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A secret world of ski instructors

Veronica Whitney
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyVail Mountain ski instructor Allen Smith has written a book about anecdotes from other ski instructors from anywhere and everywhere called "Ski Instructors Confidential".
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VAIL – Kids do really funny things in ski school, said Vail ski instructor Allen Smith.”In one instance, the instructor is getting the group of 5-year-olds ready to go skiing on a snowy day and he tells the kids, ‘OK, what’s the one thing that we want to make sure we have before we go out and ski?’ And a little girl raises her hand and says, ‘A credit card,'” said Smith, whose book, “Ski Instructors Confidential,” is for sale in local bookstores.The book, which is being serialized every day in the Vail Daily Tuesday through the end of ski season, is a compilation of 163 stories told by ski instructors -ages 14 to 89- from across the country.”I wanted it to be family rated, but at the same time I wanted it to have a little bit of a racy edge sometimes,” said Smith, 55, a certified ski instructor who has worked in Vail for the last four years. “There is no material that is offensive or demeaning. There’s a whole chapter on kids, which is really funny because kids are brutally honest.”A book is bornThe idea for a book of ski instructors’ anecdotes came to Smith last winter during the ski instructors’ annual meeting in Vail.

“We were sitting around waiting for the meeting to start and one of the guys started telling a funny story about something happening in his class and then somebody else said, ‘I’ll tell you what happened to me,'” Smith said. “So in about 15 minutes I had heard four or five of the funniest stories. And I started to think there must be thousands of these stories out there.”The next step was to shop for a publisher to see if it the book was a good idea, Smith said.”Everybody thought it would be a great idea,” he said. “So I thought, let’s see what it would take to put this together.”At first, Smith thought even if he could tap 10 percent of the 1,500 instructors at Vail and Beaver Creek for their stories, he would have enough for a book. “But then I found out that it was a little harder to get material than I had imagined,” he said. “A lot of people have good stories, but they don’t know how to relate them verbally. So I realized I would have to expand beyond Vail and Beaver Creek.”Secrets of the trade In the end, Smith contacted about 250 instructors from across the country to get the information for his book.

“I did a mailing and called people and e-mailed others,” he said. “I ended up getting people with phenomenal experience, people who had been teaching for over 60 years in Austria and in the United States. “An interesting thing happened,” he added. “A lot of the stories centered around the old equipment – leather boots, etc. There were other stories of instructors not being quite as sensitive to the female sex as they should be. I can’t go into too much detail. A lot of it stayed in.”Among the stories that would remain untold to the non-instructing people were they not in Smith’s book, several deal with what instructors do to get tips, Smith said.”There are so many stories about tips, which are important to instructors, and they don’t come easily,” Smith said. “In one story, an instructor who asked to remain anonymous said at the beginning of a class he approached this teenager and handed him a $5 bill saying, ‘See this bill? Would you like to keep it? At the end of the class, when we’re all ready to leave, walk up to me and hand me this $5 and say, “Thank you for the great class.”‘””At the end of the day they’re standing around and the young boy comes up and says, Is this where I give you back your $5?”Other funny stories have to do with fashion.”My observation in skiing is that people always want to look good when they ski,” he said. “Even if they never ski a day in the their lives.”Though he said many people believe the profession of ski instructor has celebrity status, Smith said, it can be hard some times.



“A lot of people don’t understand everything that goes into being a ski instructor,” he said. “It’s a lot of hard work. It’s a lot more than just cruising down the mountain. Keeping everybody safe and happy, keeping track of everybody, to me, it’s challenging. The book is a celebration of the profession of ski instructors.”Staff Writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or vwhitney@vaildaily.com. Where to buy itCopies of “Ski Instructors Confidential” may be purchased online at http://www.snowwriter.com, by calling 1-800-201-7892 extension 97 or at The Bookworm in Edwards and Verbatim booksellers in Vail.=================================================Vail, Colorado


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