Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chair Jumping

In this past month, the Devil's Head resort in Wisconsin had a complete chair lift malfunction. In this case it sounds like the lift stopped all forward motion, did not lock into place, and began to pick up speed during a rollback down the hill (WKOW TV's coverage).

Reading through a lot of internet posts regarding this, I see many mentioning they would jump off the lift no problem. Aside from the heights many chairs run to, there are many secondary factors to consider (beyond it being illegal in most states). But the talk reminds me of an afternoon several years ago....

We have a low speed double chair that provides service on one side of the hill. At several points on the route up, the chair can sag and reach heights around 9 or 10 feet above the ground vs it's usual 15 to 20 feet. On this particular day, two men got onto a chair not knowing each other. At some point, Man-A, a 230 lb 6'3" male, decided to disembark from the chair early into a stash of powder he had been hunting for awhile.

Man-B, a 5'10" 200 lb male, was apparently not made aware of the impending maneuver and sat watching the rest of the hill enjoy itself. With Man-A leaving the chair, the sudden weight change launched the chair with Man-B into the air several feet, adding a swing to the chair. Man-B rediscovered some basic laws of physics where his body continued it's projection off the chair, clearing the chair, and providing him with enough space to come back down to earth.

Man-A upon landing was fine and instantly looking for any gear he might have lost. Man-B proceeded to land on top of Man-A, breaking a hip on Man-B and a neck for Man-A.

Other chairs behind and in front also received the chair bounce, causing several other guests to lose their seats and hold on until patrol could rescue them (which was surprisingly fast).

All said and done, Man-A was charged for breaking the law by jumping off the chair, and a few other things (attempted homicide keeps popping to my mind but that doesn't sound right). He was also charged in civil suits afterward for reckless endangerment (of both minors and adults) and for Man-B to recover lost wages.

Monday, December 14, 2009

2009/2010 First Accidents

For over a decade I've maintained a Red Cross CPR certification with the idea that you never know when you'd need it. I've never had a need for it and have been thankful for that. The 2009/2010 winter season marks the first time I've ever had to use my CPR skills on anything other than a certification dummy in what could be considered a rare mix of bad.

Most resorts get an ambulance that resides on site. If not directly on site it lives within 5-10 minutes drive (in bad weather) to the resort. Some resorts even go one step further by contracting with a hospital to put a local urgent care facility on site. In any case, there is emergency personal ready to respond immediately.

Just the past week we had weather that created very odd road conditions. A mix of snow and rain fell for several hours before the freezing level dropped. This left the roads in a bad state with the better known "black ice" issue, basically the rain froze as a thin layer over the road. A two car accident happened immediately outside of the resorts' entryway. Our emergency personal responded and were dealing with the accident. During this time the fog that had been sitting in our upper mountain section moved lower and now covered the entire base area.

The next part seems to be conflicting to me, and my understanding is only built by the fragments of memories from those there. Basically I gathered another vehicle (possibly two) lost control and slammed into the accident scene, and continued down the mountain running into other vehicles waiting to pass. What seems weird is the first step to emergency roadside stuff like this is to secure the area so that you cannot be involved in another accident. My best guess is the car(s?) ignored the line of stopped cars and came down the oncoming traffic lane only to realize why everyone was stopped and discovered they couldn't themselves stop. Or they had to come from some other location down the mountain (off-roading in the snow?) that was not expected.

When the call for any one with emergency first aid training came across the radio I had been enjoying a beer at the mid-mountain stop with a student of mine (who happened to also be there). Running out the door, I made it down the main run pretty quickly, only to realize I hadn't paid for my beer (later on the staff said that my student paid for it, so thanks Ron if you ever see this). The fog was really thick causing me to be oddly disoriented in a place I know very well, but the emergency lights glow and noise were enough to help direct me. Arriving on the scene I was immediately put into place doing a rotation of CPR on a victim.

Watching the Patrol member do the steps I knew, I had enough time to realize that I'd never practiced on or used my CPR anywhere but on the classroom dummy. When my turn to rotate in arrived, I found myself hesitant for what felt like minutes (which apparently were only seconds). Placing my hands in for the chest compression portion, the feeling of someone's chest was noticably different than a test dummy. To begin with, skin moves and the breast bone cracks (or cracked), while a dummy is... quiet. We rotated out every 2 minutes hoping to keep our energy up. I rotated in 3 times before the patient revived and the EMT took over checking vitals from the Patrol member.

Total damage, 9 cars destroyed, several more damaged, 2 broken legs, several cases of whiplash, a few broken arms, 1 heart attack, and a lot of smoke inhalation (flare smoke hung in the air with the fog).

Drive safe out there. It's not worth rushing home at the end of the day, really.

