Monday, December 29, 2008

The Troubles of New Uniforms

At most resorts I know of, instructors are not allowed to wear their uniforms when not instructing. Meaning after your class and during your breaks you must change out of uniform into whatever you normally wear to the mountain. The resort I work takes a different approach, where it considers each of it's employees to be an ambassador to the mountain and actually encourages us to wear our uniforms all day.

This of course has mixed benefits. On one hand, the entire mountain staff knows who each and everyone of us are, regardless of department. The boldly labeled jackets make sure of that. So we'll often get benefits of lift line express services, cuts to the front of the line at the beer stube, or harassed by Ski Patrol for having taken a poor run.

For some reason, the resort decided to change uniforms several weeks after opening. These were sprung upon us yesterday. It's always fun to open a new uniform out of the plastic wrap. The smell. The feel of freshly water-proofed fabric. The question of "it fits my fat ass now, but after a season will it?" Or my personal favorite "will it survive a ride on the rope tow?".

After having transferred most of my gear from my old uniform to the new, I thought I had gotten the most important parts. Food, rope tow glove covers, Edgie Wedgie, radio, wallet, and pass. About 30 minutes into my next lesson I realized I forgot to transfer my watch and had no real idea what time it was.

Getting back to the ski school, I went in to find my old uniform and get my watch. Stomping through the changing room, I found several of the new uniforms on the ground in pieces. I quickly asked what was up with that. Apparently these were the first sacrifices to the rope tow god and we were moving back to our older uniforms.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Seasonal Start

My trip overseas had me missing much of the planning for the new and returning instructors this season, so I got the opportunity to be an attendee this year. Sadly that status was short lived.

We've had some snow this season already, enough to create a thin base layer, but not enough to get any hard core snow fanatics yet. The 18" of base leaves plenty of ground breaks and obstacles in your path, requiring each rider to pay careful attention to where they are and where they are going.

I joined the team for a first day of ski instructor refresher training. As we loaded on the chair, the group of 9 split into 3 chairs of 3 people and spent the next few minutes enjoying the ride from bottom to top (where the better snow coverage is/was). It was a beautiful bluebird day, more than we can ever expect, some of us laughing as we met new friends and reconnected with old friends. Me? I got hassled for being broken on what was for the most part an epic season last year. As we got off the chair above the timber line, we were slapped back to reality.

The top layer of the snow was solid and slick. Taking a moment to realize the day before was a blue bird also, the entire top layer was a thick layer of ice that not even poles could chip through. The wind blowing hard enough to move us, we watched several rocks break free on the sides and slide down the entire face of the mountain. Since I was with the first time instructors, many of them were on shorty skis (123 cm) with me on my long boards (181 cm) as is our trainer, several warnings were immediately issued about keeping balance on the ice.

Shorty skis are great for teaching center balancing, which is why we use them a lot. They fall apart on non-ideal conditions. Powder they have no tails to ride providing any lift needed. Ice, they're so small it takes a lot of active control processing to ensure they stay underneath you. For several of these new instructors it was a first time in a long time that they've been on skis (snowboard instructors learning the cross-over instructing).

First run we decided to just follow the leader with slow turns to get everyone used to the snow conditions, their little skis, and skiing again. First turn we watched 4 of the 9 lose control, fall, and slide halfway down the run before they were finally able to catch an edge and come to a stop. The TI and I splintered the group even further to get those steady on their skis further along, and those with fresh ski legs a little practice first. I got to handle the fresh ski legs team and immediately got to work on side slipping with conversions into turns.

After two runs we were able to get some smooth turns on the edges of our skis despite the icy top layer. It took about 3 hours to get those two runs completed though, and we knew there would be a downloading/hiking requirement due to the lack of snow on the lower half of the mountain. Opting instead to break early for lunch, we downloaded, discussing how the day was going amid ourselves when we ran into one of the snowboard classes. The TI for the class looked a little pained and disappointed. When we asked what was up, we got the tally.

Two broken wrists, several knees painfully beat, and one tailbone that may or may not be broken. Overall his group of instructors (both old and new) tossed in the revolted a bit and tossed in the towel for the day.

