Friday, December 31, 2010

Winter driving basics

One of the biggest changes to come from my changing resorts, is the need to commute for an extra 30 minutes. Some days I take the employee shuttle, and some days I don't. It's usually a case of which classes I'll be teaching that day, or if I need/want to leave earlier than the first return shuttle operates.

With that additional driving time comes the added danger of winter driving. And drivers. It's pretty common to hear everyone at the resort(s) talk about what an idiot this or that driver was. Never do we wish to believe we are that driver. Having said that, we're all pretty lousy drivers in the snow. Even the best of us. Just a few pointers to remind us how to be a better driver in the snow.

  • Just because you can't see the traffic lines on the road does not mean they can be ignored. Case in point, this past weekend. There are two routes to the resort (call them East and West access), each brings you to the main resort access road. Access road East often has a large number of accidents on it and this day was no different. Word among the employees was that the East road was closed by three different accidents all currently being cleared out. I opted to drive the West route. It's a smaller two lane road that winds through the mountains with minimal up keep by the state road services. Traffic was running slow, about 25-30 mph, when a car passes me on the left. About 10 minutes later, all traffic on this road ceased to move. An hour later it starts moving again, at which point I pass by the cause of the delay. There on the side of the road is said car, T-boned smashed in the oncoming traffic lane along with three other cars it ran into in the aftermath of the impact. It appeared that everyone was alright, but the whole accident could have been skipped if he'd just payed attention to the traffic rules.

  • Turn signals are still necessary. Similar to the previous statement, just because you believe you know what lane you're in, or what you're doing, doesn't mean the rest of us do. Turn signals still help communicate that to the rest of us. It's very difficult sometimes to discern if that sudden swing from your car to the right was intentional or because your car just slid off the road.

  • Give plenty of space between cars both driving and parked on the side of the road. It sucks having to put chains on. Not only do you have to deal with the cold, winter weather, but you also have to deal with stringing out chains, laying on the side of a road with traffic passing, and sometimes the significant other hovering over you. Often the road is plowed while the shoulder is not, forcing a driver to use the road itself. While I don't encourage this behavior (chain up in the chain up areas if you think you'll need to), it's no reason for passing motorists to be dangerously close (especially in slippery conditions).

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bad Resort Behaviors

As seen this week, while skiing down the main crowded beginner run with another new recruit (who just finished his shadow time). I stopped to re-plant the SLOW warning sign in the snow (normally a Ski Patrol job, but if it's down it's employees job to replant it) when I overheard the following conversation:

Snowboarder1 (kneeling on the ground behind me in the center of the run): Hey Susie, you still need to go in?

Susie (who wasn't easily seen): Yeah I need to pee.

Snowboarder1: Yeah so did I, but I'm taking care of that right now.

After hearing that statement I turned around. This guy was kneeling behind me, his snowboard was laying up against his body covering up his crotch with the un-mistakable line of yellow snow was running through his legs.

Folks, if you're going to pee while out on the snow, PLEASE head into the trees. No one wants to fall and get a face full of piss.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Changes around

I said earlier that this season is bringing with it several changes. Since the deal has been done now for several weeks, I guess it's safe to talk about it. Over the summer, the resort I have been teaching at was sold to a new owner. Along with the ownership change came a large number of other changes at the resort. I didn't appreciate some of the rules being placed upon the staff and decided it was time to move on. I've left my formerly family run resort (now Corpy2) and gone to join Corpy.

That said, I'm told I have to remind readers that this blog is my own opinion and not affiliated with the Company. All things said in this blog are my own. I am not authorized to speak for the Company.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Best quote of the week

Best quote of the week comes from an overheard conversation between a skier and snowboarder.

Skier: You alright man?
Snowboarder: Yeah, I just..


Snowboarder: Looks like I won't be masturbating with my left hand for awhile. That really hurt.
Skier: What?
Snowboarder: I think I broke it bro!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Snow Travels

In case anyone missed it, MSNBC had a nice little article on where the winter travel deals are for snow sport enthusiasts (they still call them ski deals). Check out the full article here

2010 / 2011 Season Starts

Had my first few days of instructing this past week. While the weekdays matter little, it's the weekend where the majority of our clients arrive. This past weekend gave a clue as to how the rest of the season will go.

