Day 53 – Dream Wedding on Snowboards (Feb 8, 2009)

One of my friend got married this weekend, she and her husband had a wedding on snow.  They are both passionate about snowboarding so they got married on snowboards with their family and friends on the hill with them.  At one point, my friend did a jump off a kicker while holding her wedding dress up with one hand.  This is definitely a special wedding that people will remember for a long time to come.

Although I do not have any photos of the wedding, I did photographed this girl who sewn a pair of Northface Snowboard pants into a dress and skied with it in Mount Baker on Monday.  She was kind enough to pose for me in the parking lot.

Girl Skied in a Northface "Dress" (Feb 9, 2009)

Girl Skied in a Northface "Dress" (Feb 9, 2009)

Back to blogging about snowboarding.  I taught a zone camp in the afternoon.  After my last zone camp, I figured I will do thing differently this time around.  Instead of joking around too much with the kids, I would lay down the rules on the first day and be authoritative so they will listen to me for the rest of the month.  When they understood and follow the rules for their own safety, then we can start to have some fun learning.  I focused on Class Management today.  Since it was a really busy day, I had my students sat in 2 lines, making sure they each have a partner.  I told them to sit in the same order every time so the class won’t be too spread out and it would be easy for them to remember the names of the other students.  The Student with the most experience get to sit in the back to look after the other kids while the 2nd best student sat in the very front to lead the class.

Students line up in 2 lines for Safety (Feb 9, 2009)

This strategy worked until one of the kid’s mom showed up at our lesson.  The kid was really hungry so his mom bought him a Beaver Tail and a hot chocolate.  I was glad the rest of the class all brought snacks with them otherwise it would be chaos.  We had a ten minute break to eat.  After the break, the kid with the Beaver Tail refused to put on his snowboard, he said he was too sleepy after eating.  He spent the rest of the class lying on the side of the hill and would not participate in the drills we were doing.  At the end of the class when we were going to take the chair lift up, he decided he wants to walk up instead while the rest of the class wanted to ride the lift.  This did not become a problem because his mom came and picked him up when I was showing the kids how to get off the chair lift in the Static Chair between the two Lumberjack Poles.  It will surely become interesting next week when we go down the Cut; it will be a long walk up if he still refuses to take the chair lift.

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Day 52 – Ski the Peak (Feb 7, 2009)

Today I had no lessons in the morning so I took both my snowboard and my skis up the gondola (Man ! is it Heavy !!). My friend Richard said I look like a traveling sports equipment salesman. There were not much new snow overnight so I was expecting everything to be icy.
Very Crowded at Grouse Mountain Feb 9, 2009 (taken from the top of Peak Chair)

On my first run I went down Centennial, there was a ski slolam race going on for the Tyee ski club so the left side of the run was closed. Buckhorn was also closed due to the race. Only the right half of Centennial was open so I went down it. It was just a sheet of ice. There was absolutely no soft snow covering it. I was glad my instructor at Cypress taught me how to carve on edge so I was able to go down it without too much problem. I wish I had sharpened my skis before coming down this run though. When I got up to the Peak via the Olympic Chair, I calmed myself and gathered enough courage to go down the Peak. If the Peak was as icy as Centennial, there was no way I was going down on skis; it will be on my butt instead like last time.

When I went down the peak, the snow was amazingly soft. It was still a bit crunchy, but there was half a foot of soft stuff on top. I lapped the peak a few times using the Peak Chair and that’s the first time I realized the advantage of the newly-built Peak Chair. Most people find the Peak Chair useless because it takes you up to the same place as Olympic Chair. When the Peak Chair was built, it was for the purpose of accessing more terrains in the tree, but we did not have enough snow this year to ski down through the trees. I think the Peak Chair is for skiers that just want to lap the Moguls and the Peak without going all the way down to the bottom of Olympic. There is also never any line ups at the Peak Chair so it is good for people who hates lining up for half an hour at the Olympic Chair. One more advantage of the Peak Chair is that it gives tourists access to the top of the Mountain (without forcing them to walk up) where the new Zip Line is.

In the afternoon, I taught two never-ever lessons back to back, walking up and down the bunny hill for 4 hours straight.

Day 54 – Taking a Photograph at Mount Baker

Mount Baker’s Chair lift is so closed to the poles that are holding the chair lift up.  My friend Ken, who sits on the very right, tried to take a self portrait with all of us in the photo so he reached out to the far right and aim the camera at us.  All of a sudden, we heard a loud “Clunk” Sound.  Then we realized it was Ken’s elbow hitting the Chair Lift poles and he almost dropped his camera.  It was the first time we realized the importance of keeping the strap of the camera on our wrist.  We tried it again on my side, got only half my face in, but as you can see, we were all stunned by the experience.

Snowboardexperts' trip to Mount Baker - Feb 9, 2009 (I'm sitting on the far right taking the picture)

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.

aspen-etreme2

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 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.

“Sick Board”

I got my snowboard, Burton Dominant, 2 years ago simply because it was the Snowboard Burton recommanded for park riding.  Since then, almost everyday I would hear people commenting on my board and ask how it is.  For myself, I like it because it is way lighter than my first board (Nitro) and much easier to do tricks with.  I could do butter continuously until I get dizzy on this board, 360’s off any small bumps in the snow are no problem at all.  Rails and Boxes are pretty fun to do on this board too.

Burton Custom Brew Binding (Beer Bottle Green)

I have a Burton Custom Brew Binding with “Beer Bottle Green” as its color.  It is the color of my favorite beer – Heineken.  The Highback also acts as a beer bottle opener, and when I ride the chair lift on high wind days, it whistles too.  I couldn’t really explain how great the Burton Dominant is since this is my first park board.  The video below from youtube is about this board that I love so much.

A week ago, there was a big snow dump at Grouse Mountain, so I did a few drops into the soft stuff and landed into lots of rocks sticking out.  You can see the result in the photo.  I can see the wood core of the board.

Landing on rocks at Grouse Mountain

and a zoom of the same photo

Zoom of my Board - you can see the Wood core

I’ll be bringing it to the shop tomorrow for some repairs.  In the mean time, I’ll have to take out my free ride Nitro board, really wide and heavy, great for speed and powder.

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