Talking with Okemo’s Ski + Ride School instructors, it’s impossible to not think about my own experiences on the slopes. I’ve been skiing as long as I can remember, and snowboarding since getting hooked on this “rad new sport” in the late 1980s (yes, I’m old). I’ve always loved taking lessons, for one simple reason – despite being on the far side of 50, I still believe I can get better. That lifelong “progression” is what makes these sports so fulfilling, so enriching. Identify the challenge, and embrace the challenge. “The first and constant progression in every lesson, no matter the age, level or skill of the student, is safety, fun and learning,” said Barbara Newton, an Okemo instructor and coordinator for Okemo’s Women’s Alpine Adventures program. “Learning and confidence need to go hand in hand. Can we create a safe environment that is fun and invites the student to try, have success, and gain confidence to progress?” Progression, in brief, is the art of building on the skill set you bring to the slopes. That’s the goal of the Okemo Ski + Ride School, though results can differ dramatically. “I look at progression as a moving target,” said Chris Saylor, the school’s director. “Even in a beginner lesson, goals and outcomes vary. For a solid foundation, I want the guest to enjoy the experience of sliding on snow. Finding what ticks the box for students to enjoy sliding can be the elusive part. Nobody wants to participate in any activity if they’re not having fun.” More importantly, Okemo instructors know better than anyone that “there is always something to learn in skiing,” said Katie Brinton, an instructor and staff trainer at the resort. She’s speaking from experience. “Part of the reason I fell in love with ski instruction was the incredible training I had access to as a ski professional,” she said. “I arrived at Okemo as a bit of a know-it-all, only to happily discover that there was still so much to learn about the sport. “When my clients get frustrated, I remind them that I have things I’m trying to master as well,” said Brinton. “If they ask me why, I tell the truth: I want to improve. I like thinking critically about what I’m doing. I like the challenge, and mastering this skill will allow me to have even more fun on the snow.” The same holds for snowboarders, and snowboard instructors. “I’ve been riding for 32 years, and I’m still learning,” said Tony Lutz, Okemo’s Amplitude coach. “It’s definitely more difficult to attain highly technical skills the older you get, but you start to understand the mountain, and choose your lines with experience. You can read conditions, and have the knowledge of what type of terrain is appropriate for what style of riding you’re attempting.” Which begs the question: How important is progression in terms of your enjoyment on the hill? Or for your kids? “I find that expectations are the most difficult to address,” said Saylor. “Most children will leave a lesson happy if they have had fun, maybe met a new friend, and were able to slide as a group. “Generally, younger guests consider improvement, or progression, in the form of riding new lifts or sliding new terrain, not whether their turns had good turn shape or skied parallel all the time,” he said. “The difficulty in some cases comes from parents’ expectation of instant progress.” Likewise, not all skiers and snowboarders learn at the same pace. Oftentimes, age is a determining factor in how you approach instruction and assess progress. “As your body changes, the techniques you can apply, and the techniques that work most effectively for you, will change,” said Brinton. “A 3-year-old moves very differently from a teenager. And the moves that allowed your Putting the “progress” in progression - continued from page 55 - - continued on page 59 - okemo.com > 802-228-1600 > page 57