Clients wise, we still seem to have no end to younger 4 and 5 year old children. Every season I'm more convinced that some how they magically end up here. The return of the 1970s and 1980s gear also took root. I watched one woman who proudly displayed her recently purchased used equipment (recently was 2 days ago) for $100 (boots, poles, skis) that was last used in 1982. First run, said skis disintegrated on the slide down.

Snow conditions, if they continue like this will be pretty epic. Not all the lifts and trails are open yet. Nor is the coverage all complete. But that's not important. The snow itself feels different this year. It's feeling a little lighter than usual, which makes for some excellent gliding.

My skiing skills have slacked off in the off season. The entire first day on the snow I spent trying to recover from lost edges, a crossed tip, or sitting back and using too much body to turn. I spent most of the summer cycling around the states and have built up some great leg conditioning for skiing. What I didn't expect with this was a change in calf muscle shape, which has resulted in some seriously painful boot pinch going on. Right now I'm debating if it's worth trying to reshape the boot or wait until the calf muscle atrophies a bit.

Skis are now showing the signs of needing to be replaced. This is my 6th season on them and it's clear their rebound is disappearing. Looks like I'll be investigating some new gear and hope that the end of season deals will be kind.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Kids and Snowsports

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I attended several dinners at different homes. Each time, there were several people at each table surprised to hear that I am a ski instructor, and had plenty of questions on the profession. After the initial "oh how interesting" comments and questions, I typically received the "can you make a living at that?". (The short answer, only a handful of instructors seem to make a solid living doing so without a secondary job.) Regardless people begin to ask for your expertise as a professional. Much the same way a doctor tends to be cornered at parties and asked about PainA or Obscure-Body-IssueB. In my case the common question was kids.

Let me start this off by saying at the resort we teach skiing to children ages 4+, and snowboarding to children ages 8+. Why the difference? I used to joke that it took an extra 4 years for a child to build up the proper angst and disrespect for their elders to properly snowboard. Then a new instructor took that seriously one day and passed along the information to a customer. The real reason has to do with physics; specifically the distance needed between the feet and the strength in the legs to bend the board. Does this blanket statement mean it's correct for everyone? Nope.

The PSIA and AASI both have what they call the Advanced Childrens Educators (ACE) certification available in two levels (the link is the best found via Google). The PSIA has the basic guidelines up for review here (as a PDF). Before you scoff at some of the requirements, realize that a 4 year old has difficulty in explaining when something is wrong. It's at this time checklists such as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs come in handy. I have attended the ACE 1 training and never finished the certification point. Does this make me an expert at teaching children? Not at all. It's taken several years to feel confident in teaching young children and I still learn more each season.

Back to the basics of the questions received now. Most of these parents tell you their child is 4 or 5 at this point, which serves as a great indicator for how the conversation will continue. Attention spans are still short at this age. Depending upon the child basic needs can be an issue yet to be clearly spoken. While the child can walk, their physical strength may not yet be up to the point of competency when skiing. (If you don't believe me, try laying on flat ground, rolling to your feet, and standing up. Even adults have issue with this one.) Even with these limitations there is still one overall challenge that tops them all; parents.

The real challenge of teaching skiing isn't the kids, it's the parents. Overall kids this age are just excited to be playing in the snow, making snowballs, sledding, falling in, eating, or building snowmen. The introduction of a snow sport just provides yet another avenue of excitement for the children. Which is the key take away from snow sports; to have fun outdoors. For younger children, associating the concept of skiing with a fun time out in the snow is the most important step to creating your future Olympian. Many parents have difficulty understanding that a great ski day may include putting on the ski boots and building snow forts. Yet their kids have already started to bridge the concept of skiing with a fun time outside.

