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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.