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How do you get in the major leagues of skiing?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
I'm wondering if anyone can talk about how people get noticed for their skiing ability, and what makes certain folks legendry for outstanding skiing?

I have some people in my family that are legendry for video gaming. They can play better than the average joe and have a reputation for it.Game developers talk to this person, and he receives free merchandise to try out and help provide input. I have no idea how he actually earned this reputation, but somehow he did.

What makes people get noticed (in a positive way) on the slopes? Is this smooth form? Control? Handling moguls well?

It's really a thought question.....what kind of things does a skier do that gets him/her noticed on the slopes? How does a skier earn a reputation of being skilled and a role model for others?
Edited by Montana Skier - 10/8/13 at 12:14am
post #2 of 24

winning races/competitions

post #3 of 24

So what kind of "getting noticed" are you looking for?  There are those standing on the podium at the Olympics; those in ski movies (aka ski "porn"), those in youTube videos that get lots of hits who are, in those videos, advertising products (sponsored ski celebs).  There are the legendary locals, known on their own mountains by other locals for their escapades.  There are people who instruct who have gained prominance in the ski instruction world; many of these run ski camps around the world, advertise their instruction on youTube, run websites, and maybe even write how-to-ski books.  Most likely there are behind the scenes gurus to whom manufacturers turn when they want expert advice and testing, as well (they may even name skis after these folks).  Then there's Glen Plake.  

 

What kind are you wondering about? 

post #4 of 24

As Liquid points out, there are many routes to skiing fame, or infamy. In race, its as straightforward (not simple, but straightforward) as putting down great times as you race in race associations and high school, then getting recruited by colleges... pretty much the same progression as any professional athlete.

 

Then there is the freestyle competition route to the bigs. That means entering open competitions, big and small, on your own dime, and grabbing podium spots at these competitions. That gets you noticed, and can get you a sponsor. Once you're sponsored, you can enter bigger time comps, and build as you go. If you do well enough, you go from wearing everybody's brands on your clothes and equipment, to people wearing your brand on theirs.

 

Then there is the instructor big leagues. That's comparable to working your way up to the big time in a company (because that's what it is). You do your job well, grow a clientele, and your clientele is your reputation. Your instructor reputation spreads largely through that and through PSIA. The most well-known instructors are typically those in senior leadership and examiner postions within PSIA. In that context, instructors get to know their colleagues from other mountains, and reputation spreads quickly in that way.

 

Then there is the grassroots method to ski fame. When you reach a certain point in skiing proficiency, you realize that there is only a fairly small group of people on any mountain that are at your ability level. When you realize you are part of a very small group amongst a large crowd, it creates a sense of community. The best skiers on any mountain know each other, or at least know of each other. People talk, stories spread, and a certain local fame can develop. That local fame can have a lot of implications. Since you're talking about a group of hardcore skiers, many of them are going to work in the industry in one capacity or another. Brand reps, instructors, patrollers, etc. Once you're known on your hill, you find yourself having connections. Those connections might spread your reputation beyond your local mountain. Venues like EpicSki, TGR, and other forums help spread that rep as well.

post #5 of 24
Relentless self-promotion on EpicSki. That'll do it, for sure.
post #6 of 24

Rule # 1  is make sure you grow up next to a ski area.

post #7 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by x10003q View Post
 

Rule # 1  is make sure you grow up next to a ski area.

 

Lotta truth to this. I may have caught up somewhat considering I pretty much never saw snow in my formative years, but there's no way I'd stand a chance against those who grew up in the mountains. Seriously. Our local school has "School Ski Fridays" in the winter, where the kids get out of school after lunch, load up on the bus, and head up to the mountain to get a half-day lesson. Plus many of them get out early anyway on random days if they have ski team practice. Plus they get to ski every weekend. So that's a lesson every week for like 12 years of their lives, plus countless days on the hill.

 

I'm telling you. I've seen some of those tiny tots absolutely rip up the Headwaters chutes at Moonlight. These little buttholes are WAY better skiers than I am. It is SO not fair. Lucky punks!

post #8 of 24

It's all about how many G.N.A.R. points you can accumulate.

post #9 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by freeski919 View Post
 

As Liquid points out, there are many routes to skiing fame, or infamy. In race, its as straightforward (not simple, but straightforward) as putting down great times as you race in race associations and high school, then getting recruited by colleges... pretty much the same progression as any professional athlete.

 

Then there is the freestyle competition route to the bigs. That means entering open competitions, big and small, on your own dime, and grabbing podium spots at these competitions. That gets you noticed, and can get you a sponsor. Once you're sponsored, you can enter bigger time comps, and build as you go. If you do well enough, you go from wearing everybody's brands on your clothes and equipment, to people wearing your brand on theirs.

