At PSIA-AASI National Academy 2019 in Big Sky, Montana, the weather changes every 20 minutes, from snow to sunshine and back to snow again.
The runs vary from highway-wide groomers to breathtaking steeps, with treeless chutes as smooth as the edge of the moon. And the natural beauty is so wild and stunning that the iconic, glaciated pyramid profile of Lone Mountain may be the most photographed peak in all of ski-dom.
But the essence of the event – bringing PSIA-AASI National Team members and instruction professionals together from across the country for one incredible week of skiing and riding, learning, and unforgettable fun – always remains the same.
“It’s why I flew all the way out here from China,” said George Bertram, a Level III alpine instructor who teaches English in Hong Kong. “I have to get on a plane to ski anyway, but I might as well do it to come and ski with the best skiers and enjoy the end of the season with a great gang.”
Bertram, who is attending his third National Academy, said the event is the one place he can expect to network with hundreds of other snow pros from across the country, while also working to improve his own on-snow game.
“I enjoy spending time with so many other instructors. I also like to get pushed in my skiing. I get to get better at National Academy,” said Bertram.
Self-improvement, pushing their personal limits, enjoying the end of the season at one of America’s greatest mountains, and meeting up with old friends are just some of the reasons dozens of PSIA-AASI members attend National Academy every single season.
“I came here after going to Interski (2019 in Pamporovo, Bulgaria) to keep supporting what a great job the team did in Bulgaria,” said Cindy Miller, a Winter Park, Colorado-based instructor who has attended three Interskis and several National Academies. “I think other countries look to see what we are doing in terms of things like our alpine fundamentals, freestyle, and student-centered teaching, and it’s also interesting to see how our team takes in what other countries are working on.”
Interski 2019 has provided the key focus for this year’s National Academy. On Monday night, Alpine Team members Jonathan Ballou, Ann Schorling, Dave Lyon, and Dusty Dyar took the stage to highlight the key takeaways from their Interski presentation on the People Skills and Teaching Skills corners of the Learning Connection.
The opportunity to share some of the excitement of Interski, which took place just three weeks ago, was one of the main reasons Peter Donahue, a Taos, New Mexico-based instructor and former PSIA-AASI Board member came back to National Academy – and event he hasn’t attended since 1987.
“Hearing the information from Interski is nice, but I also like sharing the excitement of it having just happened,” said Donahue. “It’s fun being part of something bigger. This is a season that I also never wanted to end, and this way I get to finish it with a bang.”
The sense of community, of lifelong memories being made, and of gaining greater confidence and understanding of their own professional abilities are what make National Academy such a can't-miss event for PSIA-AASI members each and every season.
Or, as first-time attendee Rob Russell, an instructor from Catamount Mountain Resort in New York, so succinctly said, “I came here for the people, the place, and the vibe. It’s like a harmonic convergence!”
For more news, images, and insights from National Academy as it unfolds, be sure to look for daily webposts (such as these Day 1 highlights) and follow #NationalAcademy2019 on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – as well as First Chair podcasts to come.
- Peter Kray