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When Skiing is Your Work

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 

We all have seen the advice to get a ski-related job if you want to a) ski more, b) ski cheaper, and c) get better fast. That certainly worked for my husband and me. It also provided our children access to the sport. I would go so far as to credit the love of skiing that they learned in childhood for being part of what motivates them to find jobs that pay enough money to afford skiing (and golf). So of course I would say that my ski-job has been very, very good to me (though my social security benefits wouldn't qualify me to live under a bridge). 

 

But there can be a some downside to working at what you love. Does working at it take some of the joy out of skiing? What happens to the pleasure when it becomes vicariously enjoyed through "clients"? 

 

post #2 of 34

Valid point nolo. At a time when my Hockey career was waning and my love for skiing was taking more of a hold on me, my boys were getting to the age where it was time to decide if their Winter sport was going to be Hockey, or Skiing? And it wasn't the fact that it was a hard choice to make, or a financial one. It was more of there wasn't time for both. All the years of playing, coaching and refereeing hockey were getting to me. I really dreaded the thought of spending the next 20 years hanging out in rinks at all hours of the day. I had already spent 5 to 6 days a week in hockey rinks. But, the push from me was the fact that we could all participate as a family at the ski slopes. But, it really was their choice. While i took up Ski Patrol and worked onslope security, the resort provided me with a family pass and discount lessons for the boys. I took advantage fully as there was a wonderful kid program there. Ten plus years of lessons and race programs as well as the other perks competing at various events at other resorts around the region.

 

Though it was wonderful for all, the job as a Patroller was taking it's toll me. It got to be more of a job than I ever wanted it to be. when the boys grew out of the programs and the politics of inside the management got to be a hassel, and the free skiing got less and less as our little Resort grew too fast in my opinion, the pressures got to me as did the carnage. A few too many really bad accidents and the attitude of the new breed of skiers/boarders. The fun was gone. Although i wouldn't have traded the good times, the friends I made, the stories shared around the Patrol room and the bars after skiing, the luster had tarnished and I felt burned out. The joy as you say is the memories of the good things i did. The help i provided, lives saved, the friends made. That is the only pay I got.  

 

Even at that, I'd do it all again. The skiing? The job made me a much better skier. Having to ski in all conditions, rain, ice, storms, sleet, powder, the whole thing. When the cliental could pack it in and head for the cars, we had to still be skiing. I skied shit and weather not many people would. The benefit being able to ski anywhere in any conditions. You add that with all the good people I have met including here at this website and it's enough.

 

At least you got real money. But when the money is gone, there's much more. There's skiing.

post #3 of 34

I have never been an advocate of taking something you love and turning it into your job.  If you love to ski, do not get a job as a ski instuctor. While your friends are skiing untracked you may be picking up fat people and their equipment on the bunny hill. Take a job as a ski instructor if you love to teach more than you love to ski.  Likewise, being a lifty consists mostly of watching other people have a good time skiing. 

 

If you love to ski then in my book you have to do whatever it takes to do it as much as possible. It is obviously a personal decision, but for me if my job was too close to skiing, it made the job worse.

post #4 of 34

 The thought of actually teaching someone else to ski never occurred to me until nolo referred me to a person she knows at Smugglers' Notch. I've now been through seven full seasons as a ski instructor - part time. This coming season, although I'm a Floridian now, I'll be living near the mountain and teaching full time. Here's my take on the experience:

 

There's skiing. Love it. FUN! Great to conquer myself and do what I never before believed I could do. There's ski instructing. Love it. FUN! It's extremely rewarding to lead a guest from where he/she was to a place closer to his/her goal.

 

They're really two different, if related, things. In all candor, this past season, I feel that I focused so much on instruction and so little on my own skiing that I actually took a few steps back. For the coming season, instructing full time, I'll also take time both before and after work, and on days off, to just enjoy the sport and work on my own feet and head.

 

There are some great skiers who are also great instructors - and it works the other way, too. There are some great skiers who are not very good instructors. But whether the pleasure is affected by turning one's passion into one's livelihood - I guess the answers will be all over the map. Ask the Egan brothers, ask the DesLauriers brothers. Ask the part time weekend instructors. Ask the full timers.

