It’s not very often that a first-timer wins the award.
Sure, we sometimes hear of child prodigies who stun the world with their insight or talent, or the breakthrough teenage athlete, but often these examples are few.
Usually, time and experience win out over native, brand new enthusiasm.
Not so with Ashley Sifers, the Colorado Ski Instructor of the Year for 2013, who received the accolade just weeks after completing her first year as an instructor.
Susan Seppi, Vice President of Operations at Granby Ranch nominated Ashley.
“Ashley is passionate about teaching snow sports and she loves to share the mountain experience with everyone she encounters,” explains Susan when asked why she nominated a rookie ski instructor. “She is exceptional at understanding how a personalized snow experience can help guests quickly gain confidence.”
And while her supervisor truly believed Ashley could be Colorado’s Instructor of the Year, Ashley herself, did not.
“I didn’t think I had snowball’s chance,” she laughed.
“It’s a real honor.”
A Unique Perspective
Of course, there’s more to this story than you might expect.
With a background in therapeutic recreation, Ashley spent 10 years working with people with disabilities. “My job wasn’t necessarily to teaching skiing, but working for a nonprofit, I ended up teaching skiing by default.”
“In my job, we used skiing and other sports as vehicles to other means,” Ashley explains. “I really enjoyed teaching skiing and wanted to become a full-time ski instructor. So last year, I quit my job and made it happen.”
Ashley’s background helps her bring a unique perspective to ski instruction. While the skills she is teaching are important, she sees skiing and her role as a teacher from a more broad perspective.
“I believe skiing is a way to enrich life and grow experiences,” she shares. I love the look on people’s faces when they accomplish something and have a breakthrough. I enjoy being part of that process.”
Although she also admits to what most of us have always suspected about ski instructors.
“It’s an awesome way to spend a day.”
As an instructor, Ashley is part of her resort’s safety team. Instructors start by teaching students the basic skills they will need to manoeuver safely on snow: starting, turning and most importantly, stopping. They also teach “The Code,” the skier and snowboarder Responsibility Code.
“It’s really important for everyone to understand the Code. These rules mean something and everyone needs to understand them,” explains Ashley.
“Since no one ever gets the entire mountain to themselves, everyone needs to trust and respect one another, so that we can all have a good time and come off the hill safely.”
Ashley also believes it’s important for skiers and riders to listen to their bodies and know when to stop. It’s always tempting to take one more run, as most of us know and some of us have learned the hard way. But rather than risking a fall when you’re tired, Ashley suggests prudence.
“You don’t have to eke out every minute of the day to have a successful, awesome day on the hill.”
In addition to talking about safety, we also talked about building skills. As you would expect from an instructor, Ashley believes in the basics. Learn the fundamentals from a pro and progress from there. But she also believes in pushing one’s limits.
“If you feel comfortable with what you’re doing, it’s time to move on and try something harder. Just remember to always take a buddy,” cautions Ashley.
Memories That Count
Reflecting on her first year as a Level 1 PSIA Instructor, Ashley relishes the connections she made with students and her ability to share a skiing with them. Her goal is to help them build memories that are so positive that they’ll want to continue skiing for years to come.
Drawing on her own experience, she remembers her grandfather bringing his grandchildren from Missouri to Colorado each winter to learn to ski. A World War II veteran, her grandfather learned to ski in wartime Europe. It enriched his life and he was adamant that his grandchildren share skiing with him.
“We still talk about our ski vacations, 20 years later,” reflects Ashley. “If I can help someone build a fun family memory that will last at least 20 years, then I’ve done a good job at the end of the day.”
- Sol Vista Basin, Colorado: Where Families Go BIG! January 26, 2012.
- Adventures of a 42 Year-Old Rookie Ski Instructor, March 8, 2013.
- Our Child Doesn’t Want to Ski. What Should We Try? February 27, 2013.
- Do Women Learn to Ski Best From Other Women?, January 30, 2013.
- Do Kids Have to Ski Before They Ride? March 15, 2012.
© 2014, Kristen Lummis. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.