Several of the new instructors with me were happy to have made it out with no damages like their follow snowboarders. Needless to say it was not a good day to be training. After lunch we agreed to take the lift halfway up to work on instructing and class management. We found a pocket of softer snow and spent the next few hours sliding down a total of 10 vertical feet over and over again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Steep And Cheap returns

Steep and Cheap (SAC for short) is one of the sites I frequent all day long looking for deals.  They've recently released a newer Tramdock, focused entirely on skiing.  My newer addiction has been found.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Links - Crystal Mountain

I went searching for the "Ski Patrol" series on the internet today as I haven't seen a lot of it while traveling. Doing a standard Google search, the first link that arrives is a Crystal Mountain - Photo Log blog on blogger here! Looking at the site, it seems to have been active for some time, which means I've been reading through. It's inspired me to add a section to the blog for blogging resorts with things that are more than just "Come ride here". Got any other additions?

Review: PowderWhore's 08

When I watched last year's PowderWhore's film, I thought it wasn't bad. It wasn't my favorite for the season, but it came in surprisingly well. The film itself had some great shots, excellent interviews, and overall was a lot of good snow stoke for the preseason. It had a few short comings though, one major one was the film quality itself. It was painfully clear that some shots were just too far away for an optical zoom and the team resorted to a digital zoom. This just looked blurry, bad, and awful enough that the film just felt unclean.

As far as films go this season, I'd have to rank the PowerWhores 08 film as the best film of the season. Film wise, they cleaned up everything. The long shots no longer had a digital explosion feel to them. Following the action was on the spot. The segments were fun and entertaining, no one complaining about having to wait out a storm in a $1000/day heli-trip to Alaska. I personally enjoyed the Meadow Skipping segment and the final recovery segment. Very nicely done.

I even had a chance to talk with Jonah and Noah at the end of the night about their experiences filming and traveling. I have to say I'm jealous guys and wish you the best of luck.

This is certainly a film to watch this season. Even if you're already out enjoying the snow.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Quiet Home Front

It's been a little quiet here for a bit as I had an opportunity to travel to Japan. A friend of mine and I left on a whim, thinking we'd spend most of the time exploring Japan, but after hearing of a nice dump in Hokkaido we changed our plans. Needless to say earning your first turns for the season is always a good start.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Review Matchstick Productions Claim

For the last 3 years I've attended the annual stop of Matchstick Productions when they come through town. I've found their films to be some of the most entertaining on a consistent basis. The shots are always amazing. The locales always add to the fun. The humor they've interjected to the movie is always appreciated. This year's film, Claim was highly anticipated by me.

Once again, the venue they selected this year was awful. The sound system didn't help either, it had an overly tinny sound to everything making it difficult to hear the voice over portions. But more importantly, I found the film to be... eh. There were some great shots and the film certainly opens up with an amazing landing. But after that, it just kind of fell apart to me. I think the big reason for this was the mix of HD and non-HD film footage.

All the shots in HD had this effect of appearing fake on the projected screen because the resolution looked too good. When moving from a close in zoom on standard film to an HD long shot, it just felt off.

It felt good to see Saucer Boy back though.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Arizona SnowBowl

Received the latest edition of Skiing Magazine and flipped through the pages.  I'm still not sure how/why I get the magazine, but whatever the reason it still makes an awesome bathroom reader.  Flipping through the pages I found an article on the Arizona Snowbowl debates that Justin at Ski-blog has been covering pretty extensively.  While the article doesn't appear to be online (Skiing Magazine's online version is, well, awful to non-existent), it does state that the courts have finally sided with SnowBowl to allow the use of reclaimed water for snow making.  

I'm not sure if the article went to print before or after the Oct 9th posting from Justin (here), but it does sound positive.

(EDIT: fixing the link to Justin's Oct 9th post.  Blogger still doesn't like Track backs it seems)

Economic Slow Down Part 2

In a previous post, Economic Slow Down, I spoke about the impact of the economy on the destination versus local resort questions.  

It seems that CNN has also picked up on this vibe recently, with the "Ski resorts hope plenty of snow beats weak economy" article.  Interestingly enough they mention a few smaller resorts (Monarch and Mission Ridge) and what they are doing to help remove the pressures for locals.

What I have yet to see though is mention of who has the most expensive single day ticket.  In years (2?) gone past this was bragged about as a mark of pride by resorts.  I see no mention of it anywhere this season.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Abasin open

The WROD is now open for your riding pleasure. How is that for some October turns?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ski Patrol on TruTV

While surfing around today on the TheFutonCritic, I came across an entry for a show titled "Ski Patrol". Out of curiosity, I went and found the website, watched the online video clips, and am a little concerned about the show.

