How did my ski life start? Well, as many great endeavors begin, it was a woman, well actually an 18-year-old woman. Her name was Cindy Russell and she was beautiful. I was 18 too, and with nearly two seasons of self-taught snowboarding experience, I wasn’t ready for what I was about to get myself into. My snowboard instruction consisted of some pictures in Powder Magazine, and a segment in a Warren Miller Movie. The equipment in 1986 was pretty basic. I had Sorel work boots that I strapped in to the Burton Elite 150 snowboard. This was as techie as snowboarding had become in those early days.
It didn’t matter if I was riding alone or with a few of my skiing friends. What I knew was that sliding on water - frozen or liquid - was the best thing in the world. I started surfing when I was 11 and I thought that was the most bitchin’ thing ever. And then I found the freedom and friction-less glide of a seemingly endless wave. I couldn’t get enough, and I still can’t.
On weekends during the winter and spring, I drove my truck up to the Southern California mountains early every Saturday morning. I would “couch surf” in the nights and snowboard for those two days. Then the opportunity came to ask out the most beautiful girl I knew. I worked up the nerve to ask Cindy if she would go up to Big Bear Lake with me. She said, “Yes”!! And I was thrilled.
We left our town of Dana Point at 5 am and arrived laughing and smiling a couple hours later at 7:15. The weather that day was incredible with cool blue skies and 10 inches of fresh powder. My skills were going to be on display and the conditions were great. Cindy and I flirted and took powder laps one after the other until we skied out to the eastern boundary of the small ski area.
The boundary run ended on a cat track that was pancake flat and exposed to the midday sun. The snow had transformed into 10 inches of glue. I had never experienced this snow condition until right then when I flew into it at about 25 mph. My snowboard slowed immediately to zero as my upper body maintained its speed into a downward arc. When I emerged I was without gloves, goggles, my hat, and one Sorel. Cindy skied up to me, kindly retrieving my clothing and thanking me for the snow test in untracked conditions. This was not at all how I envisioned removing my clothing for the first time around Cindy.
As we pushed out of the seemingly never-ending flat run, I tried several ways to gain momentum, all of which ended in frustration and an increasing amount of sweat drenching my shirt under my jacket. When we finally came to a semi-groomed flat section I was exhausted. In capitulation, I made a request of Cindy that took my 18-year-old ego down several notches. I asked, “Cindy, can you pull me?” UGGGGGH, I couldn’t believe what I was saying as I thought to myself, ‘Jon, you were so cool, UNTIL NOW.’ Cindy extended her ski pole and began to skate with me in tow. This is when I decided that I was going to trade in my snowboard for skis.
In the lodge that afternoon, the trade was made. My transformation from snowboarder to skier was initiated. I was now the owner of 185 cm White Fischer RC4 skis and Raichle RE3 rear-entry boots. For the next three years, I would spend my college weekends becoming a Southern California skier.
This is an excerpt from Jon's forthcoming book Skiing: From the Bottom Up. Send your feedback and follow along here for weekly posts with stories and ski lessons from Jon's nearly three decades of experience.
Join Jon for the 2018 Zelement Club JaPOW ski and ride trip to Myoko, Japan. January 28 - February 4.
Private Lessons with Jon are available through Copper Mountain Ski School from mid-November to mid-April. Call +1.970.968.3023 or email email@example.com to book your lesson now. Read more about lessons with Jon on our Colorado page.
“We have a serious Coconut situation going on here!” she said to me as I began writing this book. You see, the book Skiing: From the Bottom Up (working title) is beginning to take shape at sunset while I overlook the Indian Ocean in Bali. I’ve been teaching the sport of skiing since the age of 23 and I planning to teach it for many years into the future. I absolutely love it! I chase the winter season differently. I now split my time between the state of Colorado for the winter, and Bali during the Southern Hemisphere “winter”. This perfect mix allows me to stoke my fire with the contrast of the two distinct environments. The story within this book has been writing itself for decades, but it took the tropical temperatures for the messages to blossom.
The idea for this book came to me during an online workshop for aspiring authors hosted by our friend Carl Massy at The Practice. Halfway through the session, I stopped listening (Sharon was engaged and taking great notes) and within 7 minutes I mind-mapped the outline of the book. As I write, I will share some of the content on the blog each week from now until mid-February and I’d love to hear your comments and feedback. You will join me on daily adventures in the life of a ski instructor – at 8 am Instructor Clinics and 4:30 Instructor Technical Sessions, to the backroom of the boot shop (Are you ready Surefoot crew?), and down memory lane recounting how the sport has evolved since I started teaching in 1992 – learning lessons to improve your skiing along the way.
In February, I will begin shooting and editing videos that will be companions to the blog and eventually the book. You will be applying your new skills on your first run after reading the book and you can take the instructional videos on the mountain with you. Powder, moguls, carving, skidding, speed and line control, breaking through the intermediate and advanced ruts, and developing Intuitive Jedi skiing skills.
I will do my best to make this experience incredible and fun for all those who read and follow and contribute. I have had such wonderful coaches and colleagues along my journey and I have also been blessed with many incredibly kind and generous students over the years who have supported my ski-teaching habit. Soon I will launch a GoFundMe account to raise the money to fund this project. The funds will be used for copywriting, editing, publishing, design, and video production. As a backer, you will have access to advanced copies of the book, first editions, on-mountain meet and greet ski sessions, 2-day Masterclass sessions, and a Signature 1-week Zelement Club vacation. And everyone who supports at any level will be recognized in the book credits.
I am honored to embark on this journey with you. As we go through process, I will post certain sections and other related content on the blog. I am excited to hear your feedback to make this book even better.
It’s time to build this from the Bottom Up.
Love and Gratitude,
Join us for JaPOW: A special week of coaching and teaching skiing in the famous powder of Japan | January 28-February 5, 2018.
Private Lessons with Jon are available through Copper Mountain Ski School from mid-November to mid-April. Call +1.970.968.3023 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your lesson. Read more about lessons with Jon on our Colorado page.
Sharon and Jon live the life of their dreams. Zelement Club is their way of inviting others to join them in this adventure.