Category Archives: learning

Ski Instructor Instruction

This coming weekend will be my fourth week as a ski instructor. I teach just outside of Seattle at a little place called Snoqualmie. If you around and need a lesson, ask for me and I would be happy to learn ya for a day or two. With just a few weeks under my belt, I can already say this is the best job I have ever had. I am moving up the ranks and have taught many solo lessons with clients that like and request what I bring to the table. By day I spend my time sharing my passion with receptive individuals. By night I learn from teachers that have been in the game for years. Here in this post, I will be going over a few things to know if you are looking to become a ski instructor. First, the physical and mental requirements of the job. Second, the learning path and a bit about the different types of lessons you will be going through. Third and last will be a bit about the culture of the mountain and how much of a good time there is to be had in the elevated chill.

First, to be a ski instructor you don’t need to be the greatest skier in the world. In fact, most professional coaches are not the best at what they coach. Generally speaking, the best coaches are people that had to struggle just to get decent at the sport. Through struggle, they were forced to pay close attention to how the learning process goes. For me, I learned how to ski at a young age and can’t actually remember learning the simple things like turning and stopping. When one of the most common questions is, “How do I turn?” it’s not the most helpful thing to say, “You just do it”. To be able to answer a question like this has forced me to rethink how I ski and by doing so has made me a better skier. So, while you don’t need to be the best skier in the world, you are going to need to know the basics that will allow you to properly demonstrate skills to your students.

The other thing that you need is that attitude of the teacher. Patients is the first thing that comes to mind as attributes that come in handy the most. Some student will understand the lesson on the first try and continue to grow exactly as instructed. Other students are going to struggle to a point where you may never be able to teach them how to ski. Patients with each person’s learning style is essential to delivering a message free of frustration. Other traits that help with the teaching style are an assertive character that can calmly articulate the theory behind each lesson so that people understand. The trick is to grab their attention so that they need not spend effort listening but can are pulled into each lesson to find understanding and in the end, performance.

Second, there are many things that you can do on skis, and many lessons to teach these many things. Generally speaking, I start each class out with an overlay on the basic of stance- Jump once and notice your posture when you land. Legs bent, torso leaning slightly forward, arms out at the ready. I might talk about ski technology and drop a bit of mountain slang on the quality of snow we are riding that day. (Sugapow is the best you can hope for up at Snoqualmie, which isn’t the greatest of rides for all you gapers that have stumbled on to this post) With skiers that have never been on skis before I first hike them up the bunny hill and tell each of them to send it. We then work it out from there. I find it best to push people into the deep end and catch them if they start to sink, but I am not working for myself and must constrain my lesions within the safety confines of corporate mountain culture. In my opinion, learning happens at the fringes where shit gets uncomfortable. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” so let’s learn the basics and then hit the most gnarly stuff we can find, but that’s just me.

Lastly, the people of the mountain are people that understand the nature of skiing. It’s a sport meant to push your limits and the people that get this are to most awesome of people. On one side of this ticket you get people that are passionate about the outdoors and often fall into the category of granola hippy. These are the people that wake up at four in the morning just so they are sure to get first tracks down the sickest line the mountain has to offer. On the other hand, you have the party people that stay up all night drinking but still manage to wake up by sunrise finding that fresh track through light pow is the best way to cure a hangover. All of these people come together and sit side by side on the lift to create something to be a part of.

This lifestyle is something that I would die for. It’s something that has brought so much good to my life and if you think you would find even a fraction of what I get from it then you might want to think about getting it. There are many other jobs that all play a role in shaping the mountain. From the humble lifty, the shredders in the ski shop, admin officials, ticket office girls, cafeteria party girls, to the elite ski patrol. There is a place for everyone that wants it and everyday people get it. Year by year fresh pow will fall, new limits will be pushed, and as the bullwheel turns, you know where I will be.

Until next,

-Chris

Advertisements

A Story of Coming Up

This is a story of coming from darkness into the light, which has been theme on this blog. At one level I wish I could stay in the good life and keep on building from there, but life is full of surprises and everyone is tossed from the saddle from time to time. The value that I hope to give people who read my blog is the moment of climbing back into the saddle. In these moments can we make that triumphant cry but only with bloodshot eyes that know there is a long road ahead and that this is only the first step of a long journey. Here is an invitation to come along for the ride on yet another first step.

The past few weeks of my life it’s been hard work just to stay afloat. Mostly adrift I have been looking for something to give greater purpose and ground me in the life of my dreams. There have been two types of people that I am working with along the way and they are the people that I know I should be around, and the people that my parents know I should not be around. When it comes to a supportive environment free of the bad kind of drugs and full of the right type of attitude, my friends are split. In my mind I know that I should be hanging out with the people that fit the mold, but for sometimes I feel more comfortable with the dirty kids. Maybe it’s some sort of superiority complex where I need to feel and act like a boss. Whatever the case my life is wild and I have been teetering on a line filled with all the good and all the bad I could ever imagine.