Already there seems to be a strong focus on avalanche patrolling, and the dangers of avalanches. While these do exist in bounds, I certainly hope they show the early hours rides up in the snocat to set off charges setting the stage for no such problem later. Most of the details seem to suggest the show is filmed primarily in Crystal Mountain Washington, but a few side posts state Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania. Having skied both (Blue more than Crystal), I think the show is going to (at the very least) show the drastic difference between resort injuries and coastal skiing in general.

From the conversations on the TruTV boards, it appears the pilot was shot at Mt Bachelor in Oregon (wonder if we'll get to see that). The shooting of Blue Mountain may be limited to the NSP Nationals conference, it doesn't seem terribly clear from the show listing. There are claims of things being overdramatized already on the forums. I'll most likely check out the first episodes but I'm not sure after that.

Looks like the first episode is Oct 20th, so if you're curious to see last season re-capped for you. Now is your chance.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Economic Slow Down

Like most folks in this world, I've been watching the stock markets and their current roller coaster of a ride. I've got some money invested in stocks and have felt the pain of losing a significant portion to the giant suck that has appeared in a very short period of time. (Note: This doesn't mean it hasn't been building, it just means the reaction hasn't been seen until recently.) So I did what I always do when the world seems to be too overwhelming, I went to look at the new crop of equipment for the season.

Since I bother these guys a lot, they all know me pretty well. I spent a little time in the shop helping with the growing number of eager snow fanatics who have sent their gear for a tune up. The interesting part was really listening to some of the conversations that erupted with customers regarding life as well. Several discussions turned back to what we expected this winter to be like for us (FYI we always expect it to be amazing, especially when our livelihood depends upon it).

Most of the customers stated that they were thinking of pairing back their season for financial reasons. Destination resorts seemed to be big losers, with the following reasons:
  1. Cost of airline tickets has gone up significantly
  2. Cost of flying with gear has gone up
  3. Most resorts have pushed their pass prices up again
  4. Their stock portfolios have sunk radically
Which brought a renewed interest in the local resorts. Several folks were asking if it was worth buying a season pass, and just driving up. How long the snow stays fresh, etc. It's been interesting. Could this year see the rise/return of the local resort vs the destination resort?

I'm conflicted on this one. On one hand, having a larger money flow in for classes would be a nice change (I currently just brake even for teaching, which is why I have two jobs). On the other hand, it will mean larger crowds, and less fresh snow for me. Tough call.

As an aside, most of those mentioning #4 as their primary reason for skipping their trip(s) were shocked to hear our responses. Several of us have been playing the stock market for awhile and have invested heavily. Two of the guys in the shop are working there because they've already made their millions and now want to do something fun and rewarding. It's was fun to break people's perceptions of 20/30 somethings with a ski job not knowing anything about stocks.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Public Service Announcement

Found this posting on one of the boards today and thought I'd pass it along:

Disabled Sports USA Far West, located at Alpine Meadows Resort, is looking for volunteers to help teach people with disabilities learn how to downhill ski and snowboard. You must be a strong intermediate skier/boarder (or above) and have a desire to share the “mountain experience” with our students. Mandatory training is provided. Lift tickets are provided on your volunteer day. Call Vanessa at 530•581•4161 x203 for more information or visit to view, download and print a volunteer application. Thanks!

Those of you looking for a place to teach your adaptive knowledge might find this good.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Gaper Day 2008

Looks like the full trailer is up for Gaper Day 2008.   Go check it out, well worth the laugh, even if the first part is a little confusing.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Helmet Review

Looks like Skiing magazine has put up their 2008-2009 helmet review. Check out the list, it's not very inclusive (I'd like to see some of the other models, but oh well).

Monday, September 15, 2008

Twilight Seasons

Looks like it's twilight season on the spring and summer activities. My cycling habit has slowly backed down to an almost non-existent level. I still plan on at least two more 100 mile rides this season. I feel that after a season of over 1500 miles logged on my road bicycle alone, I've achieved much more than what I had set out to do.

