Teaching skiing a newfound career in Eagle Co.
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Money is often said to be no object for those who live and vacation in the Vail Valley, and for several of the valley’s ski instructors, it really is no object.
Butch Mazzuca, a retired businessman who moved to Vail from Denver in 1999, is one of many valley retirees or second-home owners who don’t need the money but have decided to turn their love for the sport into a second job that’s more like a hobby.
The job is a change of pace for most of these instructors. Many have already logged in 30-plus years in the workforce ” in jobs that didn’t necessarily entail action-packed fun. Some were bankers, CEOs, pilots or investors. Now their routines have changed, and they like it.
“They are maybe the most eclectic group of people I’ve ever met in my entire life,” Mazzuca said.
Mazzuca skied for years before the thought of teaching entered his mind. His doctor told him he should get out of his high-stress job as the president of an insurance brokerage company and open a bicycle shop. Mazzuca joked that he didn’t know anything about bicycles, but he got the point. It was time to reduce his day-to-day stress if he wanted to live long enough to enjoy his retirement.
Now, a day at work means spending time with athletically minded folks who want to ski better. The days are upbeat, and relatively stress free.
Mazzuca said his students are generally vacationers who are in the school because they want to learn. They’re typically eager and in good moods, which is one of many reasons why he likes his teaching environment.
Skiing at work isn’t so bad either.
“(Ski instructors are) very fortunate,” Mazzuca said.
For fun, pay or both?
Vail and Beaver Creek’s ski instructors teach for all kinds of reasons. Some of the second-home owners like to have something to do while they’re in town, like several Cordillera part-time residents, said Marty Suarez, the community’s marketing director. Others are fulfilling a lifelong dream, like Eagle resident Paolo Narduzzi.
Narduzzi has been teaching skiing part-time since the winter of 1970, mostly in the Northwest and the East Coast. He started doing it in high school and was hooked from the start. He always kept his part-time ski instructor job throughout his career in the construction industry and never lost sight of his goal of teaching full time.
“I promised myself that before I got too old and my legs were gone, I would be in a place like Vail teaching full time,” Narduzzi said.
After moving to New York from the Seattle area, Narduzzi saw not only saw the differences in skiing ” mainly the terrain ” but also the cultural differences. He says he missed the laid-back attitude he grew up with in the West and came back five years ago.
Now that he’s here, he chuckles when he hears the locals complaining about bad ski days. They must have never skied back East, he said.
“I haven’t had a bad day since I got here,” Narduzzi said.
Narduzzi is technically retired, but he still gets his hands on several odd jobs and projects. Being a full-time instructor here is much more lucrative than it would have been back East, he said, because those mountains “just aren’t set up for all-day lessons.”
“It’s very hard to pay the rent when you’re teaching back East,” he said.
But it’s also hard being a seasonal employee and trying to figure out what to do during the summertime, he said.
“We’re set up so I don’t have to work, but every little bit of money that I bring in affords us travel and the extras,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever stop working; I’ll always be teaching for sure.”
For Brock Sloan, a part-time ski instructor and the golf director at the Club at Cordillera, “It’s just a reward.” He and three other golf pros at Cordillera ” Brett Gagnon, John Kuzina and Darren Szot ” teach skiing to stay active and in touch with Cordillera’s members. Many residents are seasonal, so the winter and summer activities are a great way to bring the community together, Sloan said.
“It’s great skiing with the members during the winter to make Cordillera a year-round club,” he said. “They truly enjoy skiing with their golf pros.”
While the personal reasons for teaching vary, the perks do not. Instructors are constantly improving their skiing too, especially since they have to lead by example.
Mazzuca now enjoys skiing more than ever. He said it’s added a whole new dimension to the sport for him.
“I have no illusions about being an Olympic athlete; let’s call a spade a spade,” he said. “I just find it very rewarding when people get it.”
And that’s the perk many of the ski instructors who teach for kicks agree upon. Watching someone improve is really fulfilling, Sloan said.
“I love communicating; showing people something,” Narduzzi said. “I love it when a client’s eyes light up when they’ve got it.”
For Josh Lautenberg, a realtor with Sonnenalp Real Estate, being a part-time instructor has other advantages. Lautenberg teaches 21 days a season ” enough hours logged to receive free ski passes for his entire family. He also gets a locker a Golden Peak.
Lautenberg often teaches the same families year after year. He enjoys seeing them grow and improve, and if it helps him sell a house, even better.
“Some of those clients become real estate clients and they recommend their friends, so it’s also a business networking opportunity for me,” Lautenberg said.
Another perk is just the nature of the sport. No matter the level of a student, the instructors can still enjoy every moment on the slopes.
That’s the thing with skiing, Mazzuca said, everybody’s limit is different, regardless of the run.
“If I’m skiing with upper level people, I have a ball,” he said. “I can have every bit as much fun if I’m skiing with beginners on green runs.”
Lauren Glendenning can be reached for comment at email@example.com.