 

I think that the key to keeping the passion fresh is to ski as much as possible for one's own pleasure. I'll let you know if that's really the key for me after the 2009/2010 season.

 

But I'd like to hear from the real professionals here - Weems, nolo, Bob Barnes and the others who are skiers' skiers and coaches' coaches.  What say you?

post #5 of 34

Quote:

But there can be a some downside to working at what you love.

I've been involved in the ski business & the ski teaching world at every level for 30+ years.  On one level I would agree with Mudfoot.  I often recommend that if you're not going to make a career of it, or at least a lifelong hobby, & you want to work on the mountain for a few seasons become a groomer or a snowmaker.  You work when the lifts are closed so you can ski most of the day & still reap the employee benefits.  Money is probably the biggest downside to working at a ski area.  You need to have some off season entrepreneurial skills to make it in the long run.

 

 Quote:

Does working at it take some of the joy out of skiing?

 

For me it has been great!  The more I work at it, the more fun it is.  In the beginning I taught lessons day in and day out, mostly 1st timers where my biggest mystery was, would it be kids or adults.  Sometimes I even got to choose for myself.  I would ski every possible free moment I had between lessons.  Even on fully booked days, I could get a run in the morning & one in the late afternoon.  Lunch on the chair was a common practice.  Most of my precious days off were spent skiing till I could barely walk (still are, I just have more of them).  I also stretched every season out till the last patch of snow was gone.  The payoff was that I was learning so much, so fast, everyday was a new adventure.  I remember the Director telling me that I would be burnt out by age 30 if I didn't back off.  The opposite was true for me.  Without being involved professionally with the sport & it's evolution, I think it would have gotten boring decades ago.

 

I was such a sponge, that I worked my way up through the ranks & certification process quickly & was promoted to Assistant SS Director at age 23 after 5 seasons.  I still taught a lot, but the variety/responsibility was more challenging, & the money was approaching a respectable mark.  I think I was lucky to have started during a huge growth spurt in the sport.  I met so many people & made tons of friends.  If I ran into a former student a few years later I would at least remember their name & where they where from.  I think they probably made more impact on me, than I did on them.

Quote:

What happens to the pleasure when it becomes vicariously enjoyed through "clients"?

The best part for me at this stage is to share my 6th sense with those who may have some skill, but maybe not the experience to adapt & choose the best alternatives to a situation.  Again, if I couldn't be a learner as well as a teacher I think I would've burned out long ago.  Even though I love summer & it's variety of offerings, it is still just a space between ski seasons.

JF

post #6 of 34

I've been skiing more than 60 years, teaching, mostly full-time, for 40.  I enjoy both aspects.  Last season I was on the work schedule 105 days and went skiing another 44 for myself.  Any day I'm scheduled I usually take several runs in the morning before lineup and frequently ski between lineups if there's no work. 

 

Monique skied more last season than ever before and has come to recognize the joy of experiencing improvement. 

 

I think it's just a matter of your makeup. 

post #7 of 34

I'd say it takes a bit of the fun out it once in a while.  Though, my job is in the office, not on the slopes.  So, when I'm outside I'm there to play most of the time.

 

I think the biggest thing that influences it is the corporate culture.  It differs drastically at each area.  For instance, JH and Breckenridge really encourage their staff to get out there and play.  A Basin does to some degree as well.  Copper used to and I was there as they killed that spirit.  However, it all ebbs and flows and what's not acceptable one year can change the next. 

 

I really enjoy going to other areas now and just watching the back of the house.  It's interesting to see how different areas make things work.

post #8 of 34

I worked the retail side of the ski business for 15 years.  The job allowed me to be able to afford to ski.  At the height of my career, I was getting in 40 days each season which isn't bad for a flat lander.  In the last 5 years, I started skiing less.  At first, my ski days would shorten (be done by noon).  Then I would make a conscious decision at 8 in the morning if I felt like skiing.  I'd sometimes opt to go fly fishing or cycling depending on my mood.  In my last year of the business, I did not even ski.  This year I got a few ski days in, and I actually enjoyed skiing all day again.

 

I have a friend who is a rep in the snowboard biz.  He earns a good living out of it.  He'll make some turns when business dictates he does so.  At demo days, he's happy to hang out at his tent.  His real passion is kayaking.  He told me that he won't get involved with that business because it might ruin his love of kayaking like the effect that the business did on his snowboard passion.

