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.