Snow News - LEARNING All Ways

by JEN FORSYTH & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & hink outside the box when the word "learning" is used in the context of skiing or snowboarding or just winter recreation, in general. Learning just doesn't occur when you walk into your favorite mountain's learning center and sign up for ski lessons. It happens in unique ways throughout the Inland Northwest: in classrooms, in the backcountry, at ski swaps and demos. In the classroom, in the form of the accredited Terrain Park Management course through North Idaho College, it happens through an Avalanche 1 course offered through the SNOW SCHOOL in Sandpoint and in Spokane at Mountain Gear.

Retail outfits like REI and MOUNTAIN GEAR offer seminars on cross-country skiing, taught by PSIA Certified Instructors, and a snowshoe class -- both are offered through Spokane Parks and Recreation, with numerous dates to choose from. Each class consists of two sessions: one is an evening class at the Spokane REI store, and the second is a field session in the hills around Mt. Spokane. (See for more information.) The basics will be covered on clothing, proper equipment and, of course, technique. SPOKANE PARKS AND RECREATION offers additional courses in GPS systems and a plethora of outdoor oriented classes throughout the year.

NORTH IDAHO COLLEGE offers multiple classes that build on a strong foundation of skiing and snowboarding and other outdoor recreation disciplines, says Ryan Hayes, resort and recreation program manager. "We offer elective classes in mountaineering and winter survival as part of the Resort and Recreation Management Program," he says. "And Paul Chivas runs the Outdoor Pursuits program, which offers students the opportunity to take weekend trips." They also offer a two-year degree (associate of applied science) in Resort and Recreation Management, with the curriculum weighted toward the outdoor recreation field -- the fastest-growing industry throughout the country and the third-largest in Idaho. Other electives include Introduction to Ski Instruction, Resort Risk Management and Wilderness First Responder.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & s intriguing as all of these seminars and educational opportunities sound, nothing can replace the instruction a new skier or snowboarder receives from signing up for a lesson from a professional instructor on the slopes. Some people believe that just following their more advanced friends around the mountain is a good substitution, but it is not. Some people are lucky enough to have a great (and patient) group of friends to ski and ride with, friends who give appropriate tips that help the beginner to improve their technique. But in the real world, unmatched abilities can create a possibility of three scenarios:

Scenario One -- The beginner is riding out of his or her comfort and ability level, not having a relaxed mental state, and leading to a feeling of urgency. The beginner then is not working on technique, but rather, just trying to keep up with the more advanced friends.

Scenario Two -- The more advanced friends resent their beginner friend because they are waiting around, in the cold, just getting colder, while the beginner takes the time needed to descend the more challenging terrain.

Scenario Three (The best scenario!) -- A beginner skier goes up to the mountain with more advanced friends. The beginner skier signs up for a lesson through the mountain's ski school. The more advanced friends go out and ski and ride where they want, and at the speed they want. The beginner skier and the more advanced friends meet up for lunch and talk about how their days are progressing and how much fun they are ALL having.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & hroughout the region, each resort offers a menu chock full of learning opportunities to get you proficient in any discipline that involves enjoying winter on the snow. The important thing to remember is to start taking lessons early. Don't wait until you develop poor habits that are reinforced every time you hit the slopes.

These are just some of the ways that learning continues throughout the industry, in traditional ways and in thinking outside the box. No matter which route you choose, just keep learning. It is this type of progression that will ensure a lifetime of good quality skiing or snowboarding. Knowledge is power in every aspect of snow sports.

New Tricks for '07-'08

For intermediate skiers and snowboarders looking to develop their jumping, rail sliding and riding natural terrain moves, the Freeride Camp at 49o North offers the program for you. This year it is a two-month camp (kicking off December 15th) with a three-day holiday run (December 27th through the 29th). The two-month course starts at $399 (which includes the Holiday Camp); Holiday Camp only starts at $139.

The Free Ski School at Lookout Pass is always mentioned because of the sheer greatness of the program. The details are simple: lessons -- an hour for beginners, 90 minutes for intermediate skiers and boarders -- are available on Saturdays. They start at 10 am for beginners and 11:30 am for intermediate and above. Rentals are available at the mountain and lift tickets are required after the lesson to continue skiing or boarding for the remainder of the day.

Does it get much better than this for women? Mt. Spokane is offering its Ladies Only Program, which includes all of the regular items, lessons, rentals and a day out on the slopes with other great women. It tops off the day with wine, cheese and a mini-massage. The price is $99 per session and there are three sessions to choose from: Jan. 9, Feb. 13 and Mar. 13.

Riders 7-12 are invited to participate in a program at Schweitzer Mountain Resort that combines imagination and energy to improve your skills to the next level. The Mountain Riders program offers a half day (starts at $55), one day (starts at $85) or three day (starts at a discounted price of $220) segments. The program is flexible for any busy kid's schedule.

Tuesdays at Silver Mountain Resort are geared for adults 40 and older. "The Big 40" is a learning opportunity that takes place on a day when the mountain typically sees fewer skiers and snowboarders, giving more room to move on the slopes. Private lessons are $40 and adult group lessons are $20. "The Big 40" program will kick off on Jan. 8, 2008.

-- JEN FORSYTH, Snow News Editor