations of destination vs non-destination resorts.

    What is a non-destination resort?

    Typically smaller in both skiable acreage and lodge capacity, usually you'll not find a large hotel within sight. What you can find nearby are plenty of bed and breakfasts, cabins for rent, and a handful of hostel style housing areas (I love the hostels). Occasionally you'll have a large hotel that isn't attached to any of the chains (f.e. the Mt Shasta Inn, Lake George Hotel, or something similarly named to the area). The riders to the area all live within an hour to two hours, allowing most to use their cars as lockers and drive home at the end of the day. Having learned to ride years ago at resort XYZ, these riders have graduated through the local resorts to find one they find the most rewarding. Rewarding could be seen as better terrain, better snow, or just where all their friends end up going. Occasionally they can be seen "roughing it" at a "lesser" resort. A season pass is cheaper here than most big destination resorts, and typically has no black out dates. The busy time is clearly defined by the weekend rush, where lift lines can go from none to half hour waits. If you carefully pick a center point on a map, typically you can find handfuls of these resorts within a radius of 5 miles.

    What is a destination resort?

    Typically larger in size in both skiable acreage and lodge capacity, usually with an entire town attached to the base area. Their terrain typically services all types of skiers and snowboarder, from parks&pipes, piste, oft-piste, beginner, advanced, and really really advanced. Their lift tickets are typically more expensive for a single day pass, but cheaper on a multi-day pass thus the destination portion of the resort. Riders will often travel great distances just to part-take in the offerings. As I said earlier, think of Vail, Tahoe, Whistler, or Stowe.

    Passing an exam

    In my last post, I mentioned the challenges of the PSIA in understanding the business changes between a destination resort and a non-destination resort. What I failed to bring into the picture is the resort personality. This is an extremely difficult value to quantify, entire departments (called marketing) at resorts are dedicated to creating or breaking these images.

    What is resort personality?
    Every resort in America has a personality regardless of what a marketing department may try to spin it as. A better way to describe personality would be the publicly perceived differences between resorts. There are a handful of key ingredients that help establish the personality which include (but aren't limited to):

    1) Location - Without this it's hard to create anything else. Closer to a major metropolitan area or further, on a south or north side, or above and below the timber line. This is probably the base of any resort personality.
    2) The terrain - The second layer to the base of any resorts' operations. Steeps, flats, rollers, cliffs, or bowls all help dictate what type of riders will be attending.
    3) Snow - dry or wet, deep or shallow, it's one of the few things absolutely needed at every resort.
    4) Staff - the folks grooming the runs, food service, ticket sales, maintaining the lifts, teaching lessons, fitting for rentals, or running promotions. They help make it fun by disappearing from your daily view. The less time you spend in lines, the happier you are to return to a resort.
    5) Ski Patrollers - Because 98% of the time you may never need them, but the 2% of the time they are your first useful line of help. These are the people responsible for being the first visible help when needed.

    This list certainly isn't complete, but shows just about all the portions that a resort can actually control to some extent. A resort owner can pick a location. The designers can create specific runs to some extent. We can make snow if not enough has fallen. Staff is selected for their given skill sets and knowledge. Patrollers are less selectable by the resort, more by the NSP, but still need to pass a rigorous testing process. What can't be controlled is the customer base. Enter marketing.

    Some resorts are marketed more specifically towards family entertainment, some towards the "big mountain experience". Others might be known for having some of the best early and late season snow, while others may be known to have the steepest terrain, or the worst snow coverage. Yet others may best be known for their parks and pipes, which seems to be the current rage of younger riders. Each of these factors is heavily influenced by the ingredients listed above yet there is no greater influence than that of word of mouth.

    Resorts are in this game to make money, and thus capitalize on the features given to them as best as possible. For example, a resort marketing itself towards a family friendly environment for learning and exploring with younger children will have smaller terrain features, possibly more gentle slopes, and alternative activities (sledding, sleigh riding, etc). With this kind of marketing, the clientele has been pre-determined before a season starts. Parents typically won't be taking a lesson, opting instead to enjoy their child's lesson time out riding on their own or tending to a child too young in the lodge. The children usually are eager to learn and take one or two lessons. After that you'll be lucky to convince them to take another lesson. Sometimes you'll find a handful of refresher classes, where someone skied years ago but stopped due to an event.

    What does any of this have to do with PSIA/AASI?

    The testing criteria for advancement is broken down into three sections. A paper test is administered, an on snow skills assessment, and finally the ability to teach the concepts. Passing the on snow is really dependent upon a rider being able to master the basic skills for balance (edging, rotation, and pressure). To advance on these skills often requires having the terrain available to practice with. It's hard to practice the diagonal extension needed for extreme inclines when your only black diamond is black due to its historical lack of snow coverage or bumps in a resort that regularly ensures the runs stay groomed.

    Where should an instructor at such a resort practice an upper level class? One thought is to work on correcting the abilities of fellow instructors. There exists critical points though where this method won't work any further; Either a bad habit gets introduced into the self-contained system and furthered to each generation, or the upper limits of knowledge is reached (mistakenly thought of as perfection).

    The PSIA and AASI solution to this is to attend yearly training with a DCL or attend one of their end of the year symposium deals. The symposium trips are extremely fun and rewarding experiences, where an attendee can get out as much and as little as they'd like. I attended my first one last season only to find many of the great tips coming too late in the season to be useful. A clinic session with your DCL can be a mixed affair from my experience. With any situation of instruction, it's possible to get good or bad rapport with a clinician. The good thing about clinician run sessions are they typically happen at your home hill, meaning you're comfortable with the terrain and the other students. You can make mistakes and have your own lazy moments that show up on familiar terrain cleaned up. These are two of the training portions I think the PSIA and AASI does extraordinarily right. The fact that both of these count as credit hours for towards yearly re-certification helps motivate even more. (Too bad they don't happen more than once a season.) Plus they give you a chance to meet and introduce yourself to various instructors, learn some new techniques that are working elsewhere, and possibly even find a better position for yourself.

    During the on snow examination test is where I feel the system falls apart. The examiner has a checklist of items to evaluate each hopeful on, a list which does take into consideration the snow conditions of that day. What the examiner can't do though is change the testing requirements per student based upon their home resort style. So Johnny family-resort and Susie big-mountain will both have difficulties vs Pat the destination-resort rider. Why? Because Pat will most likely have access to terrain that pushes the skill-set on a consistent basis.

    I understand the desire for a unified test. It's an attempt at leveling the playing field. I just don't believe it worked the way it was originally intended. I've no suggestions though on correcting this just yet.