Ski Instructors Confidential |

Ski Instructors Confidential

Anyone who’s skied more than one day quickly learns, “There are no friends on powder days.” All is fair in love, war and the pursuit of first tracks.At Park City, powder days evoked tough competition between members of the ski patrol and the ski school. Each was capable of some pretty underhanded tactics for beating the others down. And no one was sneakier than Gary Knudsen, a member of both departments.One spectacular morning, Gary showed up with an 8mm camera. He told a group of instructors that he would film everyone skiing down. The group nodded with approval and headed up the lift.Whenever the skiers came to a sparkling field of untracked snow, Gary said, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll ski to the bottom of the run and film each one of you coming down.” The group was not only thrilled about getting early tracks, but also for having their runs saved on film for posterity.After several weeks, Gary’s filming sessions became legend. Everyone wanted to be invited for “First Tracks on Film.” The sessions continued for more than a month, when one of the skiers asked Gary when they were going to be able to see the footage. Gary replied, “Next week. I haven’t had a chance to get the film developed.”This went on week after week, month after month. One morning toward the end of the season, someone finally confronted Gary with his camera and asked him when they were going to be able to see the reels. Once again, Gary made excuses about not having the opportunity to process the film. Suddenly, one of the instructors wrestled the movie camera out of Gary’s hands and announced, “Hey, there’s no @#$%^ film in this camera!”As the angry crowd closed in, Gary finally confessed,”There never was any film in the camera. If I’d have told you that, you never would have let me go first all the time!”Mark FletcherPark City, Utah

In 1972, I was teaching in a small resort in New Zealand. The year that I arrived, the resort had their first chairlift installed. Prior to that, they operated with only rope tows, Poma lifts and T-bars.Because the resort had previously used only surface lifts, lift mazes were practically nonexistent. Whenever anyone wanted to ride to the top, they aggressively shoved their way forward until they bullied their way to the front. Management wasn’t quite sure how to feed guests into the chairs.Their first solution was to construct a “funnel” that started wide at the back and narrowed down to the width of two skiers at the front. It was a great idea, but the plan failed miserably. Next, the lift operators tried the “polite” approach by posting signs and asking people to wait their turn in line. That didn’t work either.Having exhausted all of the more traditional methods of crowd control, the lift operators finally came up with a creative skit that they performed at the busiest time of the day.Every morning, one of the lift operators went into the rental shop and looked in the lost-and-found bin for an old pair of abandoned skis. He then disguised himself as a regular guest and skied up to the back of the lift line. Starting at the back, he started yelling obnoxious obscenities as he bludgeoned his way forward. “Excuse me! Hey, I need to get up by my friend. Hey, buddy, I was here first.” By the time he had made his way to the front of the line, he had everyone’s attention.About the time that the obnoxious “guest” reached the front of the line, the other lift operators shut down the lift. Being a loud diesel, it was dead silent when the lift was off. The lift operator then yelled at the “guest,” “Hey, you can’t do that! Can’t you read the signs? You’re not allowed to push your way forward.”At that, the lift operator reached inside the lift shack and pulled out a large, double-headed fire ax. He proceeded to whack off the tips of the obnoxious guest’s skies, then walked back and started the lift again.The skiers in the maze watched in horror as the obnoxious guest passed overhead with two ski stubs dangling from his feet. The lift operator then announced to the crowd.”Ladies and gentlemen. Please wait your turn in line.”Bob GagneVailThese stories were taken from “Ski Instructors Confidential: The Stories Ski Instructors Swap Back At The Lodge,” a collection of more than 160 tales from ski teachers around the country. The book, compiled by freelance writer and ski instructor Allen Smith of Vail, is available at the Aspen Book Store, or online at, or by calling 1-800-201-7892, ext. 97. The book is $12.95, plus $4.95 for shipping and handling.

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