Day 61 – Riding GNU Board with Magnum Traction and Reverse Camber (Feb 21, 2009)

Morning Lesson

It’s a beautiful sunny day at Grouse Mountain today.  I taught a drop in lesson this morning for level 4’s.  The 3 kids told me that they are comfortable turning on blues and blacks so we decided to head over to Centennial on our first run.  Turned out they were having trouble side slipping down an easy blue run.  The snow was still a bit hard-packed from last night (it usually soften up by noon).  Since the students were having so much trouble side slipping, I decided to work on their balance first.  We started with a few exercises of keeping their weight centered then moved on to turning on mellow terrain at the mid way point of Centennial.  My snowboard is set at 21 & 9 degrees Goofy stance for aggressive carving.  I demonstrated how to turn switch since all my students are regular stance.  after a few turns I hit an icy patch and I fell and tumbled quite a few times down the hill.  Both my helmet and goggles fell out like you see on bails in snowboard videos.  I looked up at the kids and they all looked really frightened.  If an instructor with 10 years experience is falling down on a mellow blue run, what is going to happen to snowboarders that have only snowboarded for 10 days?  I then had to tell them to slide towards me and we’ll try it again.  This time is was a genuine fall, not the intentional bail that I talked about a few months ago.  After finding out their ability are not quite up to par yet for the blue run, we went over to paper trail to practice some turns, and this time, I made sure I was riding goofy again.

Riding GNU’s Altered Genetics

GNU Altered Genetics

In the afternoon, there were no lessons scheduled so most of the instructors just chilled at the hut, chatting and trying to get a goggle tan.  After finding out I could go home from my supervisor, my friend Eric lend me his GNU Altered Genetics board with Reverse Camber and Magne-Traction to try out.  The minute I put it on, it felt really wobbly.  My freeride board is so stiff and heavy, this board is the complete opposite.  I could actually feel the bumps on the snow underneath the snowboard, I felt like if I twist hard enough, the board could actually snap in half.  At first it was really hard to turn because the reverse camber felt so weird.  I then tried doing butter: I was able to lift the board up so much higher than my own board and spin with more control.  I then tried an Ollie and it didn’t take too much effort to get lots of air.  Eric then told me to try carving.  The snow was quite soft and slushy by this time so I figure I’ll try it.  After my first carving turn I looked back at my track and was amazed by the deep trenches the Magne-traction made.  For the second and third turn, I went really fast and carve up hills making 3/4 of a circle on snow.  I was able to grip on the snow even when the snowboard was carving up hills.  For going fast, however, I find the board a bit too wobbly, it chatters quite a lot because the board is quite soft.  The tech guy at Boardroom said that getting a magne-traction board with camber will be better for going fast and through steep icy conditions.

I have not taken the board into the park because it’s my friend’s board and I dont’ want to wreck it so I cannot tell you how it is on rails or jumps.  Another friend Snap his Skate-Banana in half going off a 40 foot jump and landing on the tail of his board.  For boardercross or racing, I would still get a stiff carving board with hard boots because you would be able to make sure the edges are sharp enough to grip on the ice and to go fast.

—————update—————————————————————

Iocn from locnguyen.com sent me this link on the discussion of Reverse Camber : http://www.bomberonline.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=24000

Working as Ski / Snowboard Instructors (Part 2): Making a Living

2. Making a living

Instructor teaching Private Lesson

Many instructors make a living by having a full time job in areas such as accounting, Information technology, and construction in order to fuel their passion for teaching on weekends or week nights.  My friend Richard has a full time job as an “IT Manager in order to pay the bills [, and works as a] Ski Instructor at Grouse Mountain to feed the passion.” Some will move up to become supervisors or managers of a snow school, which many found out later they do not get to ski at all, it’s all about paper work and organizing other instructors.  Some instructors teach full time but have other part time jobs on nights and weekends.  Snocon sum it up quite well in his comment on my last post: “It’s definitely a job for someone with a passion for being on the mountain and spreading the stoke, not for anyone who is just in it for the money and a free lift pass.”