 

I'm in the fly fishing biz now.  So far, no negative effect.  I better cross my fingers on that one.

 

Dennis

post #9 of 34
Thread Starter 
Quote:

I think that the key to keeping the passion fresh is to ski as much as possible for one's own pleasure. 

 

This one hits home for me. I know so many lapsed skiers who, like Denny 1969, just kind of lose their passion for it after working in the ski industry for a few years. I'm sure a lot has to do with the work environment of the particular job. But for me, job satisfaction and continuing passion for skiing has been keeping it fun for ME. In my opinion, the best teachers are motivated by such an abundance of enthusiasm for their subject that they want to share it with others. It's impossible to achieve great teaching without passion. Maybe that's why there are so few great teachers--they can't maintain their passion while doing the work.

post #10 of 34

Nolo, your passion for skiing is contagious.  

post #11 of 34

Making something you love your job can be tricky. I have been involved with skiing as my work in many ways. I have been on the retail side selling skis, running the tune shop, I have been an instructor, and now I drive a cat and spend my time in the terrain park.

 

For me the best way to be involved is not being on my skis as part of the job. When I was a instructor I got burnt out on skiing. I loved working with the beginners and so forth. It was the being on my skis 10+ hours a day 6 days a week that killed it for me. Skiing lost its fun and excitement. There was not much I had not done or felt I needed to learn. Being a instructor is the worst, they always seem to be short good instructors. If I was out free skiing I felt I had to be cautious and hide and make sure the director did not know I was around. Even when I was not working it kind of felt like I was.

 

Now working at the mountain off my skis I enjoy getting on my skis when I can. I spend time on my skis while working now but the skis are a mode of transportation to get me around the mountain. The skiing is not part of the job.

post #12 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by mudfoot View Post

I have never been an advocate of taking something you love and turning it into your job.  If you love to ski, do not get a job as a ski instuctor. While your friends are skiing untracked you may be picking up fat people and their equipment on the bunny hill. Take a job as a ski instructor if you love to teach more than you love to ski.  Likewise, being a lifty consists mostly of watching other people have a good time skiing. 

 

If you love to ski then in my book you have to do whatever it takes to do it as much as possible. It is obviously a personal decision, but for me if my job was too close to skiing, it made the job worse.


I agree with this completely. I'm sure for many people it's a great decision, but not for me. I'm afraid if I didn't like the job, it'd effect the way I felt about skiing. For me, it's better to leave it as an activity I can do when, where, and with whom I want. Keeps the joy in it for me.

Edited by Ski Diva - 6/29/2009 at 05:49 pm GMT
post #13 of 34
Yeah, skiing is an escape for me, leaving my cares behind.  I'd hate to think it would become the source of cares.
post #14 of 34
Skiing as a job doesn't exactly create the stresses and cares and need to escape that other jobs do.  It tends to change your idea of what 'work' needs to be like.  At least for me anyway - YMMV.  And I've never been an instructor, just patrol which has a rather different customer dynamic.  At the end of the day/season, I still love to ski.  If working on skis were ever to lessen my enjoyment, I'd quit.  
post #15 of 34
Thread Starter 
For me, the work of instruction really complemented the fun of skiing. Unfortunately, over the years I got so I perfected the technical maneuvers but I forgot how to let out my inner beast. I'm trying to remember that now. Unfortunately, the older I get, the less I want to die, so my psychology doesn't exactly jive with the beast. 
post #16 of 34
^ Ever notice how patrollers ski much differently than instructors?   I'll have to think a bit about how to describe it, but it may have something to do with patrollers being less concerned with the technical maneuvers and more focused on dealing with the terrain.  Patrollers probably find themselves in more varied terrain more often than instructors?  That may lead to more opportunity to let out that 'inner beast.'

Or maybe it''s just that patrollers only make three turns then stop to tie some rope or flagging.  
post #17 of 34
Thread Starter 
Quote:
 Patrollers probably find themselves in more varied terrain more often than instructors?  That may lead to more opportunity to let out that 'inner beast.'

Bingo! Always skiing in a controlled environment makes one more of a "show dog" than a "work dog," so to speak. 
post #18 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post

^ Ever notice how patrollers ski much differently than instructors?    
 

