A few days ago, I was at my daughter and son-in-law’s housewarming party in New Jersey. My husband and I were talking to a couple who were there. The guy was a school buddy of our son-in-law. Someone else nearby asked me what I do. I explained that I teach ski instructors and coaches. Lots of people find that vocation to be fantastical and I agree, telling them how lucky I am to have been able to work in the snowsports industry.

The couple chimed in and declared they had just started skiing and have fallen in love with the sport. It excites me when I hear that and I asked them how they got started. They explained they had skied at Mountain Creek in NJ and Jack Frost in PA. They went on to say that they picked the sport up quickly after a Mountain Creek instructor told them to, “Lift the big toe.”

I laughed and slapped my knee, telling them I had developed the methodology. He stood and tried to remember which big toe, as he was describing his experience. I told him it is easy to remember, “All you need to know, is lift the toe on the side you want to go.”

They loved the easy reminder. I gave them a name of a Mountain Creek trainer who had understudied me, thinking he was the one who taught them. Nope. It was some other member of the staff. Inside, I was brimming with excitement. Knowing that two people were now hooked to the sport because of that easy coaching element. I took my phone out and showed them the I Ski and Ride app and highlighted the picture of the foot. They downloaded it and exclaimed they would share it with their friends. Mission accomplished!

Little Kids Can!

On advanced green or moderate blue terrain:  “Hey Julian, where is up hill?”  He points.  Where is down hill?”  He points.  “Which ski is up hill?”  He points to it.  “Can you show me the bottom of your uphill ski?”  He falls.  “Balance, Julian.”  He does.  “Can you show me more?”  He wobbly tries, eventually showing more and finding his balance.  I encourage, “Balance….More bottom.”  He’s feeling it.  “Awesome!  Now, turn to the other side.”  With a monster wedge he does.  “Now, which is your uphill ski?”  He points to it.  “Show me the bottom.”  He does, lifting it off the snow. “Show me more…. Sweet!  You have great balance, Julian!”   He smiles triumphantly.  “I’m going down to that sign and when you turn from side to side, show me the bottom of your uphill ski after you turn.  Which is your uphill ski?”   He points.  “Right!  Watch me, Julian, then you do it and I’ll watch you.  What are we going to do?”  “Show the bottom.”  “That’s right!”

I scramble up the hill far enough that he can see it coming to him.  I exaggerate showing my bottoms down to the sign.  Barely showing a wedge.  “Okay, Julian, Show me your bottoms!”  He does.  At first he wobbles with ski barely off the snow, then finds his balance through long arcs.  I hug him when he reaches me, “That was awesome, Jules!” “I showed my bottoms, he exclaimed!”  We did it down the rest of the slope.

 On the lift:  “Remember when we did Little Piggies with Chelsey’s toes?  The piggy that went ‘wee, wee, wee’ all the way home touches the snow really lightly, when you show the bottom.  This time, show the bottom and go ‘wee, wee, wee’ all the way around the turn.”  He does and he is loudly “wee, weeing”  We do that for a while and my heart swells that he was finally loosing that humongous wedge the children’s school was teaching him. (I was program dir at the time and sadly had to leave my boy in other’s hands) We skied like that for a few runs, timing his bottom showing to the trees and then to me. It was working like a charm.  I added the last bit, “Jules, I’m going down there and this time when you come toward me, wave at me with your uphill hand.  Which is your uphill hand?”  He first grabs a handful of snow, throws it, and waves it at me.  “Okay, go when I look up at you.” He blows me away!

I am beyond ecstatic, proving that little buggers can indeed have upper and lower body separation.

How it all began… for instructors

1976 PSIA Certification exam at Greek Peak, NY. I’m the head tipper in the pic.

I was registered as a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) in 1974 and have been mostly full-time in the industry since becoming Fully Certified in 1976. That was the year before they switched to Associate and Full Certification; offering a category for people who were almost at the level of “Full Cert”. It was during the years of “Final Forms”, where you had to do stupid human tricks with exact precision. It was hot and the snow was deep. They held numbers up as we went by, informing us as to our score for the task. Good times!

10 years later, I made the Dev. Team and soon after, the Examiner Training Squad. Pregnant my first year on the Squad, but still managed to become an Examiner.

In the early 90s I discovered a way to teach beginners that aligned with modern skiing methods. We had long been teaching a tail pushing wedge. Modifying movement patterns to ski contemporary parallel had always been challenging due to the muscle memory of repeating those movements over and over. After watching ski racer, Alberto Tomba, I tried to replicate his movements. The first sensation was in my foot as I transitioned from “turn to turn” in my sneakers in the back yard. I understood immediately the implications of the movements relative to the first time skier.

I shared my methodology with instructors, while improving their personal skiing. I explained if they teach the basic movements as I outlined, their own skiing skills would improve. And, the other benefit was the student would learn and progress more quickly. The tricks and methodology started showing up among instructors in exams and I smiled inwardly knowing where it had all begun. Others expressed how well it worked.

When acting as Snowsports Education Manager at Hunter Mountain I put together a station teaching program for the volume of guests over holiday periods. I convinced management to let me put pictures of my methodology at each zone to help the staff with continuity in communicating elements and to help our multicultural demographic to better understand. We used my very quickly drawn and basic posters with amazing success. Students learned much faster and instructors upped their game.

I redrew all of the images, creating clearer depictions for the on-hill posters. From there, I published a book with highlighted imagery and coaching cues. Then, my brother, Cru and Brian Czarnecki, COO of Camelback Mountain, PA, suggested I make an app available to the public. The idea would be to create a better understanding of what to expect when going to learn how to ski or snowboard. To alleviate fear of the unknown and enhance the desire to return to the sport.

So, here we are… Giving this information to the public, so everyone can better enjoy their experience on the mountain playground.

Suzy Chase-Motzkin