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?