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Jimmy's Ski Tips and Tricks

Tips and tricks for skiing by Jimmy Brokaw, certified Level II PSIA Instructor. Generally I'll write weekly during the season about something new or interesting that I learned, or taught, over the week, and less frequently during summer months.

A New Generation

Wednesday December 6, 2017

Pop Quiz - What's the average age of a skier today?

Answer: 38.

Thirty-eight isn't old, but it isn't exactly young, either. We often think of skiers as being a bunch of teenagers and kids, but the reality is most of the people on the slopes have 401(k)s and are more worried about retirement security and health insurance than getting back to school before final exams.

I ran across this post last week, which argued that skiing is expensive, and there's a "bubble of wealth" that's getting older while subsequent generations haven't seen increasing prosperity. There may be some truth to that, but not every ski area is Deer Valley, and you can be a skier without a platinum credit card.

More than money, there's an issue of demographics. There just aren't enough kids and teenagers going out and learning how to ski. Without young blood, skiing will age, and eventually die as a sport. This is a great problem for ski areas, and thus, all skiers.

Pictured to the left is my son, twelve years ago. Today he's a ski instructor. Introducing children to skiing provides a lifetime of fun in the snow. I learned to ski at thirteen, and have spent close to a thousand days of my life skiing. The impact we can make on a child's life is enormous.

When I first became a ski instructor, I was trained on teaching beginners. Once I mastered that, I learned to teach children, then eventually intermediate skiers, and finally advanced skiers. Training new instructors last weekend, I started with how to teach children. Something had changed, and that change was a recognition that teaching children to love the sport was perhaps the most important thing we do.

Whether you're a new instructor, or a parent, please take the time to consider the importance of not just teaching children how to ski, but teaching them to enjoy and love it. You're not only helping them have a happy lifetime, but you could very well be saving the sport.

It's early season yet. I promise to have some tips and tricks about actually improving skiing soon.

A Return To Stoke

Tuesday December 5, 2017

This is a return in many ways. I've returned to Washington State after five years on the East Coast. I've returned to big mountain skiing. I've returned to my old ski school. I've returned to my old friends. Perhaps most importantly to you, I've returned to running a blog after a long absence!

It's also opening doors to new things, too. My son is now a paid ski instructor for the first time — and sharing the driving responsibilities to and from the resort! I'm stepping up my game as a staff trainer, where I'll be coaching other ski instructors more than actually teaching the public. And I'm now in a position where my thoughts and ideas can have an even greater impact on the ski instruction community, which is perhaps why I've started writing again.

As this season starts, I think it's important to reflect on why we teach and what we do. There are three things that we ask our instructors to do, and we give them in priority order:

  1. Stay safe - The top priority is safety. Being safe isn't fun, but it doesn't have to be unfun either. Getting hurt, on the other hand, is never fun. Being safe doesn't mean we can't huck over cliffs, but it does mean that we shouldn't huck a cliff that we're not ready for, or that we should jump blindly without checking the landing first.
  2. Share the stoke - Make the guest excited to be there. Make them want to go practice what you've taught. Make them look forward to their next opportunity to be in the snow.
  3. Educate - Teaching is the last of the three priorities. Why? Because if you fail at safety or stoke, then how well you taught is irrelevant.

So let's talk a little about stoke. What is it? Put simply, it's the look you can clearly see on my son's face to the right. Go ahead, click on that photo, and look at his smile. I took that photo two weeks before Snoqualmie opened to the public, as we were skinning up the Alpental return track towards Great Scott Bowl. He's clearly overwhelmed by the beauty and joy of the moment.

Do you remember a moment like that yourself? A time when everything was perfect, and you wish you could just hold onto that moment forever? It probably wasn't the first time you ever put skis on, when you were cold, scared, uncomfortable. Maybe it was the first time you successfully carved, or the first time you went into deep powder. Hopefully you have a lot of memories where the stoke overwhelmed you.

When you are skiing, you need to reach out and find that joy. Make every day on snow as epic as can be. Let the little worries go. Ultimately, it's not really important if the cafeteria has your favorite fried food, or whether they raised prices again this year. What's important, and what you'll remember, is that feeling you had ripping it up. Stoke.

But don't be selfish with your stoke, share it! Share it with the stranger on the chairlift. Share it with your office mates. Share it with your family. Because stoke is a limitless resource, you can give it to others without giving up anything yourself.

Remember, it's not about reaching some goal of perfection in skiing. It's about having stoke. That is the goal, and we should never take our eyes off that goal.

For more information about me, check out the About page. All content copyright 2017 James Brokaw.