Monday, December 7, 2009

First Thefts

Nothing says welcome back to the winter season like having your gear stolen. Several days ago one of our instructors had his snowboard stolen mid-lesson. Apparently he took his board off to work with a student on the road accessible rope tow. While working with the kid, someone grabbed his board and took off with it.

Not only did this screw the students over as their lesson was now... over. But the instructor is out a board right before what is typically the busiest time of the season. Just a reminder to everyone to keep an eye on your gear, and use the Ski Check when possible.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why does that...

One of the interesting things about working at a resort is the knowledge people can gain over time working there or really in the snowsport industry as a whole.

Take for example a recent conversation I had with a DCL ( while having my own skiing picked apart (he claimed it wasn't personal, but I disagree). Standing in line at the lift, we watched several people step out of the rental shop, throw their skis down, and ride off. This illicited a comment akin to "Oh those folks are going to have an awful time in just a few minutes" from the DCL.

He explained to me that this is what causes the giant ice build up on the bottom of skis. Stating that the warm ski from the rental shop (or car) lays on the snow, melts the snow, and then steadily loses heat allowing a refreeze on the base.

In theory this makes sense to me, as every object moving from one temperature to another will retain some bit of the former climate until the object and the ambient temperature reach some agreed upon middle ground. This can be seen easily by dropping a piece of ice in warm water.

What I've always believed to be the cause of ice build up on skis to be has been simply a case of ski care. I've never seen a case of ice on a pair of skis that have been properly waxed. While every ski I've seen with ice, it was clear from the white base that there was a lack of wax currently on the ski.

In an effort to help solve this issue, I've been working on setting up an experiment with two sets of skis. The rental shop manager thought this sounded like fun so he's on the lookout for a ski to fit my request. Basically two sets of skis, one needing wax, and one freshly waxed. Both will be brought out of the rental shop, dropped on the snow, and given a 1 minute resting period on the snow. In theory both should develop ice proving the DCL's opinion. If only one develops ice, we will need to push the experiment further.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Return of the Season 09-10

The snow is back and in force. Several wonderful days of skiing these past weeks have left me very happy the season is back earlier than usual. With it come more regular updates to this blog for the handful of people reading it.

Biggest changes this season from last...
  • Co-operation between resorts for the instructing staff to co-train*. The local PSIA representative has been successful in convincing the resorts to allow cross training between the resorts. This means I will be attending the Certification sessions and classes over at our neighboring larger corporate (aka Corpy) resort that happen on a 3xweek basis in the hopes of finally passing the on-snow portion of my exam. Judging from the first day of review and being on snow, I've got a lot of work to do.
  • The loss of many coworkers. I somehow was kept out of the controversy over the summer, but it seems several of our more senior instructors have all left the resort and moved on to Corpy's staff. It was quite a shock to see my former co-workers arrive at the Certification training sessions decked out in Corpy's gear.
My big issue this year has now been moved to do I stay at the smaller resort or do I move on to Corpy? Both have advantages and disadvantages. The main draw for Corpy is the heavy recruiting their senior staff is making on me. They've pointed out how they are setup to help instructors move through the ranks of the PSIA with regularly scheduled on and off snow training and review. They've also got several features setup a little better like a true ski school location for their staff to store gear and meet (not that I mind having our morning meetings in the bar). They've also been pushing that the minimum age for students is 6 unlike my current school's minimum age of 4 (from 4-6 Corpy has ACE certified instructors and schools to handle the students). The pay is a little better as well, although that gets lost when you realize the cost of items at Corpy is about 10x greater ($3.25 for a 12 oz Coke? WTF?). My guess is these were all things that helped convince my former coworkers to move over.

For me, the big seller is the regularly scheduled training bits. Oh, their complete lack of a rope tow (how my knees and gloves hate thee), and a very nice beginner hill area are also big draws for me. But it's hard to give up being with people you enjoy working with too. Since I'm not signed up for either school yet, I've got a week to think about this.

* To be clear, the ski schools have never had an issue sharing time or knowledge, it's always been a challenge with getting the resorts themselves to allow the other instructor's letters for a pass.

Monday, November 2, 2009

PowderWhores: Flakes

The last few years, PW has been one of my favorite film collections. They're always a little more innovative each year. This year was no exception, with the inclusion of cameras on remote controlled helicopters (rumored) and the night shots, it was a lot of fun. The women of PowderWhores section was great as well as the family interviews.

And their filming has gotten a lot better this year, with better camera placements, better quality footage, and some great local stops. This year they did introduce some travel to other countries, and while I like that they've grown large enough to do that it's left something to be desired. One of the features of PW that I've always enjoyed before was the fact that these were simply guys going out their front door, or a friends front door, and finding some absolutely amazing places to ski. It was bound to expand beyond that. These are guys who are in extremely good shape, looking for bigger challenges, and well Patagonia and Alaska will provide those. But I hope they continue to focus on their local back country fun.

