A Coach’s Perspective: Snowboard Instructing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Posting and writing about snowboarding isn’t new for me; it’s kind of my favorite thing ever. Teaching snowboarding is a big part of my snowboarding world, and I don’t often post about it… so here we go.
I’ve been passionate about sliding on snow since I was two years old. That is when my mom had me click into skis for the first time. My aptitude for going fast took a short lived hiatus when I was seven and became a snowboarder because, well, I was new to it and I was a beginner all over again. This was a bit of a faux pas in my family; a family of proud, east coast SKIERS.
Fun fact: my first time snowboarding was in my snow-covered driveway. My first time snowboarding at a lift serviced mountain was at Ski Bradford in Massachusetts. Double fun fact: on my first run ever, I grabbed ahold of the rope-tow, immediately fell over and proceeded to get dragged uphill to my final (or starting) destination.
I’ve been sliding on snow for twenty three years now and have been teaching both snowboarding and skiing professionally for nine of those years.
What I love about snowboard instructing:
Working with people. I LOVE working with people. Snowboard instructing allows me to share my passion of snowboarding with people who demonstrate at least some (varying) level of interest in sliding on snow. BOOM. NEW BEST FRIENDS EVERY DAY.
I get to spend time with people from all walks of life who have a goal of improving their snowboarding so that they can enjoy the activity in their own life. Most of the time snowboarding is part of a trip or vacation for them, so the goal is always to have fun. My job is to make sure people are having fun… yeah, I know, but someone has to do it. Rest assured, I am equipped with an arsenal of dad jokes for the cause.
Each client has a different goal. Sometimes I work with moms who are on vacation with their kids and want to improve their skills so that they can keep up. Sometimes I work with people prepping for a heli-ski trip and want to work on their skills in steep terrain. Sometimes I work with dads who sit behind a desk and need to find their legs again. Sometimes I work with kids who want to learn tricks so that they can be the next Travis Rice, Danny Davis, or Red Gerard.
All of these clients want to achieve something different and it is my job to facilitate their growth in the direction of their goals, in a way that works best for them. The tool that I am tasked with deploying for all of these individual’s success can be boiled down to a term called “movement analysis”. It is my job to be able to see what someone is doing while they are riding and be able to identify what body movements are making their board perform the way that it is. From there, I need to know what will improve their riding, and be able to create and implement a lesson plan that will push them toward their goals- adapting on the fly throughout the time we spend together.
The lightbulb. The best part of my job is when one of my clients has a breakthrough moment and looks at me with the “I DID IT” face.
Playing. We talked about fun earlier. Laughing, joking around, challenging ourselves, good snow, good weather, good food, and a well earned après scene; those are factors to the fun equation… but they aren’t the whole thing. Making learning fun can be as easy as setting the example as an instructor. Snowboarding isn’t school, and it isn’t rigid. Letting it flow and playing around on my snowboard means that I’m having fun, and it leads to fun-having on my clients behalf as well. It can also lead to new goals if they see something that they want to learn.
Case study: Julian
Julian is a very athletic young ripper that had never been to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (@jacksonhole) before and wanted to learn to ride more challenging terrain while integrating some freestyle elements into his riding.
Some things that we focused on:
Safety- being aware of other skiers and riders, choosing safe and appropriate terrain, making sure the coast is clear in the terrain park, and calling our “drop” (letting others know that it’s our turn to go into the jumps). See SMART style here.
Riding– Julian uses an athletic stance and bent knees to absorb terrain, and to align himself throughout his turns. It is very clear to see in the videos that he has upper and lower body separation; his lower body can control the turning and direction of the board while his upper body maintains a balanced position even in difficult terrain (an example would be the moguls he rode). This is an advanced move, and will set him up to continue to grow into a great snowboarder.
Some things we can continue to work on include keeping his upper body and shoulders taller/ upright while simultaneously bending his knees with the goal of eliminating the hunched over body position he reverts to in more challenging terrain. I used treading water as an example for him, being that he is a swimmer. I encouraged him to think of keeping his head and shoulders out of the water while his legs bend and move independently beneath him. Another way we thought about this was to think about keeping his chin up (literally; adjusting his head upward a bit more will pull his shoulders and chest into alignment as well).
This focus on body alignment will help him out tremendously when working toward more challenging terrain, especially as he adds in more freestyle elements to his riding such as jumps, grabs, and spins. I tested this out with his “flatland 360’s” (spinning on the ground). He did great! Next steps would be to work on keeping his head up instead of looking down, and getting his body alignment more upright and less hunched over.
Snowboarding is fun. Clients like Julian who are willing to try, and who are in it to have a great time make snowboard coaching fun.
Planning a trip to Jackson Hole? Interested in snowboarding on that trip? Give me a holler and let’s make some turns in pow town!
Contact me here, or connect with me @_derekmacdonald or on LinkedIn.
Thanks for sharing! It is great to see your passion for snowboarding being shared with others. I used to instruct and I still think its the best job i’ve ever had. Getting to Jackson Hole is a dream!
Snowboard instructing is so rewarding. Sharing a love of snowboarding with someone so that they can use those skills to cultivate their own passion for sliding on snow is the BEST! Come check out Jackson!