 

Then there is the instructor big leagues. That's comparable to working your way up to the big time in a company (because that's what it is). You do your job well, grow a clientele, and your clientele is your reputation. Your instructor reputation spreads largely through that and through PSIA. The most well-known instructors are typically those in senior leadership and examiner postions within PSIA. In that context, instructors get to know their colleagues from other mountains, and reputation spreads quickly in that way.

 

Then there is the grassroots method to ski fame. When you reach a certain point in skiing proficiency, you realize that there is only a fairly small group of people on any mountain that are at your ability level. When you realize you are part of a very small group amongst a large crowd, it creates a sense of community. The best skiers on any mountain know each other, or at least know of each other. People talk, stories spread, and a certain local fame can develop. That local fame can have a lot of implications. Since you're talking about a group of hardcore skiers, many of them are going to work in the industry in one capacity or another. Brand reps, instructors, patrollers, etc. Once you're known on your hill, you find yourself having connections. Those connections might spread your reputation beyond your local mountain. Venues like EpicSki, TGR, and other forums help spread that rep as well.

 

Yes, all of this.  Plus, don't forget also there are people like Warren Smith who runs ski academies and youtube tips, Klaus Mair who runs camps and does Sofa Ski School tips on youtube, and all the others who do ski camps and free video tips as well.  I don't know if these folks count for the OP, though.  They sure are "noticed," if you count the youtube hits.

post #10 of 24

With the explosion of the Dew Tour, X-Games, and FIS - Olympics...etc... you have more opportunities to "be seen" than ever before...

 

As a parent of a Racer, we have noticed that we get into conversations at Races with people scouting for Camps, Schools, and Brands .. and they know what they are looking for.

 

I would assume the X-gamer' Brands are doing the same thing at Comp's and FreeRide Events...

 

Atomic, POC, Kjus ... etc have Sponsorship sites, where you can send videos, pictures, contest results, etc...

post #11 of 24

From what I have seen lately, have a huge social media following that will allow you to attract sponsors eager to let you pedal their gear to your social media followers.

post #12 of 24

You'll know you've made it when the invite to be a Splash contestant arrives.

post #13 of 24

The truly great skiers are really easy to spot.  Really easy.  That perfect balance of speed and grace... and they make it look so effortless.  I love the story in Swift Silent Deep where Captain Benny talks about this guy who shows up at Jackson and is super smooth and just fast as hell, and they're like, WHO is this guy?  And yeah, it was Doug Coombs before he was "Doug Coombs."

post #14 of 24

+1 what JayT said.  These days there are probably many ways to get noticed. Some people just have innate talent and it's just clear from the very start, one second of skiing Candide Thovex ski and you realize that he is special .  Some are super-competitive athletes and make it on the FWT.    Some people are adept at self-promotion, some people get notoriety for stunts (Vanessa Aadland, who by all accounts is a very, very good skier, got a ton of publicity for skiing backcountry lines wearing only an avalanche beacon (safety first!)).  Whatever works.  People who have insane natural ability tend to survive the longest though.   

post #15 of 24

If you are Canadian, then you need to move to Whistler if you want to pursue a top level skiing career.

post #16 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by JayT View Post
 

The truly great skiers are really easy to spot.  Really easy.  That perfect balance of speed and grace... and they make it look so effortless.  I love the story in Swift Silent Deep where Captain Benny talks about this guy who shows up at Jackson and is super smooth and just fast as hell, and they're like, WHO is this guy?  And yeah, it was Doug Coombs before he was "Doug Coombs."

 

This is true.  Doug was exceptional and quickly rose to be first among equals in the tight JHAF community.  Was really did it for him was going to AK and dominating in the WESC.  He was able to parley that into a heli skiing business and specialty camps around the world.  Whatever your path, you need talent and a gift for self promotion.  Howie and Benny were both great skiers who mostly stayed in Jackson and didn't get the reputation that they could have outside the valley.  After Swift Silent Deep came out they both got some industry attention.  It made Howie happy to be recognized before he died.  I was talking with some people about Benny a few days ago while driving to go fishing.  We all agreed that with some effort put into self promotion Benny could have been a Plake type figure.  Benny has both the skiing chops and the personality to pull it off, but it's not really his style.  

 

Self promotion is a funny thing.  It's easy to get too caught up in it and become a douche-bag.  I see lots of wannabe ski stars every season talking themselves up all over the valley.  I've noticed that the really great skiers let others do their talking for them and quietly back it up with great skiing.  One of the best skiers I know is Dave Miller.  He started skiing in his 20s.  He is the lead alpine guide for JHMR and has worked as a heli guide for several outfits in AK and other places.  He has been on the cover of powder magazine.  He doesn't need to talk about it.  The first time I met Plake, I thought he was an asshole.  It would seem like he has mellowed and become a great ambassador for the skiing, but in the early 90s at that party he was a real dick.  When Tommy Moe moved to JH, there were plenty of people like myself who were ready to hate him for scoring a great paying gig as a JHMR ambassador.  I mean really dude...  He's not even from here.  Tommy turned out to be so nice that it's impossible to not like him.  Skiing is were it starts, but you get noticed for lots of things besides skiing and a positive reputation will do more for you than you think. 