MSP In Deep review

Had the opportunity to catch the In Deep presentation as it rolled through town. First off, musical selection... an interesting mix of sounds from all over the place. Some was expected, talking about Sean Pettit and showing his riding to the "Teenage Wasteland"... regardless of the musical selection cheese factor, Sean's got some great riding. Hopefully he'll take care of those knees and keep showing up for years to come. I also have not been in a theater where Phil Collins "In the Air Tonight" drum ramp up has been air drummed by so many in the crowd. It was rather comical.

Footage wise, I liked that they focused less on the park and pipes this year and more on the big mountains. Actually they even focused more on people finding some naturally fun areas to play on in the snow. That was pretty great to see honestly.

The tribute to Shane was hard to watch. I laughed seeing all the moments from MSP films in the past and what I felt were just a collection of candid cutting room floor bits as well. I was really impressed at the amount of video they decided to use from final filming trip. I was also glad to see it was tastefully cut at the right moment. It was a little hard to hear TJ talk about the event, and it was clear that he when recording he was still having some difficulty with the events.

The closing Piano Man looked like it was a lot of fun to film.

All in all, I wouldn't say this is their best film, but it clearly does come together very well.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cycling Food: Power Bar

I've been doing a lot of cycling again this summer, mostly longer distance. Part of doing that kind of riding is learning what does and does not work as far as nutrition and things to eat while riding. Last season I spent a lot of time with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, nuts, fruits, and salty lemonade. This season I've decided to try the other side, pre-made energy foods. In an effort to help me remember them I've decided to make some posts about them.

I remember the first time I had a Power Bar several years ago. I was convinced the "power" gained from it was lost in the process of chewing and trying to remove bits from your teeth. Then I discovered what happened to the bars when they got just a little bit cold. Outside of the "chocolate" flavor, I couldn't stand the taste of the bars. It felt like I was eating sand.

Since then a lot has changed in both Power Bars and myself. For one, I've learned not to let the things get cold... ever. In fact, keeping them warmer has made the eating prospects a lot better for me, so on the back or under a spandex leg they go. Power Bar has also introduced their "Energize" series of bars with flavors like Creamy Citrus Fruit, Berry Blast Fruit Smoothie, and Tangy Tropical.

I'm finding myself for the first time actually enjoying the flavors of Power Bar. The Berry Blast (pictured) and Tangy Tropical tend to be my preferred bars for a ride. They haven't quite figured out how to remove the sand texture of the bar, but the tangy clearly helps remove some of the harshness of it.

Does it work? I don't know, when riding I feel like I could eat 9 of these and still feel hungry.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

2009 Ski Trailer Season

It's here.... and I don't have to do any work to find them this year! Thanks, you're the best!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Time

Yes indeed, it's summer time. I've been spending a lot more time outside, and less on the computer. This is a good scenario in my opinion, but it has left this blog a little quiet. Worry not it will be back to active status.... soon. Especially given the recent news of: snow porn trailers!

That's right, I've found two already and I didn't even go looking for them. They kind of found me.

Teton Gravity Research's Re: Session
Matchstick Productions - In Deep

Looks so far like the trick this season we'll see on the slopes is a hand-plant/drag off a kicker of some kind. I can only imagine the cost of fixing that afterwards... I sound old.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring Corn

While resorts around the country start shutting down operations, the seasonal change tends to bring out the hardcore outdoor enthusiasts. For example, now is when you will see plenty more people hiking up the mountain to enjoy a run down.

Over the weekend I joined a few folks doing just this. There was some early practice on self arresting if needed, a lot of hiking, a bit of cursing, a short break on top, and then 4 minutes of pure downhill bliss. Not a single person on the groomers, and having first tracks at noon was kind of a thrill. Too bad about the sunburn though, my face has some awful goggle burn going on. Need to remember to re-apply on the bluebird spring days.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Season Ending

The economy slow down is now hitting the ski school. We had a long discussion this past week regarding the current state of the school with the owner/manager. End result, I took an option to end my season early and switch over to my spring/summer activities. Oddly enough the weekend after doing this, I received a phone call asking me to come in due to an overwhelming number of students. Sadly this call came on the same day as a huge dump of snow (8" of fresh), which means my phone was unable to be answered. Go figure.

For those who haven't been out there yet, go get the slopes now as they are quite nice.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

RIP Shane

For those who haven't heard, Shane McConkey has passed away in a BASE skiing accident today in Italy. His Wikipedia page has more details. As does ESPN.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Boot Rentals

Reason #1782 on why not to use rental boots:

During a busy day, I had a half hour break between two classes and went inside to warm up a bit. It'd been snowing constantly for the past two day, and today was no different. Talking with the front desk lessons rep, we witnessed a man burst into the Ski School with his young child in tow. The following conversation took place.

