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The wrong trail can be worse than a Dad Joke

It's time to start thinking about getting the family out on the slopes for some much needed fresh air, exercise and time away from zoom....

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Evernote Hello makes ski lessons even better!

Today's post may be most interesting to other ski instructors, but I think anyone who meets lots of people and needs help remembering them, and more importantly, the context, will love this new application I've begun using recently.

Ski instructors meet lots of people, and we may see our students several times a year or far less frequently, like once a year during a family's annual ski trip.

Remembering your student's name and his or her face is important, but its even better to remember how they turned, what you worked on, and what you encouraged them to practice during your lesson wrap-up. My first year as an instructor, I used pen and paper on the hill, and transcribed my chicken scratch into a lesson log on my computer at night. Sounds great, but it was easy to forget to do the computer work or lose a few notebook pages pulling the pad out of the uniform pocket, and it was time consuming!

4 years ago, I started taking photos and videos of my students and that really helped me remember them, and what we'd worked on. Parents loved seeing the videos and sharing them with grandma and grandpa as well. But there was no linkage between my pen and paper notebook, my computer lesson log, and the photos and videos I took, or last year, the EpicMix photos taken for free by the pros at Northstar.

Enter the new application! Evernote Hello. These days, my student and I create a lesson summary in under 3 minutes during a hot chocolate break or on the chairlift! We take a quick photo and enter their name and an age or, with adults, we add relevant contact info. Then I can capture what we worked on and why, what the student should focus on now, and any other fun facts.
After the lesson, I can still edit and add to the summary, with a simple audio note, or by typing.

And, like a video or a photo, there are many ways to share the lesson summaries with my adult students or children's parents. Here's one from this past weekend. Kyle's parents gave the ok to share this on the This Mountain Life page, as long as we made sure to include only first names. I always make sure to ask before posting anything, and that's a good tip for fellow instructors as well.

Enjoy, and if you have app suggestions or questions about how I use this one, do let me know.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Winter is Back!

It was snowing today at Northstar, and tomorrow is my first day teaching.  I'll be with two great kids I've known for the past two seasons, and I know we'll be having fun while we're getting the rust off of our turns.  Tonight it's about making a good healthy dinner, loosening up with some yoga and getting a good night's sleep.  I'll be up at 6, stretching again for 30 minutes, than out on the hill and skiing at 8:30 sharp.  With the lesson starting at 9:30, I'll have one hour to get a bit more rust off of my turns before the kids arrive.

The forecast is looking pretty good as well, with snow at the higher elevations, and a lot more coming Saturday night.

As you may know, Mother Nature gets some big help at Northstar which is why we had so much terrain open during the dry periods last season.  What I didn't know was how the top brass feels about those snow-making marvels.  If you'd like a chuckle and some insight why it's so much fun to work at Northstar, check out Bill Rock, our COO, in this video, "Winter is Back."  And watch through to the end....the videographer also found Bill somewhere in the snowcat parking lot...

Friday, November 9, 2012

18 inches and Final Preparations for Ski Season!

Don't you love Northstar's countdown to opening day?  I love that it includes minutes and seconds.... We can be skiing on what promises to be a good base in 6 days, 14 hours, 25 minutes and 40 seconds....

And KRON 4 is reporting about Tahoe as I type. While the snow has stopped falling, chain control is still in effect on Route 80 in Truckee.  And the reporter can see that Northstar's snow-guns are going full blast.  Those guns are why Northstar had the most coverage of any Tahoe resort last season!

So two quick reminders:

First, Ask an Instructor Day is this Saturday, from 10am to 2pm at the Sports Basement in the Presidio.  If you happen to be a member of the Golden Gate Mother's Club, you can attend an early session at 9:30.

Anyone who signs up or stops by the Community Area to chat with us gets 10% off their purchases that day, even if the things you purchase have nothing to do with skiing or boarding.

Event details are here on this Facebook page, which you can feel free to pass on to friends with nascent or potential young skiers or riders.

The format is 15 minute talks on various topics along with a lot of personalized Q&A and shopping/sizing assistance from the instructor team.   Unlike last year, I've invited David Overfield, a great snowboard instructor from the Burton Academy.  Those of you whose kids are ready to break my heart and trade their skis for a board should meet David, as he's one of the academy's best children's instructors.

Second, there's a special number for folks wanting to reserve lessons prior to opening day.  It's (530) 562-3546. After we open, (530) 562-3848 will again be the private lesson reservation line.

As some of you have already done, the easiest way to book a lesson is to call or email me, and I will work with the office to block off the time for you. The office staff only needs a quick confirmation call if your details are not up to date in their computer system.

