From freezing child to skilled ski instructor

By Bob Cox

The last time I wrote an entire column about my son and skiing was 14 years ago. He was 8, and I was the admitted bad guy in the column.

The gist of the column that ran in The Daily Breeze that day was that I had tried to enforce my skiing standards on my son on a day when the weather was miserable and getting worse. I was still living the hard-core skiing life in those days, believing that any day on the slopes was better than the alternative, and if it was snowing and blowing, you just dressed warmer.

That approach works well for adults. But it did not work for 8-year-old Randy then, and I’m sure it rarely works with young skiers or snowboarders at any time. While adults may appreciate driving five hours, spending serious dollars on lodging and lift tickets, and the need for some redemption on the hill, kids rarely do.

It probably took me halfway home from Mammoth that day to get over the hours of skiing I missed, or the lack of toughness I perceived in my son. Or maybe it was just the nurturing all-knowing approach of wife Nancy, who finally said something like, “Get over it. It was miserable out there and Randy wasn’t the only one not enjoying himself.”

So I got the message, and after mulling it over for a few days, talked to a couple of experts in the Ski School, who pointed out the obvious: Nobody learns very well when they’re just trying to stay warm and dry. The column was headlined: “Randy was right: Stay inside when it’s storming.”

At the age of 8, he probably did not appreciate the vindication. But a lot of friends who were parents confirmed the obvious.

So flash ahead to this past weekend, and while weather was not the focal point, Randy was on the slopes of Arizona Snowbowl, where he is a part-time ski instructor. He was participating in a three-day Professional Ski Instructors of America clinic for Level 1 certification along with 11 other Snowbowl instructors.

Randy is a senior at Northern Arizona University, and in his second season teaching mostly kids ski lessons at Snowbowl. If you are surprised to see skiing and Arizona in the same sentence, join the club. NAU is located in Flagstaff, where the elevation and weather are similar to Mammoth’s. The base lodge at Snowbowl is at 9,000 feet and the top peak is 11,200 feet.

The PSIA Rocky Mountain region staff travels around to different ski areas, giving clinics for instructors, checking out their teaching and learning skills, and bestowing a coveted PSIA pin on those who measure up.

Certification of ski and snowboard instructors is one of the services performed by the PSIA through its various regions. Instructors start with Level I, then progress through the ranks as their skills increase. Level 4 instructors can pretty much pick their spots in the industry because these are the trainers of trainers. They are the individuals who ski schools market as their top teachers.

While good instruction can happen without PSIA certification, the professionalism offered by ski schools with rated instructors is an important asset to a ski area.

In reaching his current level of performance on skis, Randy also spent time learning to snowboard and has occasionally taught that form of snow sliding when there is an increased demand at Snowbowl. But skiing is his strong suit, and we are proud of our son the ski instructor.

Does this mean he’ll put his degree to work as a ski instructor for the first few years of his working life? That’s unlikely. But it does validate a family’s commitment to skiing, as passed on from parents to son, and a passion for the sport. While his parents were able to give him a number of years of skiing experience, he has taken his expertise to a new level as a professional ski instructor.

It was apparent two years ago when he and I visited Whistler, Canada, that the hierarchy of family skiing had changed. No longer was it obvious that the better skier was the most experienced one. In fact, after one challenging powder day at Whistler, the mantle had passed. Randy was clearly the stronger skier.

Earlier this winter, the family was in Arizona to celebrate Christmas and Randy was in a position to show us around his mountain. Role Reversal of the first order. The son was leading the pack and there was no question he belonged out front.

While graduation from college will warm the hearts of his parents as much as anything Randy has ever done, certification as a ski instructor is certainly validation of a lot of days sharing a love for the outdoors.

bcskis@aol.com

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