I have noticed the same thing. 
I tend to spend more of my freeskiing time with patroller types than with other instructors.  Most of them admit that they know little about "proper" technique, & often ask about it.  They have adapted their technique to be efficient for the job that they do.  Many patrollers & guides also wear heavy packs a lot of the time.  My observations say that they tend to use their whole body to turn.  Lots of inclination & banking, where most good instructors ski with their feet & legs creating angles to edge & bend the skis.
Quote:
Or maybe it''s just that patrollers only make three turns then stop to tie some rope or flagging.  
 

A lot of instructors only make 3 turns before they stop & analyze them

JF
 
post #19 of 34

I am an ex-patroller and agree that they have their own particular style.  It is usually with skis shoulder width apart, arms a little wide, and little extra rotation, lots of banking, and turning with their whole body as 4ster notes.  Long time patrollers tend to look the same whether they are skiing crud, powder, groomed or bumps.  It is a bombproof style that maximizes stability and minimizes effort in any condition, and comes from having to be the first ones on the mountain and the last ones off.  If you want to find the least physically demanding line down the mountain watch a patroller.  They tend to make the fewest turns and will know the smoothest lines through the bumps.

If you are often required to ski with a pack full of explosives in a white out, and regularly ski cut snow in no-fall zones, self preservation unconsciously dictates your style pretty quickly.

post #20 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by mudfoot View Post

I am an ex-patroller and agree that they have their own particular style.  It is usually with skis shoulder width apart, arms a little wide, and little extra rotation, lots of banking, and turning with their whole body as 4ster notes.  


Hmmm, sort of like this?



post #21 of 34
Exactly!  I see that style and think, "you couldn't knock him over with a truck."  If he accidently skied off a cliff 20 ft. down the hill, he's already got it covered.  That looks like some funky snow, yet he looks stable and balanced, although not very pretty from an instuctor's point of view.
Edited by mudfoot - 6/30/2009 at 07:02 pm GMT
Edited by mudfoot - 6/30/2009 at 07:03 pm GMT
post #22 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Lee View Post

Hmmm, sort of like this? 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mudfoot View Post

Exactly!  I see that style and think, "you couldn't knock him over with a truck."  If he accidently skied off a cliff 20 ft. down the hill, he's already got it covered.  That looks like some funky snow, yet he looks stable and balanced, although not very pretty from an instuctor's point of view.

Heh, that's me a month or two ago on a local bc run.  Clearly I'm no instructor and 4ster's comments about patrollers knowing little about proper technique hit home.  I don't have the tools or nomenclature to know what's going on with turns, but with that series of posts above you guys have really helped me to understand some things about my skiing - it's very interesting.  It also explains the look on the instructor's faces when they're watching patrollers where I work.  

I might even have to take a lesson sometime.  No, I go too far.  

Sorry to the OP 'bout the threadjack.  
post #23 of 34
Thread Starter 
Bob,

Consider yourself invited to attend EpicSki Academy sometime, if you decide to take some instruction it might as well be the best.

post #24 of 34
Hear, hear!!!! The EpicSki Academy is what made me an instructor . . . . but go to them anyway. 
post #25 of 34
Something that's important to my joy in instruction. Of course there's the great satisfaction of creating smiles etc. . . . but the cameraderie of being with my fellow instructors is beyond description. We're all so different - "diverse" is the fashionable word of the day. But we're stuck together like Siamese twins, we party together all year long, and we're friends to the end. When one or two of us swaps the bronze pin for the silver, we all rejoice. When one of us is down on himself because of shitty skiing, all are there to support and buck up. We have nothing in common except skiing, and we have everything in common. I'm expecting the patrollers may feel the same way - but screw patrolling! Too much like actual work! Not that I wouldn't want to ski like that . . .
post #26 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by oboe View Post

Hear, hear!!!! The EpicSki Academy is what made me an instructor . . . . but go to them anyway. 

Heh. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by oboe View Post

... but the cameraderie of being with my fellow instructors is beyond description. We're all so different - "diverse" is the fashionable word of the day. But we're stuck together like Siamese twins, we party together all year long, and we're friends to the end. When one or two of us swaps the bronze pin for the silver, we all rejoice. When one of us is down on himself because of shitty skiing, all are there to support and buck up. We have nothing in common except skiing, and we have everything in common. I'm expecting the patrollers may feel the same way ...