Hope to see you on Saturday at the Sports Basement, or very soon on the slopes in snowy Tahoe!

PS.  As always, I'm commenting here on my blog and on Facebook as a private citizen and crazy ski instructor. I'm not representing Northstar or Vail Resorts.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Safety Tips from Tom Sherry

This week, we've got a great blog post from Tom Sherry, a great instructor who also happens to be a ski patroller. Before you here all about keeping your family safe on the slopes, here's more about Tom from a recent bio.

Tom has been teaching children and adults alike for almost 20 years. He started instructing tennis after playing on his division III college team. He's been a medical and sled instructor with the National Ski Patrol for almost a decade. He's been teaching skiing since 2008 and is certified professional.

Before living the dream in the land of fruit and nuts, he attained his degree in Multimedia Technology and Business. He was a  project manger for over a decade with various different start-ups and dot-coms. Tom and his wife Kathy live in the Sacramento Valley with their two children, Sierra (8) and Rourke (5). In the summer he is the Assistant Tennis Director for Millennium Sports Club in Vacaville, CA.

As an active patroller for the last 11 seasons I've seen people's worst day of skiing. It says it on the back of all our tickets, skiing is inherently dangerous. Even with little skiers and riders the forces that come into play are serious. Believe it a or not a lot of these events could be avoided with some common sense and planning.

I'm going to discuss ways you and your children can be safer on the slopes. If your children learn these points early they'll be safe with or without you. We all know it won't be long before they say they want to ski with their friends :-)

When I'm teaching anything, Safety, Fun, and Learning are always in the back of my thoughts. Is the activity or skill, or game SAFE is always my first question.

Some of the points that I've passed along to both my students and children are as follows. 

Don't break anyone's "magic bubble". This bubble extends from the tip and tail of your skis to the top of your head. If you never break a magic bubble you can't get hurt. 

Learn and follow the responsibility code:  
  1. Always stay in control.  
  2. People ahead of you have the right of way.  
  3. Stop in a safe place for you and others.  
  4. Whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield.  
  5. Use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.  
  6. Observe signs and warnings, and keep off closed trails.  
  7. Know how to use the lifts safely. 
Learn and follow the slope style: 
  1. Make a plan.  
  2. Look before you leap.  
  3. Easy style it. 
  4. Respect gets respect.
Have a meeting place and time in case you get separated. The top or bottom of a lift is always a great place or near a "super sign". Teach your children that people in uniform with name tags can help.
Move quickly at the top of lifts and don't linger at the bottoms because these areas are the most congested. You could also choose lifts that are less congested, even if they are slower chairs or don't access the best terrain. 
I like to keep my students and children behind me, that way if they loose control I can stop them. If you have another parent or friend that can be the "caboose" they can block from behind. I always keep my head on a swivel, like a fighter pilot :-) 
Bar up or Bar down? I've heard arguments made both ways. Vail resorts requires all employees to have the bar down at all times. Other ski schools I've worked for specifically stated that the bar was not to be down for ski school. Children will assume that if the bar is down there is NO way the can fall and creates a false sense of security. Whether you put the bar down or leave it up, have your children "Sit Back, Sit Still, and Look Ahead"! 
I hope you will find these tips as helpful as I have over the years and I wish you, your family, and friends safe snow sliding this and all seasons!

**Extra Tip from Coach Jay**
Tom can be reached for questions or to arrange a lesson at ski@thomassherry.com
His mobile is (707)365-9361

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What do ski instructors know about stress?

Cool posters up in the Kids' Section at Sports Basement
As the snow starts flying in Tahoe (24 inches at Northstar's Summit on Monday) I'm prepping for our Ask a Ski Instructor event at the Sports Basement Presidio on November 10th from 10AM to 2PM.

We're going to be helping skiers and parents evaluate gear, plan their kids' first experience on the slopes, learn what's new in Tahoe, and answering any questions they might have.

We'll also be doing short presentations about specific topics, which should lead to good Q & A.

If you'd like to help us plan for how many ski and snowboard instructors we should bring down, please do sign up on the facebook event page.  The Sports Basement will be giving a 10% discount to folks who attend and want to shop for anything while they're there.

In case you can't make it, here's an advice article I wrote last year about one of my favorite topics....

How to enjoy a low-stress ski trip and create life-long skiers.

I started skiing at age 5 after my parents bought a cabin in Vermont.  We spent every winter weekend skiing until I moved west. Yet in spite of the 3,000 miles between us, we still gather once a year for a family ski trip. Now that I’m an instructor in Tahoe, my passion is helping other families create mountain memories and ski vacation traditions of their own.

