From an Instructor: Form Follows Function


One of the few items provided by my ski school for the instructors is the uniform.  Most years the pants, jacket and a vest are the three things that we do not have to pay for, but truly do not belong to us.  There are basic rules with the uniform such as no smoking, no drinking alcohol and no poor skiing while wearing company property.  OK, the bad skiing part isn't a rule, but the others are taken very, very seriously.  Other necessary equipment from long underwear, to boots, skis, poles, bindings are our expense, and most of us include other "necessary" items-anything from basic tuning/repair tools to fun stuff for kids (especially during a family private).  Small bottles of sunscreen, extra gear for clients (I'd rather have a spare small hat for the client who doesn't bring one and is miserable when caught unprepared than not), and the occasional strange request from clients.

I have brought bananas and vitamin packets for the client who suffers from altitude sickness or is recovering from the night before.  I had to bring a hair brush for a client whose personal assistant forgot to pack one and she had no idea how to get one.  There was a time I brought a large wrench in my uniform to help fix a clients Jeep after skiing-that's another story, though.  Its no surprise that the combination of a uniform that is designed for function versus fashion and the stuff I load into it make me look like the Michelin Man float at the Macy's Parade.

And function is sometimes a somewhat flexible term.  Every couple of years, our company changes the uniform sometimes due to a new deal with a clothing manufacturer.  Occasionally they change the style or color slightly although most of the time, the design is close to the original due to tradition and the fact that we need to be recognizable.  There have been questionable years, uniform-wise.  One year the sponsor uniform manufacturer went with a lovely lilac/lavender number for supervisors which made the male supervisors look very pretty.  It only lasted that year, though.  The uniforms are also recycled to other resorts when we change to another version, and it can be a little strange to visit another resort and see so many "co-workers".

We are strongly discouraged (read: not allowed) to decorate our uniforms and sometimes when an instructor is all suited up for a cold day, I rely on the name badge or sometimes the boot/ski combo to recognize my peers.  Some of the instructors have such a unique style and work so frequently that I can fairly easily recognize them from a distance, but I have confused them on occasion, which doesn't go over well when it is a male mistaken for a female, for instance.

There are exceptions to the undecorated uniform rule.  Keith was a terrific instructor who rigged up his uniform with working turn signals for the busy times.  He would raise his left arm and his armpit would blink, same with the right side.  Very clever!  Holiday decorations are usually accepted, and our hats can have some personality.   

I once found the most effective way to get my uniform pants repaired (they had a tear on the rump from tree skiing and I had tried for quite a while to get my "bunny tail" fixed since the insulation was coming out of it) was to patch it with duct tape the day I was scheduled to ski with the investors who owned the resort.  I had new pants the next morning.  Last year, my husband's clients insisted that it was a tradition to ski the first chair on New Year's day with everyone in kilts-the traditional way.  They had 6 instructors booked, and all participated except for one on that 0 degree morning.  They have the pictures to prove it, and it was the only run of the day where nobody fell.

I have a lot of uniform memories, but one stands out.  I swear our uniforms that particular year would have been very successful in the paper towel market.  Not only did they not repel water, I swear they attracted and absorbed it.  For a ski area that is infamous for "dry" light snow, it was one of the wettest on record, including some days of rain.  The Australian instructors taught us some tricks since it is frequently wet and rainy while they teach at their home resorts (something I learned when I started teaching "down under"), but I wouldn't be surprised if there is still a dripping uniform out their somewhere even though it's been made that much of an impact!

Operations Shots