 

There seem to be many routes into the industry.  It's not too hard to get in and be a part of it.  I would say that not all big league players become famous.  If fame is what you mean by big league that's a different thing than being part of the game.  Competition and winning podiums is a sure fire way to get noticed, but you need more than that to become a celebrity like Bode Miller or Shawn White.  Ted Ligety is crushing it, but IMO probably won't become a household name like Bode even if he wins more races.  I was involved in the NSP for many years before getting lured into PSIA and a paycheck on the big mountain.  I had a great mentor and was beginning to get tapped for regional training events.  I got introduced to a lot of people.  I don't think I have had to pay for a lift ticket in over a decade.  Kevin Johnson is a name some of you might know, but only if you follow the NSP.  He has worked for decades as a volunteer and pro patroller.  He is involved with NSP at the local, regional, and national level.  He has made major contributions to the content of several of the NSP publications.  Kevin ran the Nordic ski patrol for the SLC Olympics.  People who he (and I, mostly him;)) trained have gone on to be JHMR patrollers and AK heli guides.  He is not a particularly great skier, but it is impossible to measure his impact on skiing.  He doesn't make much money at it, but I would call him a player in the "major league".

 

IMO the way to the "big leagues" and possibly fame is to show up and work hard.  You have to be part of the scene wether it's free-riding, racing, freestyle, or even instruction.  It helps if you are a positive person who people like to be around.  It helps a lot if you are willing to work hard for little or no money and no recognition.  I had a mentor who ran an AK heli business.  He told me that he hated it when people would come up to him and say "I wannabe a guide".  The way to become a guide is to show up in AK and be willing to do any job you can get in the heli industry.  He considered guiding to be an apprenticeship and it started for a lot of people in the kitchen dishing out that humble pie.  I know people who got started in ski films by being mules for the camera guy or production company.  Theo summed it up in one of his famous Theoisms...  "You're a Pro, not a Bro".  In other words if you want to be recognized and treated like a pro start acting like one. 

post #17 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Montana Skier View Post

I'm wondering if anyone can talk about how people get noticed for their skiing ability, and what makes certain folks legendry for outstanding skiing?

I have some people in my family that are legendry for video gaming. They can play better than the average joe and have a reputation for it.Game developers talk to this person, and he receives free merchandise to try out and help provide input. I have no idea how he actually earned this reputation, but somehow he did.

What makes people get noticed (in a positive way) on the slopes? Is this smooth form? Control? Handling moguls well?

It's really a thought question.....what kind of things does a skier do that gets him/her noticed on the slopes? How does a skier earn a reputation of being skilled and a role model for others?


Montana Skier, here is a list of all the ski teams in the Northern Division of USSA (primarily comprising Montana):
http://www.northernussa.org/teams/index.html
(These organizations run alpine, freestyle, freeride and nordic ski teams.)

post #18 of 24
Actually, Northern doesn't run Nordic, freestyle, and freeride, although the mountains and USSA might. Northernussa.org only covers alpine.
post #19 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrGolfAnalogy View Post
 

You'll know you've made it when the invite to be a Splash contestant arrives.


Rory Bushfield didn't need Splash to be a known skier.

post #20 of 24

TetonPowderJunkie,  your post on this is topic is really interesting and insightful. Thanks for sharing your perspective. It's interesting to read about the experience of JHAF folks and others who have made it big. Your advice about being a positive person who others like to be around is excellent advice regardless of the field you want to be in. Your advice comes 30 years too late for me, but I'm sure there are some young skiers out there who would be wise to follow it.

post #21 of 24

NO speed events in college!  NO Downhill or Super G,

 

Racing , you have to be involved in a USSA sanctioned program and the younger you start, for the most part the better. Very few potential racers can catch up starting after age 12.

 

There are allways exceptions to the age thing. But it is a rare bird that can


Edited by Atomicman - 10/11/13 at 11:50am
post #22 of 24
One thing that often is forgotten is the question of why you'd want to go "pro" in the first place. It is important to remember that most "pro" athletes in disciplines outside of the mainstream franchise sports (ie. Football, Baseball, Hockey, etc) don't make big money. If you live and breathe skiing, and you could care less about some of the finer things, then if you have the ability, go for it. But if not, and what you're looking for is fame and fortune, it should be remembered it often costs more to go pro (time, money, etc) than any return you could hope to see. Not to sound too cynical, just realistic.
post #23 of 24

Competitions are one way, but generally the best riders tend to get noticed because they push the envelope and are doing things barely anyone else can do.

post #24 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by ecimmortal View Post
 


Rory Bushfield didn't need Splash to be a known skier.

 

 

Not within the skiing community, but definitely to the general public, who probably didn't even know of his sport.

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