Mountain Blog

Instructor Tales from the Front Line

Nancy Story - Wednesday, March 19, 2014


 Several of our Snowsports instructors relate some of their memorable moments this past season:

One of my favorite lessons this year was in the Crystal Kids Program. We had 8 kids with 3 instructors, and one of those eight students was a “never ever” (ie never skied before). His name was Zack, he was 11 years old, and he was born with just one leg. In Zack’s mind, he had no disability. I had never taught a one-legged skier before, but used all my knowledge acquired over years of teaching to help him succeed. Zack's dad had purchased ski poles with small outriggers on the end to give Zack balance.  Our class made it to Emmy - and other than taking a few rests on the way down because his leg would get tired, Zack did very well and had fun. It was one of my best lessons ever, and has prompted me to go for my Adaptive Skiing Certification next year. Zack was an amazing kid and never gave up all day long. He inspired not only myself, but all the instructors who saw him. –  Bob Barker

I had a little girl who kept referencing speed in factors of percentages. If the group was going too slow, she would tell us to “ski at 100 %”.  If I told the group to slow down or speed up, I would reference “pizza feet” vs. “french fry feet”.  The other children in the group responded by either slowing down or speeding up - all except this one little girl.   It dawned on me that if I needed her to slow down or speed up, I needed to use language that made sense to her. For the rest of the lesson, I taught speed management to her by referencing percentages. If I wanted her to go faster,  I would say “Let’s add 10% to our speed”, or “Let’s ski at 30% for this drill”.  As I look back on that particular lesson, I realize why it is so important to have effective communication skills as well as the ability to read your students. They are expecting a lesson that is meaningful; it is our job to make it that way. -  Abigail Smeltzer, PSIA L1, Children’s Specialist 1

 As a passionate skier for over 20 years, I chose to become a ski instructor with the hopes of spreading this passion to new skiers.  I’ve had many examples of student success stories, and am sharing the stories of two of them.  I had the privilege of teaching Will Mallon on two occasions. A quiet kid with keen observational skills, Will had me as his instructor for his very first lesson. This gave me the chance to give Will a strong foundation for becoming a better skier.  Two months later, my colleague, Janel Farron, and I had Will for an all-day lesson on the hills.  It made me proud to watch his progression from the carpet tows to intermediate-level runs.

Beckett Bolt was another first-time student when she enrolled in a two-hour Adventure Cub session. I immediately saw the trauma in her eyes of first-time anxiety from parental separation, a very common situation in teaching Cubbies.  After helping her to be calm, I was very impressed with Beckett’s visual learning skills, which helped in facilitating her lesson.  By the end of her first lesson, Beckett’s anxious frown had turned into a bright smile as she made tremendous progression on the carpets, and then onto the Loki chair in her next lesson. I could see her love of skiing reflected on the look on her face. Students like Will and Beckett, along with many others, constantly reinforce the fact that becoming a ski instructor was the right move for me. - Travis  Fetters

There is nothing like the enjoyment of being part of a young skier’s first day on the snow. After our introduction, we talk about engaging topics (i.e. learn-to-ski techniques) such as pizza, French fries, ducks, and sharks, while we practice some boot work and try on the skis.  Then it’s on to the beginner’s surface lift, the little carpet, before advancing to the bigger challenge of the big carpet. For the young skier, the excitement intensifies with the ascent. Little eyes shine with anticipation while exiting the Big Carpet for the first time. Slowly down the hill we go, playing Red Light/Green Light to learn stopping and starting skills. Eventually, turns are added. Then, if the youngster is  demonstrating the necessary ability, I finally pop the big question: “Do you want to ride the chairlift?”

Excitement builds in the little skier’s eyes. Usually the answer is an irrepressible, “YES!” or sometimes a hesitant but hopeful “I think so.”  We move to the chairlift, reviewing how to load and unload before the chair scoops us up and we take off. It’s so much fun to be a part of this first trip! Most young skiers let out excited screams of joy as we leave the ground and take in the view of the big hill. On top, we stand up and glide away from the chair down the unloading ramp. Our inaugural downhill trip takes us down the gentle Emmy run, winding around the back side of the hill.  At the bottom, the young skier turns to me with sparkling eyes and asks: “Can we do it again?” What fun it is to be able to reply, “Absolutely! Let’s go!” - Carolyn Thayer, Level 1 certified instructor with a Children’s Specialist accreditation                                  


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