As it gets dark earlier now, I've started spending more time in the gym. While I can certainly cycle at night, it's not nearly as fun, and the chance of accidents goes up tremendously. Accidents with cars have a much lower survival rate I feel. The gym routine is getting to be pretty standard, it's my usual pre-season leg wake up routine:

Core Work out:
  • Prone Bridges
  • Lateral Bridges
  • Balance Ball push ups
  • Balance Ball un-assisted standing
  • Static Lateral pull downs
  • Static Leg press
  • Russian half squat
  • Single leg bench dips
  • Assorted bicep and chest movements
The single leg bench dips seem to get the most giggles, followed right behind by the balance ball standing routine.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Power of the Internet

Like most people, I have momentary lapses of productivity at work, which is to say I avoid doing work for times. Thankfully I have the internet to help save this time from being completely lost. One google search with the words "ski movie music" and I've found with complete soundtrack listings for several years of movies. Not bad.

New google search for 2008 trailers, and I find who seem to be maintaining a great list of films so far for the 2008-2009 season.

Nice job folks, I'm a much happier skier now, and significantly less productive!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

August Rush

It's that time again, trailers and teaser trailers are starting to pop up all over the web for the 2008-2009 season. While it's hard to think of snow in early to mid-August time frame, these videos certainly do a lot for getting myself psyched up.

Here's Matchstick Production's Claim (better resolution version at Very exciting, and one of the best/most-fitting musical scores ever.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


SkiPressWorld is reporting that the cables for the "Big One" at Jackson Hole are now in the process of being set up. The opening is expected to be this December, and if all continues as planned it looks like that will happen.

This should help make any returning trip to Jackson Hole that much more exciting. Anyone have pictures? Would love to see the new clocktower frame.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Not Forgotten

This blog has not been forgotten. Honest! Been busy this spring/summer traveling for what might be the last time in a long time. One of the nice things about traveling though is the chance to take part in cities history, culture, and (my favorite part) food. Having traveled on the east and west coasts of the US, I find the east coast to be simply better for road trips. Each area is very distinctive, with it's flavors, while the west coast tends to have a lot of new takes on these older original flavors. Although I will admit it's significantly harder to find these small meccas of tasty goodness on the east coast.

I recently had a chance to stop in Philadelphia again and immediately went to South Philly's Termini Brothers bakery. It's hard to describe the bakery, so I'll let the cell phone camera do the work. Even at low resolution it gets the idea across. As you can kind of see, the baked goods run down the center of the isle, with a sign asking you not to self serve. None of the pastries are fancy, flashy, or overly decorative as many current bakeries tend to enjoy doing. Instead these pastries are simplistic in their style, but downright excellent in their quality. My personal favorite happen to be the canoli, which I believe are most likely the best I've ever had.

The canoli is a world of it's own at this establishment. You're presented with three options of fillings, original, chocolate, and a vanilla with pistachios. I personally prefer the original and chocolate. Once an order is placed, your server will remove shells that have been prepared earlier in the day, and begin to fill each for you. After they are filled, you have an option for powdered sugar on top. Originally my road-trip friends were reluctant to make this stop. After their first bites of these canolis all complaints ceased.

It's good to have dessert. Anyhow if you're in the Philadelphia area, I highly recommend stopping in for some fresh canoli. They'll be worth your time spent trying to find parking in the south Philly neighborhood.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Summer Camp

Since I missed a large portion of the season and my ability to prepare for my next round of testing was cut short, it's been suggested I try hitting up Timberline Lodge's Summer Ski program. The PSIA NorthWest divison will be running their summer training series for GS Race Camp and a few other tidbits of fun. Unfortunately their website is pretty awful for finding any kind of useful information, but they are quick to email you schedules and what not.

Anyone else planning to attend? July 18-20!

The last time I skied at Timberline during the summer, it was just to say I could. The snow, while not great, is better than most spring corn ever seen. Originally I had thought things would be about the same as last year, only now I'd be there for 3 days instead of a few hours. Just for giggles I took a look at their conditions and almost cried. 9" of fresh new snow in the last 48 hours! 9" in June!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Summer Fun

Now that it's warm, I've been on my bicycle working towards my first century ride for the season. I'd like to dedicate this post to the guy cycling next to me for a few blocks in town. While I rode as far away from the light rail tracks in the street that paralleled our route, this rider decided to show his brazen disrespect for the rails, meandering left and right over them.