Man: Where is your bathroom?
Front Desk: We don't have any in this building, you'll need to go to the main lodge.
Man: Shi...

He stopped himself from fully swearing as he began realizing that he has now walked the complete opposite direction from a bathroom. It's a short walk (30-40 seconds) to the main lodge, but in a rush moment it can seem like it's very far away.

Man: Okay, let's go.
Son: It's okay daddy.
Man: Huh? What do you mean?
Son: I don't have to go anymore.

There was a 10 second silence in the room while this statement registered on all parties.

Man: Oh no, we have to get you out of those rental boots.

Rental boots, you never know where they've been.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Teaching the Teachers

I had a chance to spend an entire day with one of the district clinician leaders (DCL) for my area. The only interruptions through the day were a handful of bathroom breaks and a lunch break. This scheduled session was to be attended by many of the local instructors, but turned out to be myself and one other instructor (a third joined us randomly through the day).

Several things came out of this session for me that were enlightening and disheartening.

First the bad. From the feedback, it sounds like this will be yet another year that I do not try to test for my next PSIA certification level. The general feedback went something like "you've got some obvious skills, now you just need to make them more fluid". I took this to be the standard "sugar coat the bad news first" approach, calling him out on it. He went to great lengths to prove otherwise. He pointed out several areas that would allow me to pass on the more difficult sides, but the easy stuff I wasn't fluid with.

This feedback only adds to my constant question of advancing skill sets, where advancing in the PSIA appears to favor those who work at larger destination style resorts. This favortism isn't really aligned to a school itself, but rather the fact that more clientele of various skill sets arrive requesting lessons at resort style schools. While the smaller resorts tend to get a lot of younger children and first timers, limiting the chances to work on advanced skiing and teaching. This is strictly my opinion, though it seems very difficult to prove otherwise. The DCL's approach to this comment is to take clinics at other nearby resorts, missing the point that our resort does not have the spare manpower to let someone go for a day. It's left me, once again, questioning if I will return next season.

Now for the good news, things I can work on.
  • For the first time I've been told that my foot work is very solid, showing some great understanding of the angles needed between ankles and hips.
  • Where I can stand to work a bit more is on the core, keeping it more engaged than I have. I haven't ever heard this as a comment on my skiing before, and is something I can easily work on.
  • My hand position tends to crunch too much together. Keeping them further apart will do wonders for my ability to keep stabilized.
  • I alternate between letting my skis ride out from underneath me and riding them very aggressively. There seems to be no pattern for it.
  • My one foot skiing skills significantly out rank my two foot skiing skills. The DCL was very confused as to how I could do that.
  • Jump turns, one day I will learn how to do these. For now, we sit at opposite ends of the table not talking to each other.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Patroller Down

Woke up this morning to attend the morning avy control, mainly because I couldn't sleep. But also because I received an invite the night before from a few of my patrol friends while at the bar (always a great place to make important life decisions).

Due to a recent large dump of snow, they've had to do double blasts in many areas which is very unusual for us. Even so, large portions of the resort are not open due to slabs that look ready to drop at a moments notice but haven't even with the blasting. These areas have been closed for about 3 or 4 days now. So I thought it'd be fun to get a chance at some photos and checking the area out a bit.

On the way out one of the two Patrol members I was with, scouted out an interesting run out in the area. A straight line through the trees at about 35 degree pitch, off a mandatory cliff drop (10ft about) which puts you over the river opening and on the downhill to getting back to the lodge. Otherwise we'd have some more up hill climbing to do. Taking off, he made the whole run look easy.

I got to go second. I'm not a big fan of cliff drops, mostly because I do prefer my skis to be on the ground. Taking the run though I found it wasn't difficult really and I made it across the river gap just fine (with plenty of space). We waited for the third member of our party to join us.

I didn't see it happen, but Patroler 1 did, and immediately called for a backboard, sled, and rescue vehicle. Patroler 2 was laying quietly on the snow, not moving, with one ski broken and limbs going in multiple directions. I watched him slide towards the cliff drop but thankfully something caught and stopped him before heading over.

Rushing over as fast as we could, it looked pretty bad. Thankfully he was breathing and slowly regaining conciousness. This made the initial first aid a little easier, although it appeared that he had a concussion. I don't think a helmet would have helped to stop that given the speeds I know I hit. I took my orders from Patroler 1 and kept out of his way while administered as much aid as possible. More patrol members showed up a few minutes later and I backed off allowing them to work.

I didn't make it for line up this morning, instead I opted to head to the hospital to check on my friend. The end collateral, a broken right hand (3 metacarpels), right radial break, several cracked ribs, broken nose, and dislocated jaw. A minor concussion (it appears from his broken ski, by the Saloman imprint on his head) and probably a bit of whiplash (hospital had his neck stuck until they know for certain). He'll require surgery to fix the metacarpels and apparently the jaw.

