Steamboat Springs One of the most influential organizations in recreational skiing in the Rockies finally has found a permanent home after 60 years in Steamboat Springs.
This month, the Educational Foundation of the Rocky Mountain Ski Instructors Association closed on the purchase of side-by-side commercial condominiums on the street level of The Steamboat Grand. Executive Director Dana Forbes said the purchase was facilitated locally by Millennium Bank, which went to great lengths to help the association qualify for a Colorado Housing Finance Authority 20-year commercial property loan at 5.75 percent interest.
The nonprofit group that administers continuing on-snow examinations of professional ski instructors has come a long way from the days when the late Rudi and Dotty Schnackenberg ran the organization out of the back of their Willys Jeep, longtime Steamboat ski instructor Kris Hagenbuch said.
The Ski Instructors Association paid $495,000 this month to buy the commercial space formerly occupied by the sales offices of the Edgemont condominium development from Chad Fleischer. Forbes said the real estate her board of directors agreed to buy represents the only commercial condos at street level of the Grand that are zoned for office use — the rest are zoned for retail or restaurant use.
The Schnackenbergs (he was a Steamboat Ski School supervisor) would be impressed with the association’s new home.
“Rudi and Dotty gave 25 years of volunteer service,” Hagenbuch said last week.
With other visionaries in the Rocky Mountain region, including great Steamboat skier Gordy Wren, they helped incorporate Certified Ski Instructors in September 1950. The purpose of the organization was to set up minimum standards of qualified ski instruction and certify the qualifications of working ski instructors.
Today, the Rocky Mountain Ski Instructors Association is one of eight regional arms of the Professional Ski Instructors of America. The American Association of Snowboard Instructors was associated with the PSIA, including the Rocky Mountain region, beginning in summer 1997.
The organization has worked virtually anonymously here out of a series of well-maintained rental offices far removed from the ski slopes. With new offices at the base of the ski area, Forbes said she hopes it will become much more visible to the skiing public.
“Now we’re right across the road from where we hold many of our (instructor training) events, and we have easy access to conference space,” Forbes said.
The Ski Instructors Association is a big part of Ski Town USA, Education Director Dave Schuiling agreed.
The Rocky Mountain Division has 54 member ski areas and 7,000 of the 30,000 professional U.S. ski instructors who are members of the PSIA, Forbes said. In order to retain their certification, they must take two days of clinics every other year and strive to achieve higher levels of certification — compensation is up to each ski area, but each step in the ladder is typically worth an extra dollar an hour in pay.
Hagenbuch is among the elite Alpine ski instructors who is qualified to certify less experienced skiers.
“Level 1 is pretty easy to achieve, but Level 2 is a big jump, and Level 3 is pretty much a six-year endeavor,” Hagenbuch said. He is a former president of the board of the Rocky Mountain Ski Instructors Association, as well.
Other Steamboat ski and snowboard instructors who are qualified to certify other instructors are John James, Scott Anfang, Beck Marback, Eric Rolls, Chris Rogers, Clark Steward, Barry Smith, Emily Lovett, Jim Winn, Nelson Wingard, Andrew Barfield, Heather DeVos and Deb Armstrong.
Forbes said the emphasis at the PSIA-Rocky Mountain Division-AASI has evolved to become customer-centric. Many of today’s skiers are less concerned with how technically proficient their skiing is and more with how satisfying the overall experience is.
“They long to get away from everyday life,” Forbes said. “What guests really want is the experience. We train instructors to turn just so, hold their hands just so and to stand just so. You can teach anyone to ski, but you can’t teach them as easily to be personable and connect with the guest.”
After beginning her career teaching skiing in the Poconos at age 15, Forbes has watched many recreational skiers come through ski schools and has come to agree with writer William Arthur that “The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
“Remember that the dream begins with a teacher who believes in you,” Forbes tells rising ski instructors. “One who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau.”
If everything goes as planned, the acquisition of a permanent home at the base of the ski area will help the Rocky Mountain Ski Instructors Association inspire new generations of ski instructors.