(Video Credit: VanRiders.com) James is a CASI 2 / CSIA 2 Instructor at Grouse Mountain teaching Private Request lessons.

An instructor can make a better living by marketing and promoting themselves in order to get private request lessons.  Private request lessons pays the instructors 3-4 times the hourly wage depending on the size of the private lesson and the resort an instructor is working for. The local mountains in Vancouver encourage private lessons because it make both the resort and the instructors more money.  It’s a win-win situation.  The resort will not have to do as much marketing and advertising for the Snow School because instructors will be out there promoting themselves to the public in order to make a living.  If every instructor is out there marketing the mountain’s products, then the mountain will have 40 to a couple hundred instructors promoting the mountain free of charge.

As I learned in my marketing class in university: it costs less money to keep an existing customer than it does to find a new ones.  If a student is pleased with the private lesson given by an instructor, they are more willing to come back year after year to learn from the same instructor.  In later articles, I will talk more about methods of attracting new students and keeping them.

Even if a potential customer finds private lessons too expensive, they might still take a drop-in lesson and pay for the lesson, lift pass, and rentals.  Every instructor at the ski resorts I’ve worked for is encouraged to hand out business cards to everyone they see on the street or on the hill and help out any beginner they see on the hill who are struggling in order to promote themselves.  I will talk about the demographic of the students and how the instructor should approach teaching in order to get repeat lessons in the next couple of articles.

Working as Ski / Snowboard Instructors (Part 1): Background

I’ve been thinking about writing on how to promote yourself as a ski or snowboard instructor for a while now, there are so many ideas that it might take several pages to finish writing, so I’ve decided to break it into different sections and write a bit each day.  Let’s start with the background on why we need to promote ourselves. (I might be editing it later as I write more or getting comments from readers)

1. Working in British Columbia

Ski and Snowboard instructors are seen as great career choice to the general public because of ski movies such as Aspen Extreme where instructors are portrayed as having great lifestyles.  In some countries, such as France, Instructors are respected and paid as much as lawyers and doctors.  Within a ski resort, instructors are disliked by other mountain staffs because staffs from other departments are under the misconceptions that instructors get paid for skiing or riding around.

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Where in reality, “instructors get paid peanuts”.  In British Columbia, part time instructors have to be on the hill for 8 hours (1 day) and gets paid a minimum of 2 hours, and full time instructors need to be on the hill for 40+ hours a week and gets paid a minimum of 20 hours a week.  Even though the hourly wage is great, but if you average out the time instructors spent on the hill, they actually get paid minimum wage or lower than minimum wage.  The free lift pass is a great benefit but if you need to pay rent, eat, or go to the movies, you probably do not make enough to cover it.

Lots of foreigners came over to Canada to teach in ski resorts for a ski holiday but finds out they do not make enough to cover rent and had to return home (source: WhistlerWatch).  In the previous years, if an instructor gets hurt at Whistler, they would get placed in restaurants or another desk job.  This year, because of recession, any instructor that gets hurt would get laid off.

Read on for ways to make a living as a ski / Snowboard Instructor…

Day 48 – Jumping and Spinning on Skis

Skier on Cypress Mountain

It’s been almost 2 weeks since my last post, I have been working everyday from 8am to 4pm and then go skiing after work until 10pm.  Although I did take Monday off work just to ski all day in warm sunny condition.  As I am preparing for my CSIA level 1 (Ski Instructor) certification, I’m putting most of my energy into practicing skiing.  I still teach snowboarding and train once a week on snowboards but my focus right now is to get my skiing techniques up to par before the exam.

After practicing on my own for a few weeks, I figure I better take a lesson to make sure I’m on the right track.  As Cypress Mountain offer ski instruction at night (Grouse doesn’t), I naturally came back here for another lesson tonight (Thursday night).  My instructor for tonight is Elias.  He is a CSIA level 3 (Ski), CASI level 2 (Snowboard) instructor.  He has taught at Cypress Mountain for the last 5 years.  He has been skiing and snowboarding for 25 years, and teaching for 18 of those years.  He was a cross country skier before he started alpine skiing.  He has skied and taught in quite a few countries in Europe when he first started teaching.  He has also taught in the United States and skied in South America.

skiing at Grouse Mountain (January 24, 2009)

His vast amount of experience really shown through in his teaching.

