Jeff Sadis is the person who taught me how to wax skis. As a new racing mom, I was both fascinated and terrified by the process. What if I screwed up? Would my child crash? Or worse than crash, would he get a bad time? Could I hurt myself sharpening edges? Jeff showed me what to do and set my mind at ease.
Five years later, my sons no longer race, but I can still tune skis. I caught up with Jeff to find out what he’s doing. As we chatted, I realized that he has some great advice for anyone wishing to work in the ski industry, young or old. Here’s what he has to say.
JS: First of all, I have to put this out there for all parents. If your kids have any aptitude for the medical profession or the legal industry, steer them that way. Those professions are far more lucrative.
However if you and your kids are okay with not making a whole lot of money, but having a very good dynamic lifestyle, I recommend skiing.
BSM: Okay that’s a good disclaimer and probably sage advice. But ‘fess up. How did you get to this point?
JS: Here’s how I got started. When I was growing up, both of my parents were ski instructors. We weren’t a mountain family, and we just skied on weekends. By today’s standards we certainly weren’t a ski family.
But when I was 10 years old I saw the Lake Placid Olympics. Phil and Steve Mahre were racing and when I saw them, I wanted to race. I started racing at age 11. It went from there and I managed to do all right. I skied for Colorado Mountain College for 2 seasons. Then I blew out my knee and shoulder and took time out. During that time I did some coaching at Western Washington University.
Next I got into speed skiing and started competing. I was doing well at that and had three okay seasons when I could afford to do it. Often though the cost of it didn’t allow me to go to Europe to ski the World Cup races for which I qualified. So, after all of that, I decided to choose coaching as a career path.
BSM: So you can obviously ski and you’ve got racing experience. Was that your ticket to coaching?
JS: Not really. I graduated from college with degrees in Sports Psychology and Philosophy of Athletics and applied for coaching positions. I was well prepared, but because I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t get the jobs. I decided that I had to go out and learn more and offer more than the other people applying for the jobs.
I was already interested in ski tuning, because in speed skiing, the structure of the ski and the wax are really important. By focusing on both coaching and tuning, I became one of 10 people in the world that are both a high-level tech and a high-level coach. After doing some coaching at the junior level in Utah, I began working with athletes from the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
I established myself as a journeyman coach and tech. My skills allow teams to maximize their performance with the dollars that they have. Over the course of a season, I coach, maintain gear, do video analysis, set courses, and so on. I’ve worked with athletes and teams from across the world.
Luckily this all really interests me. But really I chose the combination coaching and tuning as a financial necessity. I needed to make myself more marketable than the next guy out there.
BSM: So what are you doing now?
JS: Right now, I’m in Utah receiving goods for this season. I do the buying for racing at the Sports Den, tune skis and boards and wait for the next coaching job to start.
My athletes change from year to year, but my job doesn’t change. I bring the same tools to the table each year. The challenge is in figuring out how to most effectively apply those tools to the athlete.
BSM: What is your best advice for someone wanting to work in the world of skiing?
JS: Well, I came at my career as an athlete. If you don’t want to take the racing route, the best thing to do is find a ski company and volunteer to help them out. Apprentice with the company. Offer to help with demo days. Help set up tents and help with promotions at ski areas. Get your foot in the door and start meeting people.
Get a job at ski shop, wax skis, meet the reps, and chat people up. Ultimately, what you know isn’t going to get you the job. It’s who you know. Go out and meet people. Be gregarious. Be yourself. Your passion for the sport will show through and you’ll get a job.
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