Snowboard instructor to the stars
March 2, 2007
VAIL ” Football players, actors, senators, musicians, Playboy bunnies ” in the 11 seasons Lionshead snowboard instructor Tim Stuart has worked at Vail, the clients he’s taught to ride have run the gamut.
“I’ve been very lucky,” the native of Australia said.
This week the jovial, charismatic Stuart spent two days teaching 17-year-old actress Joy Lauren how to snowboard. Lauren stars as Danielle Van De Kamp on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.”
“Tim was really great,” Lauren said. “He was really patient, which was great, because I have a tendency if I don’t pick it up in the first five minutes, to get really frustrated.”
Lauren is vacationing in town for nearly two weeks with her family, she said. Though she lives in Los Angeles now, she lived in Vail from age 1 to 4, and attended preschool in Beaver Creek.
Her mother worked for Vail Associates back then and ever since they moved, the family returns to Vail every year to ski. When Lauren mentioned making the switch to snowboarding to Mike Johnson, a ski instructor that skis with her family every year, he had some advice for her.
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“He said Tim was the guy to teach me if I really wanted to switch,” she said.
Stuart has taught a slew of senators, Australian musicians and actors, pro surfers, sports figures ” including Seattle Seahawks football player Kevin Bentley ” and high profile lawyers, including attorney William McMurry, who is currently lead counsel in a clergy sexual abuse case against the archdiocese of Louisville, Ky.
“It makes for interesting chairlift conversation,” Stuart said. “You need to be conversant on a wide range of topics.”
Stuart calls himself a “snow sports instructor” ” he skis (telemark, downhill and Nordic) and snowshoes ” even though he’s pretty much booked doing private snowboard lessons and teaching other instructors for the rest of the season.
“If you call yourself a snowboard instructor, you exclude yourself from half the business,” he said.
A few weeks ago Stuart spent two days with Olympic gold medalist Shaun White helping teach Kendra Wilkinson ” Hugh Heffner’s girlfriend and star of The Girls Next Door ” to snowboard for an episode of the E! channel show.
At the end of the two days, Stuart asked White for his autograph, something he doesn’t generally do, he said, but it was for a 6-year-old Aussie client that Stuart’s been instructing since the boy was 3.
“This kid really rips,” Stuart said. “He always says, ‘I’m going to be the next Shaun White.’ Really, he puts a lot of people to shame. He was so young he couldn’t even turn but he could board slide all the boxes and rails at age 4 ” with style.”
Stuart’s wife, Nicole, has been teaching Cameron Diaz for nearly 10 years. One year, when Diaz was dating actor Jared Leto, Nicole took Diaz on the mountain and Stuart taught Leto. Since Nicole’s been pregnant ” the couple’s first child is due next month ” Stuart has taken over instructing Diaz when she’s in town, usually a few times a winter, he said.
He also taught Diaz’s ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake.
The couple has gotten pretty close with Diaz, so much so that the Hollywood star invited Stuart to attend the Australian red carpet premiere of the second Charlie’s Angels film ” to which he brought his sisters to as well.
“We walked the red carpet and hung out in the VIP room,” Stuart said. “My sisters’ eyes were popping out of their head. My brother was filthy at me for not taking him. But that’s how Cameron is, she’s a thoughtful, good friend.”
Stuart’s wife Nicole wasn’t left out either, Diaz flew her and her sister up from Boston to New York for the American premiere of the movie, put her up in a hotel and picked her up in a limo for the event, Stuart said.
Adam Price, the adult snowboard school manager at Golden Peak, was Stuart’s boss for years. He called Stuart a leader and one of the resort’s most experienced professionals.
“(Tim) can teach anything on the mountain, whether it’s riding in the park, riding groomed runs, or out in the back,” Price said. “He’s got a great eye as far as being able to pick things out and help riders improve.”
As guest services supervisor for Vail Resorts, Brian Cartwright handles all of the corporate bookings for the mountain. When Cartwright was setting up The Girl’s Next Door filming on Vail Mountain, Tim Stuart was one of the first people that popped into Cartwright’s mind to help, he said.
“He’s very technically sound in terms of his form and how he teaches. He’s also very personable, dependable, and great with the guests. And he’s great on camera,” Cartwright said. “It was a little bit of all those factors rolled into one.”
Last year Cartwright booked Stuart with American Idol runner-up Bo Brice for a lesson that was supposed to start at noon. Brice’s agent called at 10 a.m. saying Brice wanted to go on the mountain right then. Cartwright called Stuart at home and woke him up, he said.
“Tim jumped out of bed, got his gear together and got over to the Cascade within 10 minutes,” he said.
When Brice suddenly decided he wanted to ski instead of snowboard, Stuart took that in stride as well.
“Tim took the time to take him over to the shop to switch out his equipment,” Cartwright said. “Tim’s a great skier as well. It was amazing how well he handled the situation with timeliness and professionalism. It was a good testament to his ability to handle any situation with ease.”
It was 27 years ago that Stuart strapped on a snowboard for the first time. Soon after the former World Surfing Tour judge and coach started teaching snowboarding lessons.
“Business was always quiet in the winter and this guy told me, you should come and teach snowboarding,” he said.
Stuart took his friend’s advice and has been surfing on snow ever since.
Originally from Sydney, Australia, Stuart teaches boarding year-round ” in the summers he travels to Thredbo resort in Australia where he’s managed a snowboard school for the past six years.
He’s among a hardcore group of professional instructors who work for Vail Resorts during our winter and then travel to Australian resorts come summer to teach back-to-back snowboard seasons.
This coming summer Stuart isn’t sure what his plan is considering there willl be a third family member to consider. They’re “playing things by ear,” he said.
There are lots of different ways to teach snowboarding, Stuart said. His method is hands on, literally. He often holds his client’s hands to help keep them upright so they don’t “waste a lot of energy falling and trying to get back up.” The method helps prevent people from getting discouraged, he said.
The real secret to Stuart’s way of teaching is using sports analogies that the client can relate to, he said. When Stuart was trying to teach Lauren the correct snowboarding stance, she mentioned that she used to be a gymnast.
“I told her to bend her knees like she was going to jump to the uneven bars,” he said. “It worked perfectly.
“With kids I say ‘do you have a PlayStation? What video games do you have for it? Well you know when you press the X button and he does this stance? Do that.’ It’s all about finding the right analogy for the guest.”
Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or email@example.com.