When a family heads to Tahoe for their children’s first ski weekend, expectations can run super-high! Heads are stuffed with thoughts of rosy cheeks, roaring fireplaces, hot chocolate and perhaps some alone time for Mom and Dad as the kids enjoy a day at ski school.  Video cameras are packed to capture Mary or Michael’s first snowplow turns and how darling they look on those little skis clad in their helmets and goggles.  

Families making their second journey may have memories of a different nature.  The first trip may have felt like an expedition up Mt. Everest, complete with a treacherous journey from parking lot, a difficult schlep of equipment with Mom and Dad playing Sherpa, and the smaller team members breaking down in tears several times due to lost mittens and cold fingers, or an overcrowded lesson or simply a high-stress vibe coming off of a harried mom or dad. A phone call from ski school saying "please come pick up Johnny or Janie, we can't get them to stop crying" may have put the stress level on steroids and killed any alone time for Mom and Dad.

So,the experiences in the resort village, the rental shop and at a ski school can be really great or painful depending on a lot of factors.  But what helps most is what you know in advance.

So how can you minimize the stress and maximize the fun if you’re new to skiing or the resort? 
First, tap your network for insider tips.Select your resort, your lodging, your ski instructor and even your departure time and route based on recommendations from those who’ve already blazed the trail.

Make getting to and dressing for the slopes easy on your kids:

  • Eliminate a hike through the parking lot or the wait for a shuttle bus. 
  • Use the courtesy drop off to deposit kids, skis, boards and one parent. 
  • If you do walk and have your own ski boots, don’t don them in the parking lot. Wear warm and comfortable snowboots and utilize the resort’s lockers to store them during the day. 
  • If you’re arranging a private lesson, leverage your instructor’s focus on customer service. Instructors love making every process easier for clients. I regularly meet clients at the courtesy drop off, ready to be their Sherpa, resort tour guide, rental equipment advisor, and escort through what can be a busy village. 
  • Kids taking group lessons? At Northstar, all equipment is provided. Leave hats and that second pair of socks at home.  The hat won’t fit under the provided helmet, and the second sock layer causes blisters and can cut off circulation, creating very cold feet. 
  • Are you planning multiple ski weekends? Visit the Sports Basement and do a season long rental or take advantage of their Ski Buy Back program to save 50% on new gear.
  • Put your child’s name on everything they’ll wear, especially goggles and helmets. 
  • Think like a kid!  Kids love stickers, and bright, unique ones which include their name do wonders.  If my helmet looks cool, I’m more likely to be willing to wear that heavy thing.  If my name’s on it, I’m less likely to lose it, and it will definitely improve my connection to my instructor if he or she always can remember (or read) my name when speaking to me.

Set everyone up for Ski School success:

  • Greet your instructor warmly, as if he or she is already a friend of the family, as this will help your child feel comfortable, especially when you take your leave a few moments later. 
  • Involve your child in the pre-lesson discussion, making the focus on their fun and adventure.
  • Call the instructor “Coach” rather than “Teacher," because who likes going to school on the weekends?
  • Make your goodbyes casual. Exiting the scene quickly will help your instructor during that first bonding conversation. If your child doesn’t notice you leaving because he’s just learned a pirate joke, the odds of separation anxiety hitting later are low. 
  • If you’re not skiing yourself, make sure you dress for the weather. 
Lastly, consider starting your children with a private lesson or two, especially if they are under 7.
In addition to the individual attention, children in privates get much more mileage under there skis and grow skills more rapidly.
Older children do better in groups than those under seven.  Whatever their age, when a child who’s had some privates migrates to groups, they join the higher level classes which normally have a smaller student to instructor ratio and are taught by the most experienced PSIA certified instructors.

Do’s and Don’ts for After the Lesson

Do: Focus on the Fun!

Before asking the instructor “How did he do?” ask your child if the skiing was fun. When you ask what the best part of the day was don’t be upset or surprised if they say “We had hot chocolate!!!” or “We built a snowman!” Your child isn’t likely to say “we played monkey-see-monkey-do to get us moving forward over our skis”; or “We played a penguin game called “Happy-Feet” to developing our independent leg action!”

Congratulations are always in order, but focusing on how your child performed can associate ski lessons with pressure. 
If your child was moved down a level from their original group, this isn’t a cause for alarm OR disappointment. The ski school’s goal in adjusting groups is to give every child a lesson that moves at the correct pace for them and to maximize your child’s safety and fun.

