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.