The goal is to build up great memories for your child of having fun outside. This isn't going to happen on the first, second, or (depending upon the age) maybe not even the third visit.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ski Pass Defender

Former ski instructor faces off against Vail Resorts over invention. Read the full article here. Short version, Breckenridge ski instructor Jon Lawson created a device to block the RFID of the new Vail Resorts ski pass. From the article, it sounds as if Vail management tried a little strong arm tactic which sent Jon on his way out of the resort. Good luck Jon at Loveland, maybe I'll see you on the slopes there sometime this season.

Thanks to Justin over at for bringing this to my attention. Yep it's old, but it's a rather important piece. Justin also brings about some valid concerns about this RFID usage with this post

Breaking silence

I've been silent on the posting for a long period here. Several events transpired over the course of the summer that had me re-evaluating my time instructing. Not to be vague or confusing, they'll be posted here in due time, as soon as I can work out the words to describe them.

I've also found myself to be not nearly as excited about this season as I have in the past. It's not clear why, but overall the excitement is lacking. I've only seen one of the recent snow pr0n films going through town (TGRs). The recent PSIA off-snow re-certification classes I took part in just seemed to be a continuing rehash of things said before. Uninspired.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mogul Physics

Moguls are pretty much the bane of existence for most skiers. On the east coast, there tend to be more runs that are open and accepting of such runs. Although over the past few years I've found less and less resorts with dedicated mogul runs. On the west coast, there seems to be a very strong attitude that moguls are not any fun (minus the folks at MJ). I've been told that the public just doesn't care for them.

For our tiny resort, the problem has been that customers do not want mogul runs on the mountain, as such they get milled away each night. Our customers would prefer to have steep, deep, and when thats not possible tree runs. The same can be said for the neighboring two resorts as well. Corpy will occasionally create a tight zipper line run down some of their black runs though, which is usually self contained off to the side.

I've never been a good zipper line rider. Maybe it's that my skis are too long, too heavy, or not able to execute a tight enough turning radius. Maybe it's that I'm overly knock-kneed in one leg, weak on my inside half, too stiff on moguls, scared, or trying to rush through the run. Or maybe I just ski poorly and that's pretty much the end of it (I'm told I lead with my head too much). All of this doesn't matter as the PSIA Level 2 and Level 3 exams require passing a mogul proficiency test. For Level 2 it's moguls on a blue run, and Level 3 is on a black run (or greater).

Due to some interesting weather patterns recently, one of our double black runs has been able to actually build up a collection of large bumps (they purposely stopped grooming the side of the mountain). I'm not talking about mere animal sized bumps you regularly see, but VW bug sized bumps that go on for the entire hill. These dumps had deep enough troughs on them that the skier would literally disappear for a second or two. Things I've learned from 3 days of playing on the moguls with other Level 2 and Level 3 cert wannabes:

  • I'll never be an Olympic quality bumps skier.

  • Speed hurts on smaller bumps.

  • Speed hurts even more on bigger bumps.

  • Air carving (the act of launching off of one mogul top and landing on another's downside) isn't all it's cracked up to be if you mis-judge the distance.

  • Repeat last learning except on larger bumps it can result in double ejections.

  • Moguls tend to move up the hill as time goes on

  • It was this last one that got me confused. I repeated crashed near the top of one mogul and noticed only after a few days that I was no longer on the same treeline I had been originally. This had me go searching online to find an Physics Today Journal on moguls with a really interesting read. Well worth it!

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Spring Break

    It's spring break time, and as per usual a few trees end up with a collection of ladies underwear, typically bras, covering it. I've always been curious who/how they get the bras out as I've never seen or heard of anyone doing so. Anyways riding up the quad-chair with another instructor (me in uniform him not) and two women in their 30s. As we passed the tree in question the two women started to giggle and turned to me and asked:
    How do they get the bras in the tree?

    Without missing a beat my coworker responds with
    Hand me your bra and I'll show you.

    The next 40 seconds of the lift ride left some rather interesting banter between the four of us and drinks at the end of the day.