Do: Learn what your child learned

The best questions to ask your coach include: What skiing game did my child like most? How can our family play it together? What type of trails should we ski on? What level trail should we avoid? What should we do tomorrow?
Is there anything my child needs that will make the experience more fun?  The most common things your instructor may mention are the fit of their boots, the quantity of their clothing layers or warmer mittens.

Don’t:  Take your child away from the bunny slope and up the chairlift to take “one more run to show Mommy and Daddy what you learned!”

Why not?  Your child may be tired, and far too many injuries sustained by novice, intermediate and expert skiers occur during that final run.

Secondly, lots of skier and rider traffic funnels down to the base lodge at the end of the day, and congestion can lead to collisions.  Your child may have internalized all the safety guidelines the instructor has used to keep the group safe during the day, but that’s not something I would count on. 

When you see instructors skiing backwards in front of a line of students, it’s not entirely to assess movement patterns and provide encouragement or tips.  Skiing backwards allows the instructor to see and steer the class to avoid uphill skiers and snowboarders who may not have the control to avoid the little ones.

Lastly, some parents undo many of the skills learned during the lesson by taking the child to new and more challenging terrain. Contrary to popular belief, children don’t learn quickly simply because they are fearless, and following a parent down a steeper blue run can take all the fun out of skiing.  More times than I care to recall, the focus of the second lesson is overcoming new-found fears and defensive skiing.  Your child’s instructor has built their success and confidence by teaching movement patterns on terrain perfectly suited for that task.

How do you know if you’re on the wrong trail if you forgot to ask the instructor where to go? A stiff-legged, slow power wedge straight down the fall line is as good a clue as a tearful melt-down, and noticing the former may help avoid the latter. A PSIA video of other visual clues is available on the “This Mountain Life” blog (www.skiwithjay.com).

My goal is ending every lesson with my students totally stoked for their next opportunity to ski or ride.  If my other clients (Mom & Dad) see this from the smiles during the debrief and wind up jealous, all the better!

The author, Jay Palace, is a PSIA Level Two instructor and specializes in teaching children at the Northstar Ski & Snowboard School. He’s also the founder of Group Experiential Learning, a company which helps executives build high performance teams via active learning experiences. The hints, perspectives and ski tips shared here and on the “This Mountain Life” blog (www.skiwithjay.com) are not representations of Vail Resorts or Northstar-California.  Jay is happy to answer questions, no matter where you ski, and can be reached at 415-601-1325 or skiwithjay@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Getting your body ready for skiing

Northstar is scheduled to open November 16th, and even though it's still warm in Sausalito, I'm getting fired up!
Will you be ready to ski? Will your little ones ski circles around you? Will you be too tired to even get in the hot tub? Pre-season nutrition and exercise are on my mind, and I'd like to help you think about them as well.

I've taken several approaches over the past few years, some more effective than others. Two seasons ago, I worked out with a personal trainer focusing on core strength and balance. That delivered some benefits, but my cardio fitness was lacking. Last season, I skipped the gym and only cycled and paddle boarded a bunch. That helped with balance and cardio-vascular fitness, but my skiing suffered from a lack of core strength. The first 6 weeks of the season were hard, and I boasted about losing 8 pounds from November 18th through January 30th.

Now that I think about it, I realize that dropping a ton of weight at the start of the season is nothing to boast about. It's more of a sign that I hadn't prepared well enough to don that blue coat, the Northstar Ski & Snowboard School name tag and my skis.

This season, I've broadened my workout focus to encompass core strength, cardio, leg strength and flexibility.  And most importantly, I'm establishing nutritional habits that will have me at my fighting weight on day one.

None of this could happen without a lot of motivation and support.  Vail Resorts, Northstar's parent company, has some great resources for mountain employees, and takes us through a "Fit to Ride" evaluation prior to our starting work.

Locally, I've been working out with the great team of trainers at Crossfit Sausalito.  On the nutrition and good habits front, I just started doing a 60 day program called The Whole Life Challenge.  The Challenge is an online social game which inspires you to eat right, exercise and stretch everyday by allowing you to earn or lose points and track your progress. While there are prizes and a ranking of the 3,000 people who are doing it across the globe, it's much more about connecting with others than competing with them.  People are sharing lots of nutrition advice, recipes, and tactics for drinking enough water, getting enough sleep and making time for that yoga class.

Over the next 60 days I'll share some of the best tips with you here. If you're embarking on your own pre-season training regimen, post a comment here, or on the "This Mountain Life" Facebook page.

