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?