Uncle Louie--thanks for the reminder! Yes, those were certainly "the days." He was not exaggerating even one bit, BounceSwoosh.
Our "A-Hill" in those days was a small, rectangular patch of snow, maybe 200 feet wide, with a decent pitch that ended abruptly at a low concrete wall in front of the medical clinic. On that hill, every morning, the supervisors would line up our new first-timers--often literally hundreds of them, in vertical lines of between 20 and 40 (sometimes more) students. Each line would be one class, and there would be another class lined up tail-to-tail behind them. There would be a little space, often as little as two ski lengths wide, between the groups, and that was all the space each group would have to work with.
Instructors were then assigned to each class, and we had the morning to get our troops prepared and sufficiently skilled and practiced that they'd have a fighting chance of surviving the afternoon ordeal up the chairlift and through the "Bowling Alley" that Uncle Louie described above (which was, nevertheless, an improvement over the old "A1" and "A2" chairs that took us to Upper Silverthorne and Lower Lehman, that I described in my previous post). So you'd have two hours and a ten-foot-wide lane with which to create 20 to 40 skiers capable of surviving (and, possibly, enjoying) the challenges of the mountain and the long (sometimes very long) ski all the way to the bottom in the afternoon. To make matters worse, when we were really busy, they'd stack another set of groups above the first groups on the hill. One runaway student could "domino" as many as 100 people below him!
And that little wall at the bottom had a small opening right in the middle of it, through which the Patrol would bring the sleds with injured skiers from the mountain to the First Aid Room. Nothing breeds confidence in a new skiing student like having to move aside for a parade of toboggans carrying what appear to be body bags full of their fellow "skiers" into a medical facility.
Nothing, that is, except perhaps a helicopter. Yes, when needed, the "A-Hill" was also the landing pad for the Flight For Life helicopter. It didn't come by very often, fortunately, but when it did, we all had to clear to the side of the hill and let the helicopter in for a landing. And we had to wait while they brought out the gurney with the injured patient, and all of the IV lines and breathing tubes and whatever else accompanied him or her.
In spite of all these challenges, it was amazing how successful we usually were. Instructors learned how to work in a confined space, and we learned what was important, and what was a waste of time. Failure was not an option. After lunch, we had to go up the mountain, because the A-Hill would be full of the afternoon half-day beginners. Any instructor whose students were not prepared to ride and unload the chairlift and survive the challenging terrain at the top and the narrow, switchbacked road that bypassed another steep section at the bottom--and everything in between--was in for a very long and arduous day (as, of course, were his students). We lost a few students from the sport to frustration and fatigue on that first day, I have no doubt. And I do recall, at least once, pausing at the top of the last pitch to enjoy the full moon rising as the sun set behind us....
But the vast majority got a start to skiing that they would surely never forget. And really, by the time they got to the bottom, most of them were turning and gliding and well on their way with a good, solid foundation, smiling and justifiably proud of their accomplishment. We'd see many of them again the next day, at the "B-split." In fact, our percentage of returning students was surely higher then, by far, than the current national average. A good instructor would often keep the same class for four or five days (albeit losing a few along the way, and adding a few from the "split" each day). For newer instructors, keeping your class together for several days was the only way to ever get up to the "mountain split" (for levels "C" through "F"--in the old system that has long ago been replaced by our current "1-9" classification system). The longer you could keep your class going, the longer you could delay hearing again those fateful words from your supervisor, "Barnes--to zee A's."
But all that was a walk in the park, compared to the year we had so little snow that the "A-Hill" was unskiable. So we had to teach our beginning classes a not-so-short walk up the hill, in the fenced in yard with trees and roots and rocks, where they kept the horses for the sleigh rides....
Those were, indeed, the days!