Several of us riding with him warned that you need to cross tracks at a much deeper angle, to which he laughed. One block later I watched as his front tire got stuck in the rail gully sending him flying off his bike, over the handle bars, head first into the trunk of the car in front of him.

Miraculously he was fine, although his bicycle wheel was now bent fairly substantially.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Season Review

I apologize for the silence on posting, it's been a rather fast paced month of April, more on that later though.

It seems odd to be saying this in May, but a look back on the 2007-2008 season has left me really surprised. Despite being placed on the disabled list and being rather broken for a large part of it, I still managed to get in a good 55 days on the snow this season. Most actually coming after my accident, despite my inability to hard charge down the slopes.

This past weekend marked the end of the season for the local resorts, with all of them having their big party blast to end the winter. What makes it odd really though, the resort is closing with an estimated 180" of snow found at the mid-mountain marker. That is 180 inches, or 15 feet, of snow still available for your riding pleasure. The local road signs are still covered, the snow berms are still impossible to see over, and there has yet to be any signs of ground break. For a resort that typically has a mid-mountain depth of 80-90 inches, this season has been anything but normal.

With all that snow, why close? A couple of reasons. First of all staffing has become difficult. The foreign workers started to leave mid to late March. The month of April the resort held it's own with local staffing only. Towards the end of April, the resort starts to lose the rest of the non-permanent staff to their new seasonal jobs (rafting guides, mountain climbing/hiking/biking guides, etc). Second reason they close down, the handful of riders left don't make economic sense to continue to operate. Just as every year goes, the warmer weather results in less and less people wanting to slip into bulky cold weather gear.

Given that the resort still has a significantly large amount of snow, and history continues to repeat itself temperature wise, it will begin steadily warming over the coming days. At some point that massive amount of snow will need to melt. I think it's time to move away from the flood zones...

Monday, March 31, 2008


Spring time brings with it some of the greatest snow conditions around, at least for learning. On second thought, even not for learning. The warm sun, the softer snow, and the ability to sit out on the slopes in a deck chair while enjoying a beer. How much better can life get?

Oh maybe checking out the fresh vegetation growth going on. For example here we see a very rare species of tree native to the area sprouting.

This beautiful tree known as Picea Pungens Braticus sprouts a yearly collection of bras that come to full bloom during the time frame that coincides with spring break. Look at the natural hues of red and tan in full display. A very rare sight indeed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In-bounds Avy

We received a good bit of snow over the past few days, and once again I was there for the early morning dawn patrol clearing out the instructor hut. Once again I was invited to do some early morning Avy patrol, which was going to happen a little later due to the delayed opening that day.

We have two major areas of concern in this process, the east and west facing cliff zones. On this particular morning we started on the west side and were moving towards the east. Within the first few blasts, we were able to see the east side was not that stable just from the sound waves on the west. Small powdery slides were happening occasionally. While we were on the path over to the east side we got a fairly clear view of the east wall area where most of the slides occur. Sitting above the wall were three guys on snowboards, who had obviously hiked up, and were now scouting out lines down. We watched in horror as one strapped on his board and cut his first line running it out towards the trees.

The second guy strapped in but was not nearly as lucky. As he dropped beyond his buddies cut line, the entire slab came free underneath him. I watched the entire thing oblivious to the activity going on around me. One patrol member was already on the radio calling in for a search crew, while another was keeping a visual marker of where the boarder was within the slide. He eventually lost sight of the boarder as the slide pushed him towards a wooded area.

The third guy apparently had some common sense and started making calls to get a rescue crew and find out what happened to friend #1. He informed us none of them had an avy beacon on because they thought in-bounds would have been patrolled already.

The following few minutes were very rushed and my recollection spotty. I've taken the avy training before, but this was the first I'd witnessed with any human participants involved. It was a much different feeling then the search for a beacon. A lot of probing, searching, and a few false leads. The good news is we did find the snowboarder, who was very lucky. Buried in the snow, his face was exposed, although he was knocked out. His board had broken between the legs and semi-wrapped itself around a tree. His ankles were broke when the bindings did not release and his crotch was firmly pressed into the splintered board section.