Well, patrollers do feel much the same way...but it's a little different.  For instance, when one or two of us achieve a higher level of training, the others expect them to buy beer - good beer - then we rejoice.  When one of us is down on himself because of shitty skiing, the others taunt them and make them buy beer - "Cowboy up, cupcake" and "Suck it up, princess" are typical "buck ups."  We're stuck together though, but that's probably because no one else can stand the way we smell.   
post #27 of 34
FYI, Mr. Lee: You're right about the smell part. 
post #28 of 34
Just completed my first year learning to be an instructor. From what I can tell, instructors spend a lot more time skiing than patrollers, at my hill at least. While I did ski more cheaper and better, the reason i decided to try this was I really wanted to be able to turn others onto the sport. I rarely ski without a big smile on my face and i wanted to be able to share that.

Oboe is right about the cameraderie, i used to ski alone a good bit, not so much anymore. Our director is really fair with assignments and we are treated very well by ski area management. Other benefits that i didn't anticipate, the ability to be in "clinic" on days the lift lines are crowded, Sunday morning clinics lead by a variety of L3 & even an occasional examiner. Later in the season i'll admit I'd rather sleep in a bit than be ready to ski at 8:00am and it's tough to have to work when some friends are free skiing, but for me working at it brings way more joy than it takes from my skiing. Skiing should be fun, skiing should be an adventure, teaching people to ski is not always fun but it is a good adventure.
post #29 of 34
Thread Starter 
The patrollers at Bridger are gods. Their technique is rock solid, if not particularly flowing and graceful. I respect them and want to be more like them, skiing any kind of snow on any kind of pitch without batting an eyelash, clearly unconcerned with "how do I look?" Instruction is all about the demonstration, so being concerned with "how do I look?" is a job requirement for instructors.

Jimmy, I've been teaching skiing for a lo-o-o-ng time, and I agree, there's nothing like the gratification of turning people on to skiing, and sometimes even igniting the Skier inside (not what I do, who I am). However, I have seen numerous colleagues have their passion for skiing "used up" in giving it away to others. They hardly ski any more. On the other hand there are guys like Weems Westfeldt and Squatty Schuler, our EpicSki Academy guys, who are both on the nether side of 60 yet still ski with the joy and abandon of teenagers, always improving, both with 40 years of teaching full-time, many years in both hemispheres year-round. 

I suspect it may have to do with the "not what I do, but who I am" distinction. 

 
post #30 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo View Post

The patrollers at Bridger are gods. Their technique is rock solid, if not particularly flowing and graceful. I respect them and want to be more like them, skiing any kind of snow on any kind of pitch without batting an eyelash, clearly unconcerned with "how do I look?" Instruction is all about the demonstration, so being concerned with "how do I look?" is a job requirement for instructors.

Patrollers do ski a lot. Not to mention they are the first ones on the hill and the last off. A majority have a run or two before the lift starts turning for everyone else. The runs they get are not your normal runs either they involve carrying and moving things around the mountain. When it comes to gated areas patrollers get the joy of being the guinea pigs. Which I am sure they actually fight over because it involves playing with explosives a lot of the times. In hanging out with both groups it is typically the patrollers talking about spending their days off at other resorts skiing.

Day in and day out the instructors do not take as many free runs. The snowboard instructors seem to spend the most time on the hill out of all the instructors. I am not sure if it has to do with the generally younger age or not. As for the ski instructors they tend to sit around and wait for the perfect conditions. After line up on an average day the majority of instructors hang out talking then slowly wander back to the lockeroom or hit the lodge for some coffee. It is a small majority that turn and head to the lift. Now on powder days they are ducking lessons left and right trying to get up and get some runs.

I think the behavior of these two groups is a great example of skiing as work. The patrollers skiing is not their work per say. Their work is more like a paremadic and the skis are just their vehicle to move around the mountain. A instructor skiing is their work. They are constantly demonstrating. When they are not teaching form is one of the top things on their mind. Most instructors feel when they are freeskiing they are still demonstrating. It is much easier to get burnt out when skiing is constantly on your mind.
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