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Making the Rounds

    I haven't been able to play online much in the past few weeks, and suddenly find my email has been subjected to a few people sending me this link:

    #1 Skier Dad

    It's an interesting video (safe for work although language gets a bit foul), and I'm sure one that will be around for a long long time. Anyways, watching the video I've got a couple comments upon seeing this.

    Watching the snowboarders trying to turn a relatively flat cat track into something more enjoyable is actually inspiring. They seem like they're pretty stable on their boards as well until one of them has to do some massive recovery moves. At this point the camera swings back enough to see that this is a really busy section of the trail and probably not the best place to be pulling tricks. I'm not sure what type of terrain this run feeds into or out of, but regardless of that no one wants to come to a stop on a cat track. It sucks to get moving again (especially for a snowboarder) and there typically isn't very much area to avoid people with.

    The Dad's request wasn't unreasonable, but the quick remark back (while not incorrect) most likely wasn't helping the situation any. Then it went downhill from here. The boarders were doing alright, staying calm, and keeping their language pretty clear. If I were to have arrived on the hill at this scene until this point I would side with the snowboarders. It's once the guy starts taking off his shirt while people are moving to break things up that the snowboarders enter the douchebag level they were so nicely skipping.

    In the end, I'd have pulled all passes for the day. What's your take?

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Snoqualmie for the win

    It seems the folks at Snoqualmie Pass have needed to one up the avalanche control methods. Taking the next logical step beyond a Howitzer, Snoqualmie Pass now employs the use of the first M-60 tank to clear avalanches. I first heard about this the other weekend from a resort guest, and went to Google immediately. I was able to find a few videos of this online and news stories too. My guess is it isn't that old an addition. Now the question is, how do I get to shoot one round out of this without having to sign up for 4 years of active service.

    Random YouTube video:

    KOMO News coverage

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    Odd Ski Designs

    While out riding this weekend, I came across another skier in a rather remote section of the mountain. Having both just bombed through a hill we, were standing on the crest of another checking out terrain. He was waiting for his friend, I was waiting to see what he was about to do (as he was lower on the run than me). That's when I noticed his skis.

    Normally most skis have a shovel on the front side that provides some kind of gradual curve. This scoop mechanism is basically provided to help the ski roll over terrain changes such powder stashes, bumps, small children, rocks, and the occasional annoying gaper. (At least that's what I tell my students.) This man's skis held no normal scoop, instead opting for a hard defined cut upwards from the flat of his ski. It basically looked like he had broken his skis and super-glued on the remains after hacking them up a bit.

    When I asked about them, he laughed telling me they were designed that way. When I asked how well that changed the ski initiation for turns he said they were awesome. Pointing out that he just bombed down the run and wasn't even tired. I let a little snide remark slip at this time, something along the lines of "so did I, and I've got no weird scoop on the tip." This kind of angered him and he told me to watch.

    I proceeded to watch the skier take the run down the hill, Z'ing each turn, and over-rotating with his shoulders to make each one. Thus promptly answering my question for me.

    At the bottom of the hill he yelled back and said let's see me do that. I smiled took to the hill, helix'ing each of his turns in what I felt was perfect form. Right up until my right foot edge wouldn't dis-engage for some reason and pulled me out of the track I was following. No falling but it gave this guy a good reason to boast.

    Friday, January 22, 2010

    Video Inspiration

    Looks like the PowerWhores of Utah are hurting a little for snow, much like a large portion of the West Coast US has been. Unlike the rest of the West Coast though, they went and did a little traveling through the back country in search of some pow and put together an excellent little video. With amazing visuals and only minor amounts of skiing, it's some absolutely beautiful scenery to take in. Check out the video...

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Re-Booting Up

    Since the death of my regular ski boots happened, I've had to pick up a new pair that has proven to be not so much fun to break in. The Atomic boots I selected apparently have a decorative plastic flair near the toe box that has resisted much of the efforts to stretch or re-mold the plastic. I've been in with the boot fitter several times over the past two weeks now working on tweaking the stretch, and kept returning to find the same areas causing pain in my foot.

