Angelo Ross grew up in a family of artists, and spent 20 years as a science teacher who loved skateboarding before he started skiing. His background means that as a ski instructor, he has the perfect mix of skills to celebrate the athleticism, physics, and pure creativity that make skiing such a compelling sport.
“As ski teachers, we're all into physics," said Ross. "But I also like to think of the mountain as a canvas, and to talk about all the ways we can use the ski to make different lines by making different movements with our ankles and hips.”
Go to Angelo’s website, naturalcause.org, and you will see he offers that same mix of intellect and inspiration in his art (there are also links to work by other instructors who are artists like Sue Kramer and Tina Buckley). From abstract “Cave Art,” to “Repetitive” detailed drawings of hand-tied fishing flies, and cubist cityscapes, Ross employs an array of styles while working with everything from watercolors to acrylics, although primarily in pen and ink. Ross credits his wife, Amanda, as the brains behind Natural Cause.
He said allowing expression to form naturally is important in both skiing and art. “My general attitude is not to view the ski hill as a competitive space,” said Ross. “Having that same mentality on the ski hill that you do in the studio helps you make art. You’re doing the same thing, it’s just one you’re doing with your hands, and skiing is with your feet.”
Ross, who is an examiner and the snowsports school technical director at Hidden Valley Resort in Pennsylvania, did not feel as in balance more than a year ago. In fact, he was feeling some guilt about deciding to end his career as a high school educator, and some trepidation about working full-time as a ski instructor and artist.
After a few conversations with PSIA-AASI Team Manager Jeb Boyd, his brother PSIA Alpine Team Member Matt Boyd, and Eastern Development Team coach Kathy Brennan, Ross decided to burn up his remaining sick days and attend his first ever PSIA-AASI National Academy in Big Sky, Montana, where he would ski with Jeb.
While accessing the area’s famed North Summit Snowfield - an exposed face that requires a mandatory ski patrol shack sign out - Ross hit something under the snow which jarred one of his skis off his feet. It just so happened PSIA-AASI Chief Executive Officer Nicholas Herrin was right behind, and skied down to grab Angelo’s ski, and hike it back up.
One thing led to another, and Herrin queried Ross about producing the art for the 2019 Academy t-shirts, which included AASI Rider Rally, and PSIA Telemark Academy. The result was an elegantly simple, evocative line drawing of Big Sky’s Lone Peak Tram rising to the ski area’s iconic summit.
The hardest thing about the project, Ross said, was waiting nearly a year to unveil his work. But it’s been a good year overall, as Ross has capped his first full year as a professional artist, while teaching snowboarding and skiing, and getting more than 100 days on the slope.
“The last fourteen months have been ideal,” Ross said. “I want to roll everything that’s happened in that time right into what’s next.”
And while he certainly has big dreams of taking his artistic talents to an ever-expanding market, he says, “If tomorrow looks just like today, I’m perfectly happy with that.”
(Ross wants to thank Dan Rugh and the team at Pittsburgh’s Commonwealth Press for all their help in printing his work).
- Peter Kray