Overall, he'll be okay. No more skiing this season, and maybe no cycling (which means I'll finally beat his milage). Just a friendly reminder to keep it safe on the slopes. Even the professionals get hurt.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

RIP Kathryn

An article from the Jackson Hole Daily, lists that Kathryn Miller, a member of the Jackson Hole Ski Patrol, took a nasty fall while working and injured herself pretty badly. The family provided update blog lists that she has passed on to her new adventure.

RIP Kathryn, and know that you left doing what you love. Also know that those of us who have been to Jackson Hole have appreciated all your work over the years. Thanks! Until next time our skis cross paths...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Line Poaching

A recent 3 day storm brought us a ton of fresh snow. The kind of snow that makes one giddy with excitement and anticipation to play in it's light, dry, fluffy pillows laying about the mountain. Unfortunately the snow came on days that were extremely busy for us class wise, and left me with little opportunities to get some fresh tracks in.

At the end of each day, the mountain had for the most part been tracked out leaving a collection of chop to ride through. Most of my coworkers left for home, their legs exhausted and patience for the snow gone. I took off to the upper mountain with the sun rapidly setting over the horizon, and was able to get about 4 very good runs in. I did two with a gentleman I met on the slopes who was skiing amazing well (better than me) but had exhausted himself on the steeps. I took him for a run through the trees with me later.

Thinking my night was done, two snowboarding instructors called out from the lift for me to join them on a run. They were both dressed down from their uniforms while I wasn't. I get to the top and join them just as the clouds settle in making the visibility poor. They tell me to follow them, and take off skiers left towards the closed territory for the day. 10 minutes later, we're on the top of side of the area that had an avy slide earlier in the day with 4 patrollers standing watch.

I hear the radio beep and next thing I know they're yelling "fire in the hole". Four blasts fill the silence of the night, followed shortly by the smell of gun powder. The patrollers all look at us, expecting something to happen before one of them finally says "It's open" and waves at the entire opposite side of the ridge line that slid earlier.

The three of us start heading down, getting about two or three turns into some massively waist deep pillows of fresh un-tracked powder. We were dancing through the glades, the snowboarders loving it and me struggling a bit. Someone yelled "closing" from behind let me in on the secret of what just happened. Patrol just opened and closed the best powder run on the mountain in less than 5 minutes, and I got a good first tracks on it... at 6:15 pm.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Helmet Convert?

I talk about it a lot, helmets, and my appreciation for them. I recently made a convert of a family as well. I had a lesson with a young boy, age 6, who had been up last year with me once. I remembered the face surprisingly well. It turns out since then he's done very little skiing, but the skiing he has done was well worth it. He could wedge stop, wedge turn, and kept in control the whole way down. His mom was interested in possibly seeing if he was ready to head up the chair lift and come down the longer runs. After two runs down the rope tow I thought so.

As we headed off for lift, we passed a booth with a Pryme rep demoing his wares, I asked my student if he ever thought of wearing a helmet. He hadn't. We stopped briefly to look, and the rep offered to let him try one for a run. The kid was excited, grabbing the helmet of his choice while the rep made sure it fit. Off we went up the chairlift.

About halfway down the run, he was doing great on the steeper parts and just flying high on the easy parts. We pulled off to the side to talk a little bit more about turn control and shaping, our backs to the trees behind us. As we were about to start, he noticed his younger brother coming down the hill with another instructor and asked if we could wait for his brother. We waited and watched his brother a bit, when he finally decided waiting wasn't working.

I slipped a little lower, allowing him to begin his first new traverse when I heard a crash above us. I was able to watch as an out of control snow boarder crashed into the tree, tumbled, and cracked my student on the head with the edge of his board. The demo helmet did it's job, splitting down the back side, leaving my student phased but unhurt.

I called for Patrol, who arrived and checked him out. They saw no damage but wanted to get him down the hill for a better inspection. He was going to get to ride on the snowmobile instead of the sled for this case. As he jumped on the back he was able to catch a glimpse of his younger brother skiing slowly down the hill. He immediately jumped off, put his skis to the ground and went to work putting them. I asked what was going on, and his response was simple.

"I can't let my brother beat me down the hill"

I talked with the Patroller who saw no reason to stop us, but would follow behind in case anything should arise.

We reached the bottom where Mom was waiting. I handed my student to the patrol team, and talked with mom. Mom promptly went over to the Pryme rep, bought two helmets, paid for the now destroyed demo, and gave the rep some extra cash. The student, only damage he had was a bruise on his knee from falling on his ski tip.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Car Travel

Over the weekend we had several days of yuck weather. Where "yuck weather" can be defined as good for the resort, but bad for driving. In this case it was rain that changed to snow, bringing with it some cloud levels, and generally making the drive not so nice.