    Finally in a plea to get me out of his hair, the boot fitter offered to come to the slopes with me and do some on hill adjustments. While he was there he set up several other sessions with various folks who have been stopping in with him to just make a work trip out of it. We gave him a pass for the day in exchange for his time with the ski school staff and went to work.

    Watching this guy work on adjusting boots to compensate for knock-kneed or bow legged stances (aka 'canting') was as close to magic as I've ever seen.

    One instructor, who has been skiing for 30 something years was with me. We did practice balance runs across the hill;
    holding the up-hill foot in the air one time in each direction
    holding the downhill foot in the air one time in each direction

    Basically this is a great test of your ability to balance on edge. The senior instructor though could not get his edge to hold, regardless of what he did. His body was shaking all over, arms moving in directions to support balancing movements, and when he did hold an edge his ski started to turn. We attempted to do some medium radius (about a 2 second count in length) carving turns, where the senior instructor was just skidding out each and every turn. We basically were watching more of a Z shaped turn than a C or S shaped turn pattern.

    The boot fitter spent a few minutes taking measurements from knee to toe angles and then placed some temporary shims below the instructors feet, allowing the boot+binding pressure to hold the shims in place. Taking one run with the new shims, the boot fitter recalled the instructor placed different shims in and asked me to join for the third run. This third run, on the same terrain with the same skier/instructor, appeared to be a completely different skier. Each turn the skis were on edge, lined up, angled properly, and allowing the skier to be in control. I was shocked to see the transformation by simply putting shims under the feet.

    My own skiing was changed with the discover that I'm a little bow legged and knock kneed in my stance. Canting my left boot out 1 degree, and my right boot in 2 degrees gave me a noticeable difference in my carved turns.

    End results, go get your boots aligned this season. You'll find it was worth every penny.

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    Cheap Ski Movies

    Okay I'm sure this has been going around for a bit and I've just not been careful to see it. But this movie looks like it'd be a lot of fun. Welcome Cheak Ski Movie!

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Fun Videos

    Found this video today on the Ski Channel website. The short version, it's a collection of everyday people trying to ski on a World Cup run. It's entertaining...

    Just curious

    Anyone have experience with the Marker Royale series of bindings? Specifically the Marker Jester or Dukes? Maybe even the Schizo idea.

    I picked up a pair of park/powder skis and I'm trying to decide what to mount them with. Right now I'm contemplating between the Salomon STH14's and the Marker Jester. But then comes the question of where to mount them... park style, power style, or center-line. I'm leaning towards park as it should be the more versatile setting, but the Schizo series from Marker have caught my attention.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Goodbye Boots

    I've spent the last five seasons in a pair of Nordica boots that have lasted me rather well. I'm told by several people they're probably too big for my feet, but they've always felt good for me. The toe box being large enough for the front of my foot, with a good amount of coverage around the rest of my foot.

    Turns out though, those people I question were probably right. This holiday season was enough to finally pack in the liner enough that I can now turn my foot without turning my ski. This pretty much ensures I cannot control my ski when I want it now. It was a weird feeling to realize while skiing down a bunch of bumps.

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    Thefts Continue

    Maybe it was just the holiday times, maybe it's the economy, or maybe it's just more stupid people. Whatever the reason, this season everything seems to be on a free for all grab at the resort.

    Over the past week things taken:
    - In the men's restrooms above the urinals the baskets for gloves, hats, etc.
    - In the women's restrooms paper towel dispensers are all gone now.

    Attempted thefts include a team of rather bold thieves who tried to walk off with the 60-something inch flat screen TV in the bar during open hours. The bar staff thankfully called the police, watched the events unfold quietly, and delayed the thieves a bit more pretending to think they were maintenance guys replacing the TV. Police apparently stopped the thieves at their car only to find the car held an unaware family.

    Interesting details

    I enabled the Google Analytics on this blog awhile back and find myself constantly forgetting they're there. I don't remember what sparked the conversation at the old Beer Stube, but I got home with a reminder to check the analytics.

