Ganz: Bad days made great |

Ganz: Bad days made great

AVSC Snowboard Head Coach Miah Wheeler with Team Two athlete Robert Pettit in the park on March 6.
Josh Ganz/Courtesy photo |

I write this on Sunday. Today the slopes were practically empty. I realize we’re not in the middle of any holidays or special time off for families, but it is the weekend. It didn’t seem like any locals even came out.

I’d guess that’s due to the weather. It was semi-flat light. It was warm. It was snowing off and on throughout the day. It even rained on the bottom half of Buttermilk for a bit. Let’s compound that with the fact that it has barely dropped below freezing in the evenings for the last three weeks. The temperatures have been much warmer during the days. Obviously, it’s been a while since we’ve had significant snowfall.

My point is that conditions were less than ideal. That’s more than enough to keep most people from trying their hand on the slopes. Had I not been coaching I would have stayed home, or perhaps visited the Snowmass Village Recreation Center for their pools and some climbing. Instead, I was coaching. I had to be out on the snow. I’m glad I was.

Aside from USASA Nationals, competition season ended for us yesterday. That meant that there was much less pressure to “work on something” or prepare for a contest. With that in mind, I decided to have my athletes play some games on snow. We held a few goofy contests such as who could ollie over the biggest tree sticking out of the snow, who could come closest to full circle carves and my favorite, “Follow the Leader.”

For the last game, my kids knew the drill. It wasn’t an attempt to show off or try to knock someone out of the game. Instead, it was just who could come up with the most creative lines and have the most fun from top to bottom. If the leader tried a flatland trick, everyone had to try the flatland trick. If the leader spun to the left, everyone had to rotate to the left — making things interesting for a couple of reasons.

We all tend to repeat ourselves run after run if not pushed. We jump off the same stuff, ride the same lines, and spin the same ways. We are creatures of habit after all. Follow the Leader puts us out of our comfort zone on occasion. We find new lines. We try new things. Regular snowboarders spin-off of features better suited for Goofy riders and so on.

Naturally each kid decided to spend the majority of their time as the leader going through the park. Without the added pressure of a looming competition, we were able to be much more playful about our riding. We tried things such as handplants on a Volcano while laughing and cheering as everyone ended up sliding down on either their stomach or back. We saw who could tap the highest branches on trees High-Five style. We even got into snowball fights while riding, finding new ways to explore standard runs in an effort to avoid friends’ attacks.

Bottom line, we had fun. We took what most people would consider a bad day and made it great. By the end, we were all smiling and laughing while ringing out drenched gloves. Had I the opportunity, I would have stayed in bed. Through the eyes and excitement of the children I was riding with I had one of the most all-around enjoyable days of the season. I am incredibly grateful for this job and the experiences it provides.

Josh Ganz is a snowboarding coach for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. Email him at

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