I had a late start to the resort due to a handful of reasons, mostly all around too little sleeping the night before. As I drove up the mountain, it became apparent that many folks were not prepared for the weather. One euntrapaneur set up shop selling chains just before the chain up area from the back of his truck. Judging by the line, he was making a killing.

Two or three blind turns later, I see a car passing me on the left. Normally this isn't a bad thing, as it's a two lane road, but today the conditions just make it silly. I slow and let him pass, as do the two cars in front of me. As I drive around the next sharp turn I find that same car now is now facing down the mountain road, snowboard sticking out the broken side window. On the right lay a woman clearly in pain, bleeding pretty badly. Several of motorists stopped to help with the scene while waiting for emergency services. Turns out the woman was putting chains on her car when the speedy car swept a little wide and crunched her. Emergency services was surprisingly quick to arrive and took over fast.

I haven't heard any details on the woman's status since, but a strong lesson learned. When putting on your chains make sure to be completely pulled over to the side of the road. Plus it might be wise to wedge your car a bit to protect you from a possible side swipe.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I was pretty impressed with the crowds we had this weekend, given that it was Valentine's Day. Typically we see very few people on the slopes that day. Apparently though someone managed to mix in a Presidents Day holiday and this just brought everyone out for the whole weekend.

On Sunday, after having classes from 10-3pm I took a brief break to eat something. The weather had moved from being an ugly snowy morning to a beautiful blue sky day somewhere around 1. So nice that I had to start shedding layers. At about 3:15 one of the other instructors pulled me out of my lunch stupor with the idea of getting some time in the out of bounds area before the sun set.

After two chair rides and a long hike, we found ourselves at the upper edge of the boundary line. Standing there waiting to close was Ski Patrol, looking down the same area we were thinking of hitting. Patrol looked at us, looked back down the line and calmly said "Damn, I thought I'd be the first to hit this line today."

We promptly took off down the run before he could say anymore. Steep terrain, some fresh inches, a north facing slope, and some tight trees kept this line pretty hidden from most while maintaining the snow quality. Five turns in and about 100 yards down my legs let it be known that they are tired. I realized this was going to be a rough ride when I found myself sitting back on the skis in the steeps.

A lot of washed out turns later, we reached the low slope section through thick trees before the next drop. At the next drop all adventure stopped as we realized the area had a minor slide sometime earlier in the day. Neither of us had heard of this area sliding before, nor did we have any real back country gear with us. The decision was to cut across the top on the flat-ish part, heading back towards the boundary line.

Finding a new route down, hitting a little ice, and having the first tracks through this area just made the entire weekend worth it. We then did the run two more times, with me being worse each time.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Just Add Fuel

Justin B likes to talk about it a lot over at ski-blog. I've talked about the overall expense of skiing a few times too. For those in the New York area though, the cost of taking a family out to enjoy the outdoors is about to increase. Introducing the Amusement Tax, better known in the area as the Ski Tax to the resorts and employees of New York State.

Since tax law is about as thrilling as life can get, cutting to the section in question is highly advised (paragraph 10 of subdivision D in section 1101). The general gist of the entire PDF is the state of New York is apparently no different from the rest of America. It too has a finite amount of money to spend, and when it's constituents stop spending money, it needs to find new sources of revenue. In this case it's places of amusement, which ski resorts are lumped into.

Overall, I'm not a huge fan of the concept. This looks like it will introduce a sales tax on lift tickets, rentals, and lessons. I'm not sure how much good it will do, but there do seem to be two petitions already started on this. The first Stop The Ski Tax and the second oniPetitions.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Slow Down

Super Bowl Sunday was an interesting time on the mountain. Normally we expect to have a low number of guests on the slopes that day, but historically high numbers in the lodge(s) and bars. Or really anywhere they can watch the game.

This year the resort was empty. The slopes were early in the day had low numbers, by the time the Super Bowl started, a small handful of people were still enjoying the snow. The lodge, empty.

This gave me a chance to talk with a couple of the departments I don't normally get to talk with. Generally I thought the resort was doing well through the economic downturn, given that I see everything still running strong and typically large numbers of people on the slopes. Cat maintenance though told me that they have cut down the numbers of employees this year to 10 mechanics and 5 drivers. Park Crew tells me they are down to 6 people to maintain all the parks and pipe (from a usual 15).

The economy looks like it has finally hit the resort.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I finally did it. I allowed my AASI cert to expire, and now it's official... I've sold off all my snowboard gear. It feels nice to only have to worry about one set of gear again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Days of Joy

There are days on the snow, where everything just isn't what it should be. The group class is too big or too mixed. Your private lessons are just expensive baby-sitting jobs. Etc. Then there are days where everything goes so perfectly it's hard to believe.