Lesson to be learned, despite the fact that in-bounds is avy patrolled, it does not mean it has been yet. The area was roped off before we started hand charges, and the resort as a whole was very closed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Power of One Run

I was given the chance of a lifetime this past weekend. Arriving very early to start cleaning up the ski school and prep the area for customers I was approached by a few members of Ski Patrol. This is typically not much of an issue as the school usually talks a lot with them early morning to know what the run schedule will be like. I've typically have always offered to join them for an early morning of checking the runs, but have historically been declined. Apparently this was the day. With the amount of snow we'd received over the past week, the seasonal shift (a lot of the Volys are starting to do other things now), and the expected lower crowds I was invited to join the early morning avy patrol.

I had my boots, gear, and skis ready in 3 minutes.

Once at the top, I was paired off with two veteran patrollers who were assigned the back country area. A few boot packing moments later we're at the top of the ridge looking down on a pure white blanket of fresh snow. While I never was given the chance to throw the hand charges, I have to admit it was a blast to watch the snow go flying and set forth the rumbling of snow down below.

When all was said and done, I was offered first tracks down a section while the other two took first tracks down other runs. As I approached my run, I spotted another skier who was on dawn patrol coming up the backside of the mountain and figured I'd ask how the hike was. His paced quickened when he saw me come to a stop, check out a line, and look back over at him. A minute later he was at the top, out of breath, and standing about 100 yards away from me. I glanced back at him, he pulled out a huge smile and I just shook my head in a yes motion. We took off down the run enjoying the fresh few inches of powder and met at the bottom. He thanked me for waiting and joined me for another couple runs. All said, it was a great day!

While our morning didn't get any slides like these guys do, still it's a good view on what happens in the early AM hours....

Thursday, March 6, 2008

New Gaper Day teaser?

Not sure if it's from the same group of fine folks who brought us the great Gaper Day 2007 video, but it seems to be making the rounds as "Gaper Day 2008 teaser"... or at least it's been passed to me that way by a couple of people. In any case, it's a little long, not very well edited yet, and clearly does not have enough gaper-ness in it. It still made me laugh. :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Ides of March

Is it really March already? The sun is out, the weather is getting warmer, there are flowers beginning to bloom, and the snow is still falling. What?

I'm convinced that every resort dreads the beginning of March for a couple of reasons. First, many of the big money spenders are now disappearing to watch their March Madness basketball series. The hard core riders are still out there, but these are not the demographic that resorts are looking for. Second the seasons begin to change, many of the younger kids are being pulled into sports like tennis and baseball practices on the weekend. The crowds begin to thin out rather dramatically.

Even some of the hardcore riders begin to have thoughts of not coming to the mountains to play. I'm not sure what causes it, but everyone seems to notice it. Including SKIING, The Professional Skier, The Professional Snowboarder, and the trip sites. Truth is there is still some killer snow out there waiting to be run over. Better yet, there are some amazing deals to be found that will let you go and visit many of the mega-resorts for super cheap.

Welcome to spring season! God I love it!

Friday, February 29, 2008

First Turns of the Year

Despite my doctors orders, I took my first turns this year on the snow during the week. I took a few precautions before hand: splinting my arm fairly well; ensuring very few people at the resort; sticking only to freshly groomed runs. It felt wonderful!

On the wrist front, physical therapy has returned almost 100% of movement for me. I seem to have lost 10 degrees total of bending my wrist up and down which isn't too bad. Where I'm really hurting is on rotational (aka pronation) of my wrist. I seem to have lost a good 20 degrees which means I can't lay my wrist flat on a table. We're still working on this, but the outlooks isn't too good.

In other news, happy one day extra of skiing this season! Enjoy the Leap Day...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Comments Note

A quick public note to the sudden influx of german readers. I probably will not be accepting your comments as I can not translate/understand them. Post them in english and I have no problem accepting them. Or just let me know how you found the blog. Thanks


In my last post I briefly touched upon management needing to return the professional attitude they expect of their employees. I had a nice follow up to that and then Sat happened.

As my arm is still cast bound, it's difficult to drive in the snow, as such I'm carpooling with a few other employees at this time. I donate in for gas for the G.A.G funding that is required. This particular morning we were going to be delayed by a request to pick up some supplies for the pro shop guys riding in the back. As I'm not on the active duty roster and the driver was the only instructor, we cleared with the base camp that there was an instructor to take the drivers 9am beginner special group lesson class out. There was and we proceeded to run the errand for the rest of the team.

