Skiing and snowboarding teachers

Mikayla Coulombe, staff writer

After years spent mastering their sports, Juniors Alex Robbins and Paul Sonsalla and senior Alex Patow have taken their days shredding the slopes and sauntering through the chalets to the next level. These three students at BSM have dedicated their time to instructing ski and snowboard lessons.

Sonsalla spends his weekends instructing at Hyland Ski and Snowboard Area while Robbins and Patow work at Skijammers Ski and Snowboard School. All three teach kids differing in skill and age, while Sonsalla also teaches some college classes.

While Hyland allowed Sonsalla to begin his instructing on a whim last year, the prerequisite at Skijammers demanded much more. “There are six chevrons–they’re just like levels. You spend eight weeks on one level, and then the next year you go to the next level, and then after that you get to choose whether you want to become an instructor or part of the race program,” said Patow.

However, about a decade of skiing and snowboarding and all the extra effort put into their sport definitely paid off. All three agree that their job is one of the best. “I don’t think ‘oh God I have to get up and go to work tomorrow.’ I’m usually excited to go,” said Sonsalla.

Not only do they get paid for doing something that they love, but they also get to watch as their pupils progress around them. “I’ll start with kids that have never snowboarded before, and then in three lessons they’re able to go down the hill. It’s really fun to see them succeed,” said Sonsalla.

Despite providing such enjoyable experiences, like every job, teaching ski and snowboard lessons comes with its challenges. Robbins, Sonsalla, and Patow all agree that trying to get kids to turn correctly creates the most hassle.

As far as skiing goes, instructors generally teach kids to start out in the wedge. However, when the time comes for pupils to move on to parallel turning, it’s a huge pain. Because of this, instructors at Skijammers are trying to get teachers not to teach the wedge in the first place. “It’s really difficult to teach french fry turns. Kids like pizza too much,” said Robbins.

Snowboarders also have their fair share of trials when it comes to turning. Sonsalla has found that most kids just want to go straight down the hill. Yet after numerous attempts at dealing with the situation, he finally found a solution to his problem. “I just tell them, okay if that’s what you want to do just go straight. And then they fall and ask me to teach them how to turn,” said Sonsalla.

Working with kids of such a young age can also become a challenge within itself. “I’m with eight year-olds, so there are times obviously when they get out of hand. It’s sort of hard to get them to focus on something,” said Patow.

Both Sonsalla and Robbins share that they have been victimized by this behavior demonstrated by their younger pupils. “Usually when I fall the kids always laugh at me,” said Robbins. Snowboard students seem to have found even more creative ways to mess with their instructors. “I had a group of like six little girls, and they were all waiting for me, and all of a sudden all of them just like whip out snowballs and start waling them at me. I couldn’t really throw a snowball back at them, I feel that’d be bad,” said Sonsalla.

Regardless of the situation, Sonsalla, Robbins, and Patow’s experiences with their jobs have proved to be more than they could have hoped for. “It’s not really work it’s more like, I get to hang out with these kids, and I’m lucky enough to get paid for it…and I get to wear baggy clothes,” said Sonsalla.