This past week had one of those perfect days. The day started off with snow falling overnight, down into the valley floor. At some point the snow level rose, make the valley floor super slush filled. Driving in at 5:30am isn't typically a busy time, but this particular day there were plenty of other drivers heading up to the mountains for first tracks. The point of mentioning this is several times during the drive up, the slush took over driving, sending many cars (mine included) into new directions.

At role call, we received word that one of our regional DCLs was on hand for a morning clinic by surprise. Most of us were excited, until we received first calls for classes. Starting from 8am I had two classes back to back which would have me working longer than the DCL clinic was scheduled to last.

Surprisingly though those two classes were a lot of fun. The first, a 7-year old girl, was picking up everything very quickly. By the end of an hour, she had learned to turn well enough to look like a future Super-G racer. So we went up the chair and came down the racing flags, and she rocked it. The next class, a young girl who was skilled in her skiing just not confident in it. Up the chair, and we worked on building her confidence on the runs. I saw her out on the slopes for the rest of the day.

After those two classes I was given a break and told to go get to the upper mountain chair as they were about to open up. Running in to pick up my regular skis, the scheduler looked over and said "go eat now, you're busy the rest of the day". The next class turned out to be a double session with a husband and wife.

The interesting thing about this class, both were former Olympic hopefuls for Poland in skiing. After discovering this tidbit, I had to ask why they were there for lessons and immediately began questioning what I could add to their abilities. Turns out they haven't been skiing in about 10 years due to a rebuilt knee, and they really just wanted to have someone help them learn how the equipment changes altered styles. We spent the next few hours playing in the steeps, trying to break the habit of the tucked knee. Not only did we have a good time, I learned several old tricks for encouraging skiing behaviors.

After that I had a back to back with a former student of mine from my brief instructing session of last season. He's back this season doing some blue squares, and ready to learn how to be more dynamic in his parallel. This brought us back up on the slopes in the fun areas to play and work in.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I learned a new word this week, thanks to a class of Texans I had to teach. We no longer have a half pipe, we now have a "trick ditch" best said with a strong Texan accent. It was seriously hard to not laugh when the first gentleman used this term in front of me. It was made even harder by the other instructors snickering behind my class.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mountain Safety

We've had a rash of accidents on the mountain recently, mostly between skiers and snowboarders not paying attention to some of the basic rules of the mountain. For example, we've had several snowboard go ripping down the mountain minus their leash and rider into crowds of people. We've also had several skiers and boarders just running into people, or not knowing how to get off the lifts.

These are all usually rules we cover during the class sessions, but the truth is not everyone takes classes. So the resort has moved to printing them on the lift ticket as well. Turns out most people don't read past the "VALID xx/yy/zzzz aa:bb:cc" line. This basically leaves us with having put up a bunch of posters, banners, etc with lame sayings such as "Know the Code" or "It's cool to ski in control". I don't think either slogan really makes people think about what they do or don't know on the mountain.

Enter the new promotions manager for the season who has suggested a brilliant change, even if it is a bit odd. Throughout the season several members of the staff (patrol, instructors, lifties, park crew, kitchen staff, etc) will be randomly assigned a bright reflective jersey with a big number on the back. That number correlates to one of the codes of conduct on the mountain. Our jobs as a number are to be wondering through the resort doing whatever we usually do, only this time armed with a changing stamper.

Customers on the other hand have been given a game, similar to a scavenger hunt. Their job is to find all 7 of the codes of conduct. At each code person, they need to repeat what the code is to the employee to receive a stamp. What's the stamp good for? The first 100 people with all 7 stamps get a next season pass for free. After that 100 random people will awarded similar gifts at the end of the season (passes, helmets, skis, boards, etc).

I got to be the 3rd rule, which states "you must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above", which proved to be fun. Most of the people approaching me were really good about it, a few of the snowboarders who found me skiing past them, were those sitting just below the lip invisible to someone coming down the run.

We'll see how well the promotion works, but so far it's at least got people thinking reading the random code bits around the mountain.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What equipment?

Ricky B's Guests and Pro Snowsports Insight: Tiger Sharks

Looks like Ricky B got himself some new skis, the Völkl Tiger Sharks. Go Ricky! Actually his post got me thinking about something I regularly get asked....
Student: What's the best ski?
In my experience this is a completely loaded question with too much subjectivity for personal tastes. But Ricky's post highlights another aspect that should be considered. While many instructors use their gear all day long, instructing actually has a significantly different set of requirement than most riders will ever need. Ricky States:

As an all mountain ski for an instructor, I don't think you can do any better

While I disagree with the not doing better part, he mentions the all mountain ski for an instructor. In a typical between classes scenario (for me) I'm provided very minimal amount of time to switch gear. Usually a gear switch means converting from the shorty (123-1233 cm first time instructing ski) to my normal gear. I'm not typically provided a chance to get a feel for an upper level student and what they need until we are on the first lift. Why do we break the PSIA customer model so much?