    Thanks for linking to here Colin's Blog and Proskauer34.

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    Why Lie about it

    Okay a minor rant here....

    This is currently the tail end of the instructing staff and resort super busy time. Holidays tend to bring out lots of people looking for lessons on their new gear, or just because they're visiting family/friends. I was booked out for the entire day between reservations and requests, which in itself is highly unusual for our school.

    My 1pm session began with a mother and young male child walking over to me, about age 7. They were to be my next class. After introductions were done, mom pulled me away to talk to me. She informed me that her son just had a complete temper tantrum and meltdown in the lunch room and he was not at all interested in skiing. She wished me good luck and then left.

    Working with this young boy, I was able to cheer him up, motivate him and get him skiing. When mom stopped by at the end of the class, we were just coming up the rope tow at which point he yelled out "Mom can I keep skiing?" He didn't really wait for an answer and started down the hill regardless of what mom would have said. I walked over to her to tell her what we'd been working on, how to help him progress, and really what motivated him. She thanked me a lot and ran off to pick her son up as he arrived up the rope tow again.

    Two lessons later, I'm working with a different student when angry-child's mom comes up to me and says she left a tip for me in the school. I thank her, and she says a few more words resulting in myself needing to stop the chat as I was teaching. Arriving in the school, the office staff said no one had come in to leave a tip for me today, and there weren't any on the credit card charges seen. We looked around all day but found none.

    I have to ask, why lie about it?

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    Return of the students

    Every year it happens, the moment where a past student will come up to me and say something like "Hey how are you? Remember me?" Since we typically teach younger students (ages 4-8 a lot of the time) I find I have had to restrict my initial gut reaction of "Nope" and pretend that I do. Occasionally I actually do remember the students too. Sometimes it's not the names, but the faces, the skis, and the ski styles that I can recall... occasionally it's also what we've worked on.

    I had the joy of running into one of those students again. I distinctly remember the lesson with the young boy last season, having had a great time on the snow with him. He started excited to ski and left making some great wedge turns and snow plow stops. In the middle of our busy holiday weeks I heard the familiar "Remember me?" question, turned and was shocked to see this little guy again. His mom informed me that he would only go skiing if he could have a lesson with me again. So off we went to go play in the snow and have a fun one hour private lesson. Apparently I was to be skiing with him later in the day too, his parents having bought a two hour session but decided to break it up for a long lunch stop.

    In the meantime I ran across his younger sister whom I also had as a student last year. She still sits back on her skis way to much, and loves making snow angels more than skiing. She was paired with one of our female instructors and was having a blast. She too remembered me.

    Having a student/client base that remembers me is what convinced me to stay at the smaller family run resort this season.

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    Second Thefts

    A short while ago I made a post (Alpenglühen: First Thefts) regarding the series of thefts that had been running on the resort. Since that post, things have gotten a lot worse, which is a surprise to all of us as the resort is typically overlooked for the larger places nearby.

    Several folks like to park their RV's in the lot over the winter and have tires stolen, broken into, etc. One instructor had their car broken into taking a snowboard+boots, and a select handful of CDs (suggesting there was no rush to get out of the car).

    There has been some good news though. A few nights ago, the state and local police stopped a man swiping a board from a rack and running back to a vehicle. The police have been more present since the thefts started and overall it didn't seem to do much. I'm not sure what line of questioning they used to determine if this man actually owned the snowboard in question either.

    It became clear though that this wasn't his board when the police found his car after closing and inside were 30+ snowboards and 5+ pairs of skis. Rumor has it that collection of gear was all freshly stolen from that day.

    The sad part to this is the man is an enlisted solider in Iraq, home for two weeks leave over the holidays.

    Congrats to

    Congratulations need to go out to Jon and Greg on getting the MSP article in the recent issue of the PSIA magazine. Now I'm curious to see if there is any change in membership/posting with that article being released.

    Go check them out at

    (Yes I know it's a few weeks late, but better late than never, right?)