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.