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.