My goal for tonight was to learn 3 techniques.

1. learn pivot turns

2. learn spinning on the snow

3. learn to jump off small kickers.

We started the lesson off with him explaining the technical side of pivoting.  He showed me on a blue run how to point my skis down the fall line (really scary), count to three, then pivot until my skis are pointing up hills.  I thought that was scary until he told me to do the same thing backwards.  We then started working on side slipping (like snowboarding), and then falling leaf – forwards and backwards.  It got better after I practiced a few times but the pointing skis down the fall line for 3 seconds is still really scary.

We then went over to Collins (Green run) where he taught me to traverse across the hill until my skis are on the snowbank, then ski backwards until the back of my skis are pointing up the hill again.  We then went on to learn how to do pivot turns backwards and then moved onto spinning on skis without using poles.  It was so encouraging to be taught by a ski instructor who is also a snowboard instructor.  He knows how to relate skiing to snowboarding, explaining in a language I would understand.

The last thing we worked on was our jumps.  We started off with jumping on the snow while we do pivot turns, then we went up on the side banks of Collins where he showed me the different techniques of jumping and worked up to a 180 degree jump.  When we were skiing down the hill, he also pointed out to me what I am doing wrong in my carving and showed me the correct way of doing it and why we do it that way.  It made my carving much more stable.

I would say this is the best ski lesson I have ever had, and I have taken a lot of ski lessons over the years.  Elias was really knowledgeble and could explain the mechnics of skiing simple enough so that a snowboarder like me could understand.  Elias teaches on Thursday nights at Cypress Mountain, I highly recommand taking a lesson with him if you want to become a better skier.

Day 30 – Teaching non-English Speaker Snowboarding

I had an interesting time teaching a non-English speaker on Saturday.  My snowboard student came to Vancouver for a 3 week vacation.  This particular student spoke a few basic English phrases and understood about half of what I was saying.  I understand how it is like not to understand or speak English because I was like that when I first move to Canada many years ago.  I had to think of creative methods in order to help this student understand my instructions.  The Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors (CASI) Certification did not prepare us for teaching non-English speakers.

I tried many different methods in teaching this student.  At the beginning of the lesson, I did my usual instructions by the CASI text book and demonstrated on my snowboard how to do a side slip.  He stood up, lean on his back foot and started to turn but fell down every time he tried.  After he climbed back to the top of the bunny hill, he explained to me that he surfed for 3 years back in his country and he is trying to mimic his surfing style on the snowboard.  As I have surfed in Tofino in the past, I understood where he is coming from.  I then told him to show me how he stands when he surfed and then tweak his posture into the proper snowboarding posture.  when that didn’t work, I walked with him while he is on his snowboard, showing him every step of the turn and how to come to a stop after each turn.  I took him down the hill several times and adjusted his posture while he tried to turn on his own before he finally understood what I was trying to convey to him.

While on the chair lift, he asked me: “what to do to go to the mountains?”.  It took me awhile before I understood that he was asking me about the other ski resorts in the area.  I obviously couldn’t promote the other ski resorts because they are in competition with my ski resort.  I gave him some suggestions on where to track down those information himself but encouraged him to come back because the ski resort I work for is definitely the best in the area.

By the end of the lesson, this student was linking turns comfortable down the bunny hill without falling.  I was surprised myself not only because this was his first time snowboarding but the fact that he didn’t understand half of what I was saying but was able to learn was pretty amazing.  It turned out to be a good lesson afterall.

Day 26 – Wet Wet day at Cypress Mountain

I was originally planning to hit up both Grouse and Cypress today but my lesson at Grouse was canceled due to the rain, so I decided to stay at Cypress for the rest of the evening.  I took a lesson at Cypress Mountain with Matt from New Zealand.  He is a New Zealand Stage 2 Snowboard Instructor (SBINZ), which is the equivalent of CASI level 3 in the Canadian system.  Matt only teaches part-time at Cypress Mountain and works in construction full time.  I came into the lesson thinking I just need a few tips on my teaching, but turned out I actually got a big improvement on my own riding.  Watching my riding from a fresh set of eyes really helped.