As I continue to get into more and more crazy experiences (see “Going into the unknown”) I start to think about grounding and the events that build character. Part of me wants to run away and go headlong back into travel, but deep down I feel that I need to build something of a community and stay in one place long enough to face my demons. I was hoping that this type of grounding and greater significance in life could be found through work. A job that I love doing and one that would allow me to attain my greater aspirations in life. At first I thought that job would come by selling cars and so I tried my hand. It was an emptiness in my stomach and a yearning for more that told me it was time to find something new. In the three weeks I worked at Subaru I sold three cars and so feel that I can say that I left not because I was a bad salesman but because I am bad at working with a team. One of my demons to be faced for sure.

Living in a car with a job can feel like a bird without a nest. Living in a car without a job can be like falling into a pit without bottom. I spent the few weeks after Subaru doing some of the worst activities. Eating cheap and unhealthy, surfing junk online at whatever library I found suitable for the day. There are a few positive things the be said about my decident path. First, my meditation has stayed with me through thick and thin. 20 min a day on the usual. These practices have been expanding into a domain I can only hint at here, on this webpage, and in this current reality, into something truly profound with a path of clear challenges to be overcome. Second, I always find time to hit the gym and work my body, and it shows if I do say so for myself! My reading has also stayed on point and I will be picking up a book called The Art of Seduction as soon as I am finished with this. On the same page as reading I will say that my curiosity with life has never come close to turning off. Constantly am I looking for new things to learn and this studious attitude towards life is taking me far. I really do love learning and what may be more, I love knowing, as little as that may be. As sick and as lonely as I can feel at times, I can always look back and say at least there was this.

Ok, now it’s time to tell you the kicker. The thing that I found that provides me with so much meaning and direction and purpose that it’s changing my life. It’s a job, the job I picked up after my job at Subaru, and it’s a job that takes me in quite the opposite direction. That job is a ski instructor at a mountain about and hour from the city of Seattle. My first day was just a week ago and it’s taken over my life by (snow) storm. On my first day the hill was so crowded and the demand for instructors was so high that my second lesson I worked solo with 12 fresh new skiers. With no training it was my responsibility to get these folks (mostly around the age of 28) from gaper level skiers to something that might be able to hit a chairlift. Dare I say that I am training future rippers capable of dreaming up their next runs in the nights before they hit the slopes. Unfortunately this is not the case for everyone.

Some of the best moments of my life have been had on the side of a snow covered mountain. Conveying this to people is the best part of my job, but the reality is that most people suck and take a learning class just so they can think that they are getting unusually good at technique when in actuality it’s almost entirely about the attitude. The attitude of pushing your limits is the thing that is going to get you super good at skiing. What I get paid to do is to hold gapers hands and tell them things that make them feel like they are getting some type of understanding. I try and enlighten people to the truth as much as I can, and the truth is that if you want to get good at something you need to keep pushing your comfort zone.

The people that go pro will go for years without lessons because they have the “can do” attitude and don’t need lessons. What anyone can do to get good fast is hit the bunny hill until they can make a turn left and make a turn right. After that has been accomplished they need to take the chair (even against better judgement) and then get something like 400 right turns and 400 left turns in. After that has been accomplished its time to take it to the gnarliest terrain possible and send it as hard as you can.So long as it doesn’t kill you, you are going to come out stronger. This is the point where something akin to the title of ripper can been attained. Here is when people are capable of loving the sport for the sport itself. But hey, that’s a tall mountain for anyone to climb and I don’t expect it of everyone.

I worked with a young boy about the age of 6 for my last lesson today. We started with boot work and then gradually moved up to walking on flat ground with skis attached. After that we worked on hiking up the mountain without sliding backwards and then bombing a short distance without falling. By the end of hour one he was making turns and even stopping mid run. When I told him that I thought he had a natural gift for this sport he shrugged and said he figured as much. After a day of teaching people, most of which will never find their passion, it felt like a gulp a hot cider after a long and cold walk through the rain to work with this kid. He had the attitude and thus had a future in the sport of skiing. I can’t wait to see him next week to we how much further we can get.

I have been saving the best until last and must say that the feeling I get from working with people that really learn comes in a close second but first the feeling I get from the woman of the mountain. Everyday I teach up to 40 different people how to ski. I am doing public speaking about something that I love and all day I get to dick off and hit on women in a sly and politically not appropriate manner. It’s clear when a girl is into me and it’s something that happens slightly less than once a class, making it something like 3 girls a day. At first I was taken in by my co-workers. The girl at the shop, the girl at the ticket counter, a fellow instructor; but as of now its all about the girls I teach. I am kickin it with one the day after tomorrow. We are meeting up near the ferry, next to the bay of the Puget Sound, downtown Seattle. I can’t think of a better place for a first time.

Life always feels better with greater meaning. Meaning may be very thing that makes life feel good. A job can be a great source of meaning and a great job will do exactly that. Money will always be a problem but now, at the end of the day, I enjoy the food more because my body is exhausted from a solid day of work. Now, leave work and feel like a made a difference in someone’s life. Now I can say I made a difference in my life. I feel good about my life and where I am going. Hope you’ll stick around to see how it goes because I will be sure to let you know. I will be here, writing, learning, living and loving. Be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you think. Best blessings and I hope that you too can find something that gives you meaning.