If you’re not having fun, your student isn’t either.
Here are ways to ignite your passion and inspire others.
By Krista Crabtree
n experienced instructor teaching in Portillo, Chile,
had a first-timer ski lesson that started out like any
other, with introductions and some exploratory
sliding. After a while, though, the student, a man
from Uruguay, sat down, picked up two handfuls of
snow, and started rubbing his face with it.
The instructor found that a bit strange but sat with the
man in the snow. As the time passed, the instructor asked if
the student was ready to ski again. The man turned to him
and said it was his first time back in snow for a long time.
“Turns out he was a part of the Uruguayan rugby team
that crashed in the Andes in 1972 and is one of the survivors
highlighted in the book and movie, Alive,” says Michael Rogan,
his instructor. “He never experienced snow in a positive way.
He was in Portillo because his kids wanted to go skiing. I
learned from him that everyone has an amazing story—you
just have to make the opportunity to find it out.”
You would think that, as captain of the PSIA Alpine
Team, operations manager of Ski Portillo Chile, director of
instruction for SKI Magazine, and ski teacher at Heavenly Ski
Resort, Rogan has reached the pinnacle of his profession. But
he does not rest on his laurels; he approaches instruction with
a childlike excitement.
“I have learned so much from my students that it seems
they sometimes teach me more than I teach them,” he says.
But how does someone who typically logs up to 325 days
a year on snow retain energy and passion for teaching? It
may sound like a quote from a tea bag, but many top-level
instructors would agree with one very basic premise: you’ve
got to have fun to teach fun.
When you think about it, there are only a handful of
sports in which the teacher gets to participate in the sport
with the student. Picture golf and tennis pros who spend
their lesson time at the driving range or feeding balls from
the net. Conversely, snowsports instructors get to ski or ride
all day long and get paid for it and receive a season pass and
often other perks.
Becoming a Great Teacher
Everyone can draw up vivid images of the best and worst
teachers from their past, and those memories often come with
strong emotions. On the positive end of the spectrum might
be a coach who explained something to you just the right way
that caused you to have an “aha” moment. Or a teacher who
took the time to listen and empathize with you at a critical
juncture. Most likely you remember the worst teachers as