We finally arrived at about 9:10 am with the delivery and everyone ready to get out of a 1984 Subaru Legacy crammed full of gear. Inside the Ski School we find a note from the instructor who was to cover the 9 am class that can be summarized as "So long and thanks for all the fishes."

A note. No goodbyes, no reasons, nothing. Just a short little note written on the back of a car receipt for a muffler change. The odd thing about the whole scenario, this wasn't a first year instructor. Rather this instructor had been with the school for several years and was considered an extremely reliable member of the team.

One more instructor down...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Great Seasons Turned Ugly

"I hate this place."

That single statement represents the regular shift in team morale. It's sad, actually, in that we're having a great season, a ton of snow, great crowds, and business is booming with not just first time lessons. So why the negativity?

We could start with the loss of instructing staff that has happened. Myself due to injury, a senior instructor left due to their business finally taking off, one left due to outside commitments to college, another lost due to injury (although they have already returned to the line), one fired, and one mysteriously quit. Only a handful of people but in a small group each loss has been felt. I personally don't feel this is the reason for the negativity, but it certainly contributes to it.

Could it be the back to back class schedule starting from 8 am until the schedulers deem you worthy of a lunch break and then continued afterwards? Possibly. As it stands right now, most of the instructors start at 8 or 9 am with one hour private lessons that will run 4 or 5 in a row. They'll be given a 1/2 hour lunch break and sent back out for more of the same until the school closes. If you're lucky you'll get group lessons which give you an hour and half to work with people and a theoretical half hour to rest. It's theoretical in that you really never get the time to yourself, rather you spend the time talking to the students/parents wrapping up the class.

In my opinion it's the lack of respect returned from management and this season seems to have an abundance of it. When I wasn't put into the ambulance after my accident, I had to find a way down the mountain. I was in no condition to drive my own car, and had to rely upon the availability of another staffer to help me. Managements immediate reaction could be summed up to "that sucks". Several coworkers approached their managers about helping me, each turned down under threat of firing. Mine isn't an isolate case either, with several other injured staffers reporting back the same behavior when they have been in need of help. But let's not dwell on those points alone.

We're asked to be professional daily while working franticly to maintain a resort-like experience. Most of us actually enjoy it, as odd as that sounds. But after putting in so many hours, a little recognition from management would go a long way. Last season two of us parked a grill outside the ski school and began cooking meats and veggies for the entire school staff. Twice. Out of our own pockets. This season I used a friend working at a local pizzeria to deliver enough pizzas for the staff. In both these case the change in morale for the day immediate and amazing.

I'm not saying management has to do these things on a regular basis, but an occasional "yeah we know you worked hard today, thank you" would make a world of difference. It's returning the professionalism that you ask of us daily.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Helmet Laws

Looks like Michigan is trying to force skier to wear a helmet. The proposed legislature is here
. Oddly enough you don't need to worry if you're a snowboarder.

Being a big fan of helmets, I'm not sold that this is the right solution. I do believe it's a personal choice.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Physics Class

Justin over at came across an interesting little article on statistics for snowsport injuries. The interesting bit to me was this line:
Helmets are designed to protect your head up to 12 mph, however, most collisions with trees involve the skier/boarder traveling at least twice to three times that speed.
For some reason the 12 mph really stuck out in my head. First I'd like to know where that number originated from, as I've been unable to find any stats to back the number (and the cited data source doesn't seem to mention it) . But let's assume it's true for the sake of this post and correct me where I may have gone wrong in calculations and/or reasoning. Following the Coast Guard CHRIS Manual's conversion factors 12 MPH * 0.4470 = 5.364 meters per second. Assuming no other factors and our head drops straight down from a 1.80 m height (look 180 cm skis), we'll be moving at a speed of 5.939 m/s. [Here's the math: 1/2 * m * v^2 == m * g * h ==> sqrt(2 * g * h) = v. G = 9.8 m/s/s and h = 1.80 m]

That number seems to exceed the maximum impact absorption rate of the helmet. The International Society for Skiing Safety lists a Snell standard for a flat anvil hit on a helmet as 14.1 mph which puts the impact rating at 6.3027 m/s and safely in a flat fall impact range (unless you stand over 2 meters in height).

