A Day In the Life of a Part time Instructor


A Day In the Life of a Part time Instructor

As a part time instructor I only have be at the mountain three times a week, even so there are still challenges. Getting to the mountain is the first challenge. Now I live rather close to my mountain, it's 16.4 miles to the lot in which employees are suppose park. Parking in the upper lots isn't that much further, but it does save on the walking time, however if you get caught in those upper lots it will save you a lot of time since you will end up having your weekends free because you will have been asked not to return to the mountain, and by the way turn in your uniform jacket. Parking is very important.


Sometimes just getting to that parking lot is a bit of a challenge. Like most folks I have my morning commute timed to the minute, so it doesn't take much to throw it all off. The most common obstacle occurs during the actual drive time. Like most country roads to a ski area mine is two lanes wide and only has a couple of places to pass, so it only takes one snowplow, one overly cautious Flat Lander, or one  meandering farm vehicle (what they are doing out in the middle of winter I don't know) to screw up a very simple commute. Once the employee parking lot is achieved it does not mean that I'm there, now I must gather up all the gear and hump it up (have you ever noticed that ski lodges always seem to be up hill from the parking lot?) to the locker room. Before actually entering the locker room you have to sign in. If you are on time you get use the beloved yellow highliter to cross off you name, if you got stuck behind one of the above mentioned obstacles the yellow hightliter will have been replaced with the dreaded pink highliter. If you get to much pink...someone will be speaking to you.


Having made it to the actual locker room, with about 7 minutes to get booted up and out on the snow, I check the line up sheet for my posting which can include; private and/or group lessons, from the beginners to black diamond level, (there really aren't many Black Diamond lesson takers that are actually Black Diamond skiers, but one can always hope) with this information memorized it's on to the equipment issues. The appropriate gear is directly related to your posting as well as the weather. If you are assigned to Black Diamond in the morning and beginners in the afternoon you had best hope for an opportunity to shed some layers before the afternoon or you are going to be sweating through your long johns. Those lucky enough to have a "quiver" of skies will have to select the right one for the conditions (not an issue for me). So having memorized postings and selected the appropriate gear (not likely) it's up the steps (more uphill) and out the door to line up.


The first line up of the day is where instructors wander around and grumble, until the Director or Assistant Director shows up to tell us what's what, also known as the morning announcements. After that the guests/students start showing up and the day is off and running and you better keep up. In the beginning of the season the morning announcements often include comments about "inappropriate behavior", such as parking in the wrong lot, (as I said this is a big no no) being late, not having the proper uniform attire, etc. Like any other job, 90% of being a ski instructor is bring at the right place at the right time and doing what you're told. I can usually manage to do what I'm asked, but remembering the rest is another thing altogether. My mountain has several line up times and they are of different increments and in different places on the mountain. It took me a long time to get these straight in my aging head and now that I have them down fairly well I am sure they will be changed.


So now the grumbling and the announcements are over (actually the grumbling never really stops) and the guests/students have started arriving. Now most instructors aren't there just for the seasons pass, and none of the part time adult instructors are there for the money, we do actually enjoy teaching folks and helping them have fun skiing. However we also like to ski, so there can be a bit of a confect. If you are of a mind to get a few runs in between line ups there are several techniques for avoiding assignments. The most common, especially among newbies, is to slink behind everybody else and be quite while avoiding eye contact, this is directly opposed to the, stand up front and appear eager approach, and then there is the, appear to be talking with one of the supervisors about something important, approach. There are several more techniques that may be employed here, but I should mention that none of them actually work. You see the people assigning students/guests have all been in our boots. They know and may have invented some of the aforementioned techniques. So you might as well just stand there and take it as it comes.


As I mentioned before, there are times for group lessons and times for privates and everybody works both. Most prefer privates, because you don't have to tailor the lesson to several different abilities, but it really doesn't make that much of a difference except for the fact that groups are 1 ½ hours long and privates are 1 hour. What makes a real difference is the size of the students, if they are under 3 feet tall you could be in for a long lesson. People in the know tell me that 75% to 80% of the lessons given are to students 14 years old and younger. So there are a lot of students under 3 feet tall. Now size alone does not make for a difficult lesson, however many of these poor kids have been dealing with the trials of a multi-day ski trip and their normal schedule is so screwed up that they are more sleep deprived then a college caffeine addict during finals week. Half the time they are being dropped of for you to baby sit for an hour so the parents can get at least one hour of unencumbered skiing, or napping, or whatever they can enjoy in one hour. This is all part of the job, you smile and slide the youngens away from their parents, hoping for a peaceful separation.  Your exploration of the mountain with these charges may result in one run down the beginners slope and a cup of hot chocolate in the lodge, but as long as they and their parents are happy, you have done your job.


One thing about this work is the verity of people you meet. You can go from a group of youngens to a more eclectic group consisting of adults, semi-adults and a teenage or two. You have to be able to take them as they come, and make it fun and worthwhile, for everybody. It may be a challenge, but it is still fun, after all it is all about the skiing.  


Holidays and weekends can be very busy lesson wise and it is not unusual to instructors to work through lunch. Personally I could stand to miss a few meals, but when your working on the beginners slope, down wind from the lodge, and they start grilling up hamburgers and pumping out the fumes, you can get might hungry during your 1 ½ lesson with an eclectic group of beginners. Many instructors carry an energy bar of some kind, but that just doesn't measure up to a nice greasy burger.


I don't want to give the impression that instructing is all youngens and beginners. There are lots of lessons with full size folks who are intermediate or better skiers that are looking to improve. It's great when you get through a lesson and your students are excited about the out come. Whether they have mastered some new technique or now are on their way to mastering it, you have helped them improve, and that feeling is part of what makes it all worthwhile.


Last line up of the day, I'm on time and in the right place. What more could they ask for. Late afternoon lessons are not all that common so often you don't get an assignment, making this is a good time to get a few free runs. After those well earned free runs it's time to call it a day. However even this job has paperwork. If you don't fill out your envelope and deposit your lesson tickets in it you don't get paid. So here I set in the locker room desperately trying to remember who I taught, when and what level skier they were as well as how many students I had in my groups. I know this would go a lot better if I filled it out during the day, but that just never seems to happen. After a little creative writing I deposit my envelope and I'm officially done for the day. All I have to do now is pry off my boots, gather up my gear and stumble out to the employee parking lot. Tired, but happy, and eager to come back and do it all over again.




Operations Shots