40 years teaching skiing

By Ray Grass Mar 19, 2010
Retirement party included some spring skiing

  Imagine, 40 years of teaching students weighting, balance and body position . . . in fair weather, bad snowstorms, sunny days and waist-deep powder -- morning and afternoon.

     Who knows how many thousands of people ski and ski better because of the instructions given by John Bartlett over the years. Ski instruction is something that is passed on for generations . . . fathers and mothers taught by John teach sons and daughters, grandmoms and pops teach grandkids, and so on and on and on. 

    It was the official 40-year retirement luncheon at Alta this week for John.

    Before dining on lamb pot pie and French onion soup in the new, mid-elevation Watson Shelter, I took a half-dozen morning runs in spring-like conditions.

    First turns were a little crusty. The freeze-thaw was just beginning. Below the first face, the snow had thawed enough to give under ski. It was perfect. 

    Although there are no bad times on skis, spring is one of my favorite. It’s warmer, less crowded and, skied corrected, the snow is a real pleasure. 

    The secret, as they say, is to follow the sun . . . ski those slopes that get first light and then move as the sun moves. 

     John was a part-time instructor. He taught every Saturday and Sunday through the winter for 40 years. Not for the money, he once said, but because he loved teaching . . . and he was good at it. He taught them all -- young and old, short and tall, male and female and loved every minute. 

    For his daytime job, he started a ski rental shop -- Canyon Sports. There are, today, four rental outlets. 

     During lunch, which included David (Hoopa) Robinson, Alta ski school director, it was interesting to find out that John was not the only one with longevity in the teaching business. He is going on 30 years and counting. There are others with 40-plus. 

     Hoopa also noted that there are instructors at other resorts with decades of teaching experience. Some have been with Snowbird since it opened in 1971 and many have remained with Deer Valley since it opened in 1981.

     My hat is off to instructors. It’s not easy. Been there, done that. You start teaching the very young . . . five in a class and odds are you’re going to get a crier or two looking for parents. After years of paying your dues, and getting your name out, you can start building a clientele, repeat customers and recommendations looking for private instruction or groups looking for a good instructor. 

      Mixed in with the student classes, there are teachers teaching teachers. Supervisors make certain the staff is kept abreast of the latest teaching skills so they can best communicate the latest to students. 

    Just because a person can ski doesn’t mean he or she can teach. And, only the very best make it out of the first year and stay for, well, 40 years.