How Much Do You Need?

We have all seen the ads and the movies with the young and beautiful expert skiers floating down endless trails with over the head powder on a Blue Bird day. That's all great, but there is a lot of good skiing out there that isn't exactly like that. If you only ski those kinds of days and those kinds of mountains you would miss out on a lot of great skiing. I know people that only go out when it's warm, not crowded, perfect snow (read groomed to death). I know other people, including myself, that will ski the first WROD (white ribbon of death) at the first place it's available. These same people will hike up after the lifts have stopped turning and try to find enough connected snow to make one more run. These people will of course ski just about anything as often as they can. I'm not implying that everybody should do the same thing it's just that it doesn't have to be perfect to be worth skiing.

My local mountain has 1100 foot of vertical, 44 trails and night skiing. It is well cared for with state of the art snowmaking and a good lift system. If it weren't for this "small" mountain I would not be getting near the skiing in that I do and I would not be an instructor. By most standards it is a small mountain, but it is good skiing. I and a lot of other people have learned to ski because of this places night skiing programs. Places like Whistler, Steamboat, and Stowe have much more to ski, but it's all skiing no matter where you go. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the bigger mountains as much as the next guy, but I won't pass up a chance to go skiing just because the place is small. The same goes for the conditions. We don't often (read never) get over the head power here, but we do get snow, and I have learned to ski in just about any condition. Some conditions are better then others but it's all skiing. Back in the day when I first started going to the night programs at my local mountain I could leave work at 4:00 and be on the snow by 6:00 and ski till last chair at 10:45. The snow was often well worn and it could be brutally cold, but I was out of the office and on the snow in the same day. That got me through a lot of days where I was chained to my bureaucratic desk. Which I guess is kind of the point here, getting away to enjoy skiing doesn't have to be an intricately planned and monumentally expensive. The expensive seems to be what drives the "only ski when it's prefect" mentality. Who can blame those that whole to that philosophy, with lift tickets approaching $100+ a day for most large resorts, along with $12 hamburgers and $10 beers. At that rate most of us can't afford to waste time on bad days. However, with a little planning and doing with a little less you can get a lot more skiing. There are deals and plans that can reduce your expense considerably such as value cards, midweek skiing, traveling with groups and joining clubs for bus trips and of course the aforementioned night skiing. For years my friend and I signed up for the night adult program at our local mountain, seven nights of skiing once a week with a one hour lesson each week. We would book from work just a little bit early, get geared up, I would kiss the wife goodnight (we would get back just a little late) and be on the snow for the 6:00 start time.

Now the first night of this program could be a little confusing, there could be a 100 or so supposed adults that needed to divided up into the groups that had reasonably close skill levels. Over the years that we participated in this program the"grouping"techniques took

several different approaches. During the early years we would all line up on one side of the slope with an instructor at the bottom in the middle of the trail, when you were signaled you were to ski down past the instructor showing him/her your best turns (no pressure). Based on how well you made those 2 ½ turns he/she would assign you to a group and you were all stuck with one another for the next 7 weeks. Somewhere along the way this time consuming approach was changed. Instead of assessing 100+ skiers based on 2 ½ turns, the skier would asses themselves and be placed in a group of supposedly the same skill level. When you arrived for the first evening you would be shown signs (later videos) nailed to the wall with descriptions of the various skill levels and told to pick the one that best fit you.  There was a small problem with that approach, most skiers don't have a clue as to their skill level and if they (including me) did they had a tendency to rank themselves a level higher then they were under the mistaken impression that they would learn more from a higher level group. After the first week or so people would be shifted around after the group's instructor got chance to asses everyone. It often didn't take long. The self assessment method could lead to a very diverse group. Later on in my skiing life when I was on the "other" side, meaning I was the instructor, I had quite a different perspective. I was now the guy that sent people to different groups and they were not always eager to go. Part of the night adult thing was to spend time with your friends, so if they didn't want to go they would have to accept the slower/faster pace of the rest of the group. Most of the time it went well, after all they were "adults" in most of the sense of the word. Some of these "adults" seemed to think they would ski better if they were more relaxed when they got to their lesson, this meant a trip to the bar for a couple just before the lesson. Let me tell you, as a person that has been on both sides of that equation, it doesn't help a bit. It may make your falls a little easier to endure, but it also makes them a more likely to occur. Despite all of the above many people learned to ski through these programs, myself included, and almost everybody did enjoy the time they spent on this "small" mountain. So what I'm trying to say is, if you get a chance to go skiing, go. It doesn't matter what mountain, what the conditions are, what the weather is like, it's skiing and that's all that matters.

Operations Shots