Get after it!  I've got a feeling we have powder days ahead where the advance workouts will pay huge dividends.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Remember those "Be Like Mike"commercials? I love that Northstar's own Superstar, Shaun White, uses the same chest harness to film his runs in those Super Pipes! I use mine to shoot helpful, movement analysis videos for adult clients, and fun "show-off your accomplishments" videos of clients' kids. If you've not seen them yet, click on the video tag to the right to see all the blog postings with fun videos, or visit the skiwithjay channel on youtube. Happy Powder Day! Jay

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lo.... The Snowman Commeth!

All it took was a drive down to the Bay Area, and Mother Nature decided to change her tune!  And I thought washing my car and giving away a few winter coats would cause the clouds to appear.  I'll have to leave Tahoe more often.

Click here to read the Tahoe Weather Geek's Weather Analysis

It's looking like a foot of snow by Wednesday night.

And if you can't remember what powder skiing looks like, check out this video created by Nat Fay.  He and I had helmet cams mounted on Feb 15th, which was the last day with significant fresh snow at Northstar.  It includes some good wipeouts and a few attempts to get some air.  In case you're curious, I'm wearing the blue coat with a horizontal white stripe mid-back, and my skis are red.  Yes,  I do wipe out in a pretty comical way, but at least it wasn't in uniform!

Northstar California Powder Day 15th Feb 2012 from Nathaniel Fay on Vimeo.

Video shot at Northstar California, Lake Tahoe, California, USA. Skiers are: Liane Fang, Jay Palace & Nat Fay.
Nat Fay was the principal editor of the video and the footage was shot with Jay's Go Pro and Nat's Contour Plus helmet cams.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What's it like to be a ski instructor? Funny photo and Video

Here's a viral image going around Facebook which shows what people think our lives are like and what they're really like.  I absolutely love it!

But, what I really do is have a ton of fun whether I'm teaching kids or adults.

If you want to find out what it's like, one way would be to take a lesson, even if you're already quite good.  We have a lesson called a "Rise & Shine" because it runs from the moment the lifts open at 8:30 to 9:30.  These lessons are great for upper level skiers who want to have their skiing assessed and get one or two things to work on to improve their skiing.

For a video taste, check out these two video clips of Bob Andres, a Rise and Shine client from earlier this week.  As I often do, I shot video during the lesson, and I'm sharing it here with Bob's permission so that he can see what he was working on, and show off how he's been ripping up our great groomers at Northstar this week.

Here's video two:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Another Ski Movie Trailer - Spies at Northstar!

Nat Fay is still visiting from Australia, and he continues to need to borrow my car.... so, he's continuing to help me craft some videos for some of the great kids I ski with, and their moms and dads.

This one ranks up there with the one of Mina, the snow-dancer, because it includes shots of both Olivia and Cole doing their own ski-dance, and in one clip, Mom is joining in.

Thanks, Nat, and great skiing, Cole & Olivia!

PS... It snowed 6 inches yesterday, and we expect another good hit of snow tonight.  Things are looking good for President's Week.  I've been booked up for a while, but have had one family give up three lesson blocks. If anyone wants to do some skiing, give me or the office a shout at 530-562-3848.  Available times are Tuesday afternoon (2/21) and all day on Friday, (2/24).



Thursday, February 9, 2012

Kids ski, kids fall and my GoPro captures the moments

First... because everyone keeps asking.... Yes! We have tons of great snow at Northstar.  It's not last year, but it's better than any skiing I did as a kid in Vermont and New Hampshire.

And... the forecast is calling for 6-12 inches by end of day on Monday.

And... my GoPro has been getting a work-out during all the lessons we've got going on.

Thankfully, my friend and former NS Instructor, Nat Fay, is visiting from Australia, where he teaches video editing.

So, here's the movie trailer he helped make.... It stars two twins (A & Z) who will remain nameless here in this searchable text (by parental request and out of respect for a little wipe-out which might cause one of them some angst when she's old enough for a FaceBook account)

PS -  "A" did all of her own stunts, and most of them in only one take.
PPS -  No children were hurt during the making of this video.
PPPS - The views on this blog and in the video are my own personal thoughts.  In no way am I representing Northstar, Vail Resorts or the Northstar Ski School  (but the company loves helping families create memories like these, I'm sure!)

Mina Saves the Season!

A few weeks ago, we were worried the ski season would be a total loss, with no natural snow on the horizon and temperatures hovering too high for Northstar's snowmakers.

But after one small but special skier returned to Northstar after we thought we'd lost her to Squaw, things started looking up... check out this trailer for the movie documenting the miracle!