One of the best parts of what I do is the opportunity to get to know and ski with some fine skiers, instructors, patrollers and coaches.

A week ago, I got to spend a day skiing with coach Tom Reynolds. We traveled to Bretton Woods, where he could ski without someone pulling him aside to teach as he does midweek at Sugarloaf. We took our time getting on the hill as it was a Friday, and we didn’t have to worry about lift lines or runs getting skied off.

For Tom, it was a chance to just ski, as if he can ever do that. After so many years of coaching and taking apart ski technique and putting it back together, Reynolds is always working on his technique and ready to share his knowledge.

For me, it was another chance to follow him down the mountain, seeing if I could match his turns. As usual, I had some difficulty staying behind him. Tom was skiing on a pair of Volkl race stock slaloms, and I was test driving a pair of 2007-08 Volkl Tiger Sharks. He was on a 155, and I was on a 175. No matter what the turning radius, a 175 simply will not match a 155 on tight turns.

Of course, I could have thrown in a little skid, but it was more fun to lengthen my turns and let the skis accelerate. I could wait at the lift. In this fashion we skied the runs on West Mountain before working our way back to the summit of Mount Rosebrook for a few runs before breaking for lunch. This also gave us the opportunity to meet up with Rik Dow, who has taught and directed ski schools in Maine for years, and is now at Bretton Woods. Dow introduced us to ski school director Steve Benedictis. Reynolds was in his element discussing the ski school and their training programs.

An interesting trend was identified. The ski school is getting old. The average age of instructors is increasing. Four of Bretton Woods’ instructors total 305 years old. The oldest is 81, and they teach skiing every day. Reynolds said that Sugarloaf also had some very senior instructors, and they were among the best.

I knew instructors who had taught into their 60s and 70s, but never thought about it as a trend. I called Scott Condon, ski school director at Shawnee Peak. His staff includes seven full-time instructors. The two supervisors are 53 and 60, and the rest are all 35-plus. He does have one 23-year-old snowboard instructor.

Condon noted that he has a number of instructors, who are retired or semi-retired from their jobs. One of the most memorable Shawnee Peak instructors was the late Roz Manwaring, who taught until she was 84. The area doesn’t have any that old at present, but it does have a cadre of senior skiers in their 70s and 80s, who show up every morning to ski.

Diane Moreau at Lost Valley said that while they had a lot of longtime veteran instructors, they also have a lot of young people who start in high school and college. Lost Valley has a huge ski school with 125 instructors. Classes run morning, afternoon and evening. The ski area also has several school programs coming in by the busload.

This calls for a lot of teachers, but Lost Valley also has an advantage in location. A skier doesn’t have to commit a full day, only a few hours.

According to Condon, skiers who want to become instructor “have to be in good physical condition and be able to ski blue square (intermediate) trails comfortably with parallel technique.” The basic time requirement is 22 days a season, but with night skiing, that can be a combination of midweek and weekend days and nights. In order to fill all the time slots Condon is willing to work around people’s schedules.

One misconception is that all instructors have to be super skiers. They need solid basics – training and clinics will do the rest. Most lessons are taken by new skiers during their first few years. The few advanced skiers who come along looking for a little help with technique can be handled by the stronger instructors.

The pay isn’t enough for many to make a living as full-time instructors. There are more opportunities at the larger resorts, but only those with experience get the lucrative private lessons.

For skiers interested in becoming an instructor, now is the time to check it out. Inquire with the head of the ski school where you would like to participate. If the director can check out your ability this season, it will be easier to take part in the preseason training in the fall. I don’t know which ski schools will be looking for new blood, but there are almost always openings. It’s a very satisfying way to be involved in skiing.

Don’t forget the adaptive programs for disabled skiers. They are always looking for volunteers.

And, by the way, Lost Valley is adding an extra week to the season, with a big Closing Day Rodeo Bash next weekend, mechanical bull and all.

Dave Irons is a freelance writer who lives in Westbrook.


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