Ski Instructors Take Lessons Too

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There are many perceptions and misperceptions about ski instructors. One of my favorite jokes about the subject is: “How many ski instructors does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer: “Ten. One to screw in the light bulb and nine to say, ‘Nice turns.'” That is funny for a few reasons, but the main reason is because sometimes during ski clinics with other instructors, we are all just standing around commenting on the nice turns we all make.

Despite being a “retired” ski instructor, to maintain my certification levels through Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA), I have to pay yearly dues, and take an educational clinic from them every other year. This year was one of those years, and last weekend I took my clinic at Stratton.

Unlike other clinics that I have taken, such as Advanced Trees and Steeps, the title, “Workshop Clinic” was a little vague. Of course, out of everyone, I showed up late and had to find a group on the mountain. In the dense fog, I wasn’t sure that would happen, but it did, and soon I was skiing with a group led by a woman named Aga who is a jet engine materials engineer – and a ripping ski instructor.

Aga told me that the groups were divided by how much people wanted to ski – slow, medium, fast. I am not sure that I would have chosen to be in the medium group, but I found out after lunch that I was with the right people. As we headed out for the afternoon, the fast group was heading in for lunch…at 1:15. You can call me what you want, but please, don’t call me late for lunch (or breakfast, or snack, or dinner).

Long ago, when I first started teaching skiing, I did not plan to go through the certification process for various reasons. But, I ended up needing to get certified to teach some special clinics, so I finally took my Level 1. I was so impressed with our Examiner (Examiners are the people who teach the teachers) that I continued through the process and every year or so would take another exam.

Once again, I wasn’t disappointed. Some of my group last weekend was “retired” and needed to take the class to maintain certification while others were newer instructors eager to learn more. Aga had what is called a split group – or a group with different needs. However, she did a great job of developing a focus and allowing us to move at our own pace.

I took away a couple things from my weekend clinic. The first was a refresher on a very cool way to ski (I’ll save you from the details) that allows you to power through crisp turns with great control and speed. Perhaps some day I will explain it for you, but not right now.

The second was that group lessons are fun since I always meet super nice people. Of course, my groups are always with other ski instructors, who, for the most part, are personable and friendy people. But, if you take a lesson, you will have one of these instructors as your affable and knowledgable guide.

So, what does the experience amount to for me? Once again, PSIA does a great job and, as usual, I will pay my dues.


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