The Roger Page Ski & Ride School at Saddleback has some new programs and some new faces.

I spoke to one of those new faces this past weekend and I am thinking lessons are a great idea for so many people I know, including myself.

Ally Kaiser of New Jersey and Maddy Murphy of Massachusetts, ski school supervisors this season, are seriously excited about the new season, the new programs, and are just so happy to be in Maine.

While I was unable to work in a chat with Murphy, I was able to meet up with her and Kaiser at the mountain later that week to take some snapshots. As you can see from the photos, they are quite the fresh-faced team! So positive and upbeat, so very Saddleback.

From left, Ski School Supervisors- Ally Kaiser and Maddy Murphy.

Earlier that week, Kaiser was able to give me an overview of what was new this year and how she came to be at Saddleback.

Kaiser, a graduate of University of Maine, Orono started skiing when she was just two years old. “I grew up in New Jersey. My parents started me off at the golf course and then as I got older, we skied a lot in the Poconos at Jack Frost. Those sorts of resorts and smaller places.”

An avid skier and lover of recreational sports, she studied recreation and tourism and for her last two semesters in school focused her Capstone project on customer research. Working towards her degree, she reached out to some resorts about conducting a customer research project, and Saddleback had the best terrain.

She explained to me a bit about what the Capstone project is. “It’s a culminating experience. I did mine on customer research with Saddleback guests. On the guest experience for our first year, to kind of get some feedback from the guests on what their experience was like. What parts were a little difficult, what was different, what they’d like to see happen, changes, stuff like that. Some of the stuff we expected and some of it was a little more nuanced and things that we didn’t notice because we’re here every day. We don’t have the guest perspective. So it was really interesting to see that.”

So, starting last November she worked at Saddleback as the Snow Reporter and also helped in ticket sales.

“I worked on my project in my off-time and did my customer research and that was a lot of fun and now I’m out of school and here all the time. I just never left. Now I’m here all the time, which is great.”

So how does she like living in Maine?

“Oh, I absolutely love it. I love the snow and I love the cold. The only thing I don’t love is cleaning my car off every day. It seems like every day I have to clean my car. But, it’s worth it because the skiing here is phenomenal compared to where I grew up. It’s just so different.”

While the season feels like it has just recently begun, I was wondering how busy the school has been so far.

“We’ve had a handful, here and there, a sprinkling, but looking at what our bookings are for the coming weeks, it really picks up for the holiday and I expect that’s when we’ll see most of our volume.”

Unlike last year, there will probably be a lot more activity in the school.

“We’re really excited to be able to do group lessons this year. That’s something we weren’t able to do last season with all the Co-Vid restrictions. Which also meant that the only lessons we had available were private, which tend to be much more expensive. So, I think this year we’re going to see a lot more people come through the school. Just because we have that much more affordable group option. So, we’re really excited about that.”

Larry Rogers and Betsey Shepard giving a private lesson.

In addition, they are offering a new program with instruction for pre-school aged children.

“We also started our Tiny Trout program for our youngest skiers and riders, and those are lessons specifically designed for kids ages 3 to 4. And they’re just an hour long, semi-private lessons. So, there can only be two kids per lesson, just to get them out there, because they need a smaller group and more attention. Some of those 3-year-olds can hardly stand up on skis by themselves. So that’s something that we’re doing new this year is separating out those really young kids and getting them out there in small groups, and we’re excited about that as well.”

And what about for folks like me? Is it too late at my age? Hope is not lost.

“We have a whole specific program for people who are learning to ski or ride as an adult.” It’s called ‘Learn to Ski/Ride Lesson’. The package includes the South Branch Lift ticket, equipment rental and the lesson. That way you get everything all at once. It’s a discounted product so that it makes it more accessible to people who have never tried the sport before, and it gets you out there with an instructor and a small group to go over the basics and get you on the snow enjoying the sport. Because a lot of times when people go out, they’ll come and rent equipment and then they’ll just like hop right on the slopes, having never done it before, and it’s not the experience they expect and that you see when you see skiing and riding. Be it like the X-Games on tv, or just commercials, or you hear, or you see people doing it. They’re always just like effortlessly gliding down the slopes and a lot of people come expecting that, and then… that is so far from the reality of their first experience because it’s tricky to learn skiing or snowboarding. And especially once you’re an adult because you have those hesitations. As adults we’ve got responsibilities, we’ve got kids and mortgages and people have things in the back of their mind just telling them ‘Hey, be careful’. Whereas kids, when you put a 3- or 4-year-old out there they’re just like ‘Yea, let’s go!’. They don’t have a care in the world.”

Sounds like fun! I love group lessons and now that tennis season is over, I need a new exercise routine. Especially after the holiday food fest.

Hopefully I’ll see you all on the slopes! Happy Holidays!


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