Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Plague of the Mountain

It happens every year, regardless of any corrective action taken by a resort. It swamps in and fills the resort both with money, but also with lots of frustrated, irritated customers. The "it" I'm talking about is high school ski race season.

If your local mountain has any kind of slope to it, it's likely at least one local high school will be practicing, running races, or do some event at your slope. Every year these racers swarm to the resorts, and it's always entertaining to see the young racers working through their lines and showing off their skills.

But there is also the dark side. Lift lines get insanely longer, with many of these racers feeling they are privileged to push in front of other paying customers. And then there is the lunch time rush. I'm not talking about the rush to get in line for the food at the resort. No, I'm talking about the tide of skis left strewn about the entire base area with reckless abandon.

At my previous resort, we tried to keep the racers contained to an area. We built an entirely new building for them to connect and have lunch at, with a huge open area in front. But this didn't work, and their skis continued to liter the entire base area. Eventually management's answer was a lot simpler; "step on them." As employees we were encouraged to just walk on the skis when we found them laying on the ground. When that didn't work, we bought a large push-shovel that we ran across the top of the snow and collected 20-30 pairs of skis in a push. We'd then pile them up in an area in front of their lunch stop without care. This worked a few times because it had a direct impact on the racers. They had no idea where their skis were, and only a limited amount of time to get to the start.

It also had the effect of generating one great over heard conversation:

Ski Racer Dad: Are these your skis?
Ski Racer: Yeah.
Ski Racer Dad: (dropping skis and kicking them) How do you like seeing that happen?
Ski Racer Dad: You think I'm doing it? By leaving your skis here the ENTIRE mountain steps on your skis. What's the difference if I do?
Ski Racer: ....
Ski Racer Dad: (grabbed another pair of skis) Look at this! See these burrs, those are from the staff here stepping on the skis.

I was actually proud to hear Ski Racer Dad telling his son to take care of the equipment. Only a little disappointed to hear him blaming the staff for the burrs and not the fact that little Johnny probably got those from any number of people stepping on them.

At my current position, the solution was to put up large amounts of ski racks for the racers to use. Judging from the carnage the past few weekends, this hasn't worked at all either. The racks, while used, were not enough to break the habit of the racers. Management's answer has been to not touch the equipment and raise the issue with the training staff directly.

Just curious what other resorts do to contain this infestation of skis.

Monday, February 21, 2011


One of my favorite overheard quotes from this past week at the resort...

Skier 1: I just went over there and helped some people.
Skier 2: Why'd you do that?
Skier 1: I thought they were bro's, but they weren't.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Over-Protective Parents

Sometimes parents get to be a little overly protective of the children, or really over state some special needs for their children.

In a recent class I had two students, one young boy (we'll call him Charles) and a young girl (we'll call her Amy). When the class card was handed to me, the management of the kids school told me specifically that Charles was not to ride a chair lift alone. Apparently he had some issues with paying attention on the exit for the chair.

Out on the slopes he really did well skiing, and was more advanced than Amy was. I spent more time with Amy trying to get her up to speed with Charles through the morning. She was struggling a little bit on the beginner slope with some of the ideas we were working on, but nothing too bad. Each time we made it to the bottom though, I rode the chair back up with Charles as directed to me. We eventually broke for lunch.

At lunch, I joined my class eating lunch, which means the barely controlled chaos of kids school was everywhere. In keeping some of the chaos slightly contained, the front office people asked me to come out and talk with one of the parents who was wanting to talk with me. Turns out it was Amy's mother, who told me that Amy was feeling left out of the class. Specifically Amy felt that I found Charles more fun because I rode the chair only with him and never her. The front office rep and I spent some time explaining what was going on, and Amy's mom seemed to be very understanding of what was going on. I also went and spoke with the kids school manager regarding the earlier statement that I cannot let Charles ride without me.

The manager and I spoke, and the reason this statement came down was Charles's parents put him in the class with the understanding that Charles would be distracted by the bullwheel on the chair lift. This was somehow translated to him being a danger to himself on the chair through a discussion with the front office staff and the parents.

After skiing with him, it was clear he was neither distracted or a danger to himself on the chair. In fact he was just like every other kid on the lift; eager to stand up and ski some more. With my manager's approval I now moved to Charles riding every other chair ride with another adult. Amy's enjoyment of the class improved in the afternoon as we now addressed her major concern.

In the end, we learned some new questions and behaviors to ask parents. It also became clear to me that, despite the best efforts of the front office and the school practices, some parents do provide misleading information in an attempt to get their child more attention. Please don't do this.

Pre-class Discussions

I recently had an all day student, we'll call her Julie. I first met Julie in the morning, she was already bundled up her gear, trendy goggles on, and ready to go. When I was looking for her in the children's lesson room, she quickly identified herself as Julie, and I brought her over to join the rest of my class. While talking there, I asked her to share her name with the rest of the class, at which point she told me her name wasn't Julie. Getting that sorted out took a little time, but in the end was kind of funny to me. I quickly made the connection that she was slightly shy and made a mental note of what I'd have to do to get her skiing.

Once outside, she was skiing with a snow plow that turned constantly to the left. We began working on what we could do to fix this. We'd start at the top of the hill, she'd repeat exactly what she was going to do, and then proceed to not do any of it while skiing down. It was a little frustrating, but happens often enough. While talking to her, I noticed that she was calling things randomly different words making talking with her confusing. For example, she'd say a chairlift was an elevator. After a little while we stopped and broke for lunch.

After lunch my class grew 3x larger, and a second instructor was added. We split the group up based upon skill levels a little later on. The second instructor opted to take the kids who were still on the beginner section and Julie went with the second instructor. At the end of the day I caught up with the second instructor who was frustrated beyond belief at how he couldn't communicate with Julie. We talked a little bit and I had noticed many of the same issues earlier. I had attributed them to her being a little stubborn 5 year old. It wasn't until Julie's mom showed up for the report card review that everything made sense.

Julie wasn't a native english speaker.

She had no accent, no indicators for us in why we might need to say something slower or a little different. In fact, after talking with her mom, we discovered english wasn't her second language either. It was her third. Both the other instructor and I felt we could have done a much better job describing things if we had just known this one detail.

This highlights the most important detail for parents. If your child has some special needs, please let us know. Despite everything Corpy's children's program had setup, we're still not mind readers.