In December of 2003, thinking I was a pretty hot skier, I signed myself up for a CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance) Level I ski instructor certification course. How I heard of this course I still couldn’t tell you but, like most young adults, I was enthralled about the prospect of not having to pay for a ski pass, that winter. While I was a competent skier, it became pretty clear that I was just not on the same level as the former racers, race coaches, and junior instructors I was lumped in with. I improved my skill-set immensely during that three day course but, alas, it was not enough to pass the certification; a major blow to my ego.
I was hurt. I had heard that passing your “Level I” was easy-peasy and yet here I was looking in from the outside; “People don’t fail their Level I”, I had heard. Like a spoiled, 18 year old kid would, I sought to lay blame. In my mind I concocted that the gentlemen who delivered my course, a former golf pro who I knew wasn’t my biggest fan, had failed me intentionally; vengeance of sorts. For a few weeks, I swore off the sport and decided that these “uppity” ski folks wouldn’t have the pleasure of having me in involved in their “club”.
As the weeks passed I slowly chose the high road and, determined to pass a spring re-test, continued to brush up on my skill set; those negative feelings beginning to vanish. I no longer subscribed to the conspiracy theory that I had originally made up, in my own mind, and was beginning to progress with my skiing technique. Perhaps not surprisingly, after a few months of consciously working on my skiing, I ended up passing my Level I and officially joined the the brethren of ski instructors. Ego intact, I looked west to the real mountains, with my eyes on my first solo ski trip.
In late April of 2004, as a young man fresh off my first year of university, my eyes were opened to the magical world that is western North American skiing and snowboarding. While this wasn’t the first time I had been on a ski trip, it did mark my first solo trip to western North America (Whistler Blackcomb specifically) where I was exposed to the, so-called “Disneyland of Skiing”. It was this 10 day trip, skinny skis and all, that continued to unearth my primary passion and part of the very essence of my being; a relentless pursuit of sliding, on two planks, on snowy slopes.
I’ve reflected many times on that trip and still have difficulty pinpointing exactly what it was that made me say “this is what I want for my life”. Certainly it didn’t hurt that I arrived in Whistler as a young 18 your old boy, in the midst of the greatest spring parties that the industry has to offer, but there was more to it than that for me. At that point in my life a drop of alcohol had still never passed by my lips, but I was just in awe of the “vibe” that surrounded the village; the mountains. While there was no doubt that half the people I encountered were definitely “lit”, I fell in love with the fun-loving and “free” feeling associated with the ski industry and the freedom that skiing above treeline provided.
While it was mostly about the feeling I got when I was on top of the snowiest peaks, skiing brought together some of the finest elements of life; sharing in the camaraderie of others while riding the lift, the solitude on days where you didn’t want to make friends, the freedom associated with skiing alpine chutes and bowls, and apres-ski; you can’t forget about apres-ski! To this very day I continue to revel in the feelings of, both insignificance and accomplishment that come with being in the mountains; insignificance in terms of the fact that you are but a very small speck amongst towering peaks and accomplishment in terms of the great deal of effort and energy it takes to scale such great peaks, or to “tame” them while sliding on two planks.
The decision to pursue a career in the snow-sports industry, and to make skiing a focal point in my life, certainly didn’t happen all at once. Being involved in skiing and snowboarding, as a career, was something I never envisioned immersing myself within through any of my middle or high school years. While my childhood was filled with fond, local ski area memories (and the occasional family trip), it was also intermingled with (and often usurped by) Canada’s favorite winter past time (hockey of course). Skiing was merely a past time and, as far as sports went, hockey reigned supreme. Besides, I was destined to be a part of the family forestry business. While never forced or coerced into this belief, I simply thought it was destined to be.
Key influencers were soon to emerge, in my life, which would further shape my snowy career path and hockey, along with golf, were slowly being pushed to the fringe of my life in favour of hiking, skiing, and dating. Little did I know that one of my great adult lessons of failure, and the growth that it provided, would set the stage for what was next.
Next Week – “In for a pair of skis and out with a job.”