Ski Santa Fe Clinic Part 2: The Community You Make

(This is the second story in a three-part series about PSIA-AASI Lead Writer Peter Kray’s multi-week ski clinic at Ski Santa Fe).

The Men’s Multi-Day Lesson Program at Ski Santa Fe, which I recently took for six consecutive weeks on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon, was instrumental in helping me develop new skills that I hope to enjoy for the rest of my life.

In retrospect, however, it’s probably the new friendships I made that will resonate the most. Every time I’m back on the hill, I might see one of my classmates in the summit chair queue and have the opportunity to share a lift again.

Like Brian, the restauranteur who opened my mind to the possibilities of wine and food pairings and how his little New Mexico bistro paired specially prepared takeout menus with suggested movies to help his customers survive the pandemic.

Or Dennis, the military physician who spent 20 years stationed in Europe and skied everywhere from Sölden, Austria, to Chamonix, France, and had the pins and patches to prove it. Or the other Pete and Tim, who both took the shared lift time to tell their own stories of family, life, and hope of future dreams.

I’ve found that the shared ride to the next run can be a kind of confessional at times, where people find the freedom to tell a five- or 10-minute story that they might struggle their whole lives to tell anywhere else.

Or as my friend PSIA-AASI Education Development Manager Angelo Ross once told me, “Things get pretty real pretty fast on the chairlift. Sometimes it’s just best to listen.”

Making Friends Comes First

As I’ve written in the pages of 32 Degrees, I think people take ski or snowboard lessons for the same reason they take a cooking, art, or language class – to get better at something, and stretch their minds doing it, while also meeting new people with similar interests.

Bill Gould, the former Ski Santa Fe Snowsports School director and now technical director, said that for decades, the multi-day lesson program has been doing exactly that for people from all kinds of backgrounds.

The weekend White Tornadoes Youth Program, or “White Ts,” has been so popular over the past several years that the area has had to make registration a lottery for local youngsters who are skiing or snowboarding for the first time to those confident in Ski Santa Fe’s upper-level terrain, our Play-Drill-Adventure.

“It’s been so popular for so many years that there have been a couple generations of students who have joined our snowsports school staff,” Gould said.

It’s the same with the women’s program, which offers four lesson options – including three different weekdays and one afternoon time slot in comparison to the one-day weekly Wednesday morning option for the men.

“There are women who have taken those classes and become instructors here,” Gould said. “And even more who have built friendships with their classmates and keep making plans to come back to the mountain to ski together again.”

Lessons – and game improvement – are the initial point of interest for skiers, but the ski area also provides them with the opportunity to network and connect with a community that they are also contributing to every time they go skiing.

Back to Center

I took this clinic to improve my skiing. Something I intend to do time and time again. But I also wanted to get back in touch with my own local ski family. Something I think I lost over the last couple seasons.

When I first started skiing Santa Fe, I was working as a ski tech in town at Alpine Sports, an award-winning ski shop with lots of local folks who called the mountain home.

They gave me the “cook’s pass,” introducing me to terrain, people, and a special sense of Southwestern ski culture I never would have found on my own.

Then times changed. People got married. People moved on. And even my friends at the mountain were often too busy to find. So other than my friend Tal (see previous story), Big Jim, ‘Berto Bob, and maybe German-born mountain ops leader Michael, I’ve found myself frequently skiing alone.

This helped me get back to being happy, right where I belong.

Next week – Knowing the Mountain