Snowboard Lesson at Cypress Mountain

Taking a Snowboard Lesson at Cypress Mountain

I told Matt I wanted to work on my jumps.  I can do 180’s and 360’s easy but could never rotate enough to do a 540.  Matt pointed out I should be looking at the take off with my eye and have my hips squared to my board, which will give me more balance in spinning a 540.  With these tiny adjustments to my stance, I was spinning faster and getting more air.  Matt then demonstrated a 360 static jump with his board and a few 360’s riding on the flats.  It was amazing.  I have never seen anyone spin that fast in the air.

Matt taking me down Collins

I guess, even after ten years of riding, there’s still a lot I can improve on by learning from others from different backgrounds and higher certifications.  I’m really glad I took the lesson today.

It was raining the whole time I was up there so I was completely soaked after only an hour of riding, so I decided to go home.  I really wished I have brought my garbage bag to wear underneath my gortex jacket and plastic bags to wear over my gortex socks like I usually do when it is raining.

Raining on Cypress Mountain

Old Ski School office on Cypress Mountain

Day 21 – Last Day of 2008 @ Grouse Mountain

This morning started out with high winds so the chair was not open to the public until 10 am.

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Canceled Morning lessons due to High Wind

We all stood around the base waiting to hear whether the Tram will be open or not.  Some of the Instructors started shoveling and salting the ice on the ground.  Lots of customers decided not to wait and went home instead.

Instructors Shoveling

Great Team Effort !!

Instructors Shoveling

The staffs got to the top of the mountain right before 10 am, it was the most amazing view I have ever seen.

Grouse Mountain - The Cut @ 10 am December 31, 2008

Beautiful Scenery from the Tram

Grouse Mountain - The Cut @ 10 am December 31, 2008

Grouse Mountain @ 10 am December 31, 2008

Ally and Eileen

After the general public started getting on the mountain and the staffs finished setting up the signs, we decided to go for a run.  Since most of the general public went home instead of waited for the tram to open, the mountain was pretty empty the whole morning even though the tram was open to the public.

Fresh Tracks at Grouse Mountain

My friends and I went out and rode around for 2 hours.  We did the green run, the blue runs, and then the black and the double black diamond runs.  When we went down Purgatory (Double Black Diamond Run), the powder was so deep my friend C. decided to go for a big jump (see video).

Purgatory @ Grouse Mountain (Scott & Chrystal in the photo)

C. got really big air then landed right before a tree and banged her forehand on the tree.  Her forehead was pretty swollen afterward.  She also lost her goggles so we had to stop to look for it in the deep powder.

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Half way down purgatory, we decided to cut to the left to see what Outer Limit was like.  When we got down to the bottom of Outer Limits we saw beautiful untouched powder in the trees on the other side of the cattrack.  It was not roped off so we know the fresh powder in the trees is still considered inbound and there probably won’t be any avalanche danger.  We decided to go for it and it was amazing. We got to a part where the trees were too dense to board in and realized the only way back to the chair lift was to hike out.  My friends had one foot out and tried to skate out.  I made the mistake of taking off my board and stepping into the snow.  I sunk to my waist in the powder.  It took awhile to climb back onto my board and eventually climb back to the trails that led to the chair lift.

Grouse Mountain Snowboard Instructor teaching

Grouse Mountain Snowboard Instructor teaching against the beautiful backdrop of Vancouver

Grouse Mountain Snowboard Instructor teaching

Grouse Mountain Snowboard Instructor teaching

Grouse Mountain Snowboard Instructor teaching

Grouse Mountain Snowboard Instructor teaching

Grouse Mountain Snowboard Instructor teaching

Grouse Mountain Staff got onto the cover of the newspaper

My friend got onto the cover of a newspaper.

Pikachu visiting Grouse Mountain

and finally, Pikachu came for a visit of Grouse Mountain.

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