I'm not sure where this post is going, but I'm putting it online even in it's unfinished state. Hopefully some readers will have feedback on how far off I am.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

NYTimes Pumps Skiing

The New York Times has an article (no promises the link will work) titled " Out of Deep Freeze: Freeskiers Make Sport Cool Again" written by Matt Higgins. Not a terribly well written piece, it seems most of the opinions come from a discussion with Tanner Hall and Peter Olenick. An interesting data point though, one which I've talked about here as the swinging of skier vs snowboarder classes heading out (and if today is any indicator it's not changed this year either).

In 2004, there were 6.5 million snowboarders and 5.9 million skiers. But the next year, the trend reversed course. And in 2006 — the most recent year for which figures are available — there were nearly 6.4 million skiers and 5.2 million snowboarders.

He's actually found data to substantiate the trends we've seen on the mountain. Awesome! Although I never thought it surpassed snowboarding... wow.

Although overall sales for Alpine skis have been down in recent years, sales of twin-tip skis are soaring. From August to November 2007, twin-tip ski sales were up 50 percent over the same period last year, said Alicia Allen, a spokeswoman for the trade group SnowSports Industries America.

Now this is the one that surprises me a little. Yeah most of the folks I meet these days are riding twin tips, but these are the same people I never see riding the park or doing tricks. I'd argue that twin tips are really what the industry is pushing for equipment design. Most fat skis these days have twin tips. As much as I hate to admit it as a factor for a decision on a ski, a lot of the more edgy/progressive ski top/bottom-designs are on twin tips, and style sells (face it Völkl Tigersharks look just blech but they're a ripping ski). Both are issues outside the realm of articles topic of discussion, but Matt if you're reading they're a good follow up.

Back to Work

I'm back on the mountain again, finally! While I'm not teaching classes right now I am helping the sales, hosting guests, and in general loving being back on the mountain these days. My time outdoors is limited by the lack of gloves that fit a cast, but I'll take what I can get in doses. Now I've got to learn to eat an earlier lunch...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New Cast!

Thanks to a short visit to the orthopedic clinic today, a few x-rays, and a good diagnosis I can now bend my right elbow. It's been almost four weeks since I've done this last and it feels... weird. I've been carrying my arm bent all day for no reason other than it feels right. Oh and the new cast smells a lot better...

Monday, January 21, 2008


And just to prove an earlier point, helmets while a great thing are not the save all. Scott Macartney this weekend took a nasty spill at the Kitzbühel races. The impact appears to have knocked his helmet clear off his head (video footage can be found online elsewhere). I'm sure the damage would have been worse had he no helmet, but the impact looked pretty bad.

Good news is there are plenty of reports saying he has been making some great strides in recovery. Good luck Scott, and hopefully you and I will both be back on the skis in no time. :)

Car Park

In what must be the most interesting ad for a car that I can think of, Subaru apparently let one of their rally drivers loose on a snow terrain park somewhere. I certainly would love to have had a chance at riding shotgun on this taping. Waaay to much fun here :-) Enjoy..

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Two Weeks

Two weeks since my accident, and this is what my arm continues to look like. I've contrast enhanced the image to show the break a bit better for those of you (like me) who are not in the habit of reading bones.

Yummy... a nice break slowly healing. Vision in my eye returned a few days after the accident. Apparently I needed to wait until the swelling went down to get that back. Seems to be normal, although the doctors are keeping a close watch on this.

The cast runs from finger tips to mid-bicep, making things like typing, putting on long sleeves, or jackets really difficult. Forget tieing shoes or wearing gloves. Until that changes I've been working very little.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Season That Was Not

It's amazing how a single moment can change your life. On Dec 27th my season came to an end with a series of events so fast paced I'm still trying to piece them together. Since I've only got one hand to type currently, the short version for now. The longer version will come later.

After a full day of 4 and 5 year olds I assisted in a restocking run to the mid-mountain lodge. Up the chair with 10 lbs of sausage and 8 gallons of water. Returning at the bottom, I was involved in 3 person collision, where I got hit head on. My right arm is broken in multiple spots along the radius. My left was spared apparently thanks to the wrist brace I was wearing (although the metal brace was bent hard). Helmet was broken, and my left eye crushed.

Vision is slowly coming back to my eye, my face is finally starting to lose the swelling, and my arm itches like crazy. Typing is slow and difficult right now.

SkiPatrol's general opinion was the helmet saved me from any further damage. Best case I can be back out for some spring skiing, but the prognosis isn't likely. For now my season is over. And my bed calls for more sleep.