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.