Our private classes are sold in one hour blocks, which for the most part works fine. But if you've got a student who is an upper level, the terrain they would typically want to work on requires a two chair ride and about 15 minutes of total lift time. In an effort to maximize our students time, we have had to adapt to a more streamlined approach than what the PSIA typically recommends.

Because of this shortened time period, I've found that my ski of choice has consistently been an all-mountain design. It may never do any one thing great, but chances are anything I can throw at it will not slow me down. As for the Tiger Shark, I found them fun. A very lively ski, and the ability to stiffen it was surprisingly not a gimmick (those rods really do work). But I'm partial to my K2 Apaches Recons, sorry. The only downfall to the K2s is the weight, are they ever heavy. That same weight is what allows me to power through the chop so easily though.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Great Video

I know that the season is here for everyone, so snow stoke is pretty much not a needed thing. But I found a video online by Guido Perrini over at vimeo that should be shared. About 30 minutes long and it had me glued to the screen the entire time. A very well put together video and certainly worth watching. Even better, the pay what you like for it concept... very cool.

TEN ski snowboard film from guido perrini on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Days Gone Past

Just a little over a year ago I was involved in an accident on snow. When the season started I received lots of heckling regarding not running into anyone, and very slow demos of stopping, and avoiding people. All of it has been in good fun and jest. I probably deserve a lot of it. After that though the moment has been pretty well forgotten.

On December 28th I showed up for the day and was promptly put to work out of my boots. I really didn't think twice about it at first. We've got a new ski school being built (to be opened in one month), and a large swarm of people. I spent the first half of the day running out class cards, calming people down in the line. I was curious why on such a busy day they had me running everywhere else but the slopes.

It wasn't until the end of the day that it became clear when the lesson scheduler said "The hex be broken! You've survived the day!" I was a little confused until I realized it was now the 1 year anniversary of my crash. Who said instructors aren't superstitious?

Lift Line Crowding

Two incidents over the holidays left most of us rather surprised at the resort.

First, for the first time that most of us can remember, we reached capacity and spilled over on visitor count. Normally our lift lines are fairly short (max of a 3 or 4 minute wait), and the on-slope crowding is pretty minimal. This holiday season it was a lot different. The on-slope crowds were just amazing. Off-slope, the lodges reached capacity early on, with many of the guests now spilling out into the parking lot. Management being mindful of upset customers, decided to put up an outdoor grill and turn front patio and parking area into a BBQ field. Lift lines themselves were spilling beyond the normal boundaries, down the lift hills, and into the slopes. Several of our European compatriots noted how civil this crowd was compared to a European resort where people stand on each others skis.

The second incident, a fist fight in said lift line. I'm not sure exactly what started it, I was not there for the start. I did hear the call over the radio for assistance in breaking it up, and saw the mass of people swarming around the area. By the time I arrived it had been fairly well broken up and they were trying to move people on the lift while removing the ruffians. Word from those in the crowd was one guy on a snowboard arrived at the lift line very upset, throwing his snowboard at someone in the lift line, hitting the wrong person, and it expanded from there. The local sheriff got a chance to show the locals what he gets paid for.

All in all, it was certainly a different holiday.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Structural Changes

The Christmas/New Years holiday season is typically one of the busiest times of year for us at the mountain.  As far as instructing goes, it's not unheard of to go back to back class wise until the TD finds you passed out on the snow field due to exhaustion.  Even then, you have to fend off the impending Monster Energy Drink they'll force feed you to keep you going through the next set of classes.  

The crowd generally consists of relatives visiting from far off places, people taking vacations, and the ever so important locals who realized it's a good time to get outside again.  It's the last group that always makes me laugh.  

We've had several building changes since last season on the resort as a whole.  The most obvious one is the main lodge changes to expand the restrooms.  In the past the men's and women's restrooms were next to each other, with a door to the outside at one end of the hallway and the door to the seating area at the other.  The bathroom doorways generally create a lot of traffic for people running in for a moment, and then finding a friend and gathering to talk there.  This tended to build a large blockade in front of the lodge's main seating area entrance that management didn't like.  Employees have been asked numerous times to help move these people along but I think it finally clicked that this needed to be changed.

Over the summer, they moved the men's bathroom to the other side of the hallway, and extended both restrooms to run the length of the corridor.  This allowed them to extend the locker space, include more facilities, and create a meeting area in the middle.  The women's side, did the same only the door changed to the former men's doorway.

The point of this post?  Many of our long time male customers can be seen walking in on automatic, marching through the hallway without a thought, and walking right into the women's restroom.  In the course of a 20 minute lunch break I watched this happen 3 times by 3 different men.