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Next lesson: Learn to turn.. change direction and the DIRT model

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Our next lesson in skiing and life is “Learn to turn”..


Goal: Have the skills to change direction and manage speed with turns/direction change.

Measurement: Turns become second nature.


As always, the first thing to remember when changing direction, or turning.. is to start  by being balanced. If your weight is behind your feet you won’t turn, so being in balance is paramount. So if you’re not centered.. get there.

Some believe that “turning” is an easy skill to skip over… not so. Turns accomplish several valuable outcomes in skiing .. and life. First of all if you keep going in the same direction you will eventually hit something or have a nasty fall. The ability to turn allows you to avoid obstacles.. trees, people, cliffs, cars, poles, squirrels, rocks… all bad choices to ski into. Plus you get to go a different direction see more.


Life Parallel – If you fear changing direction, you options are limited and eventually end.


Look where you want to go, not where you are going at this very second. This is another way to set yourself up for success. Now, as you look down the hill.. sometimes the scariest place to look.. with your weight over your feet.. just turn your feet where you want to go. Sounds a bit over simplified.. but it’s the only way to turn. Just rotate your leg, which turns your feet.. which of course turns your skis. Direct the pressure to the downhill foot and continue to turn back up the hill to find the desired speed as you get ready for another turn. You are constantly finishing a turn as you begin another one…

We call this “finish-iation”.. finishing and initiating at the same time.

Think about that for a second… you are finishing a change in direction as you start another one… deep huh?!?


Life parallel – Looking down the hill and leaning in the same direction (down the hill) is counter-intuitive. Your brain wants you to lean back up the hill.. the place you just came from. Don’t do it! It will make you fall. Face the fear of the unknown and lean into the turn directing all your energy toward your new direction. It works and you’ll be amazed at how it becomes with practice. Sometimes facing your fear and meeting it head on is not just a healthy thing to do, but the very thing you need to survive and master your decision to take another direction

This will blow your mind…. If you turn far enough back up the hill, you stop. Go too far back up the hill and you will start to go backwards.


Turning/changing direction takes practice and control to know just how much turning to add.. more or less. Always directing your pressure to the outside foot in the direction of intended motion. Putting pressure/weight on the wrong foot (uphill) will make you fall.


Now I’m going to share with you one of the secrets I learned from my trainer, good friend, mentor and sensei… Caroline Fushimi.. Our training director at Brighton Ski Resort and kick-ass skier. Caroline is probably 4 foot 10 inches (if that) and can ski the pants off of anyone I’ve ever skied with. And her carving is something to see as well… in fact I try to stay on her ski tails when she carves down the hill.. trying to keep up with her… I can’t.. she always pulls away.

Caroline taught us the DIRT model years ago. I actually use this in my other life to teach/coach on-air talent as well. Here it is..


D – Direction — Know what direction you want to go before you try to make it happen. In radio and TV I tell the talent to know what direction they what to take the break and how they plan to end it before they start it. No comedian walks out on stage and just “wings” it.. they have a plan.

I – Intensity — What is the intensity of the movement.. graceful and slow or aggressive and abrupt! Same with on-air.

R – Rate/Range — This is the rate at which you move. If you are on a steep slope versus a green beginner run, the rate will be different. It also can stand for range.. meaning the variation you add to the range of motion you’ll need to create the desired movement.. or turn. On-air.. how fast you speak..

T – Timing — How does it all work together? The timing of the hands, feet, knees/legs and eyes… there is a specific timing that goes into every turn or change in direction. Think about how this works in life too. On-air, this refers to the timing of a “pay-off” in a joke, bit or piece of information.


The DIRT model is a great tool to use for all direction changes.


Turning is not just a safety maneuver, but the beginning of all things skiing and life! Let the exploration begin….. but your first turn, and then another..


Oh one last thing. Once you have made a turn or change in direction… never look back. It always makes you fall. Keep looking forward and look for your next opportunity to turn again..


Next lesson: Turning on green runs…




Endless Winter begins…

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Hike DG memorial 2

This week has been filled with many emotions and thoughts. As you know by now, my brain always finds a connection back to skiing and live somehow. This week was no different.

My friend and co-instructor Don Gale lost his battle with cancer. His memorial/life celebration was yesterday at Brighton Ski Resort. This was a very bittersweet event. It was like a family reunion and yet filled with a combination of laughter, deep sadness and inspiration. All celebrating the extraordinary life of Don.

Don Gale at his son's skiing event. 2014

Don Gale at his son’s skiing event. 2014

Don’s philosophy for life was to see everything as an adventure and to breathe it in. At least that’s what I learned from Don. As my life took different directions and challenges, I remember telling Don about the time me and my family had decided to move to Houston Texas.. Don sat back and grinned at me. It was really more like a smirk… I expected to hear some discussion about the politics of gun control, or a Pres. Bush thought, or maybe a jab about no snow in Texas.. (which as i recall that actually did come up)… Don softly looked at me and said, “sounds like a cool adventure to me..” That was his way.. Everything was “a cool adventure”. These were words I would hear often from Don over the years.


Over the years as a ski instructor I have always had a tough time dealing with the end of the ski season. For some reason, at the end of every Winter, i get emotional.. especially on the drive down the canyon.. after the good-byes to my ski family and my tools of the trade securely loaded on the roof of the Subaru. I shared this with Don once.. he again smirked and said.. “sounds like you are ready for some Summer adventures to get ready for another epic Winter..” usually followed by the cool trips he had planned with his family to bike a national park, hike a new trail or visit distant family.. with more biking and hiking.


At the memorial Don’s brother talked about the fable of the ant and the grasshopper. The grasshopper wanted to play all day and have fun, while the ant worked hard to prepare for the pending Winter season. Don was definitely the grasshopper…. Don’s Winter never came.. or was it that he chose to never live as a series as seasons, but to live them all with no end..


I remember hearing a talk in church as a child, that our lives will all eventually come full circle and come to the Winter (or end) of this life cycle. that always puzzled me. Don taught me that there is no such thing. Yesterday saying good-bye to an old friend and mentor of life and skiing it finally made sense in a different way. Life is just another adventure, and what comes next HAS to be another “cool adventure” that we all must eventually experience..


Thank you Don for showing us all about how to live the “Endless Winter Life”.


As Spring turns to Summer and Summer turns to fall.. Winter is always just around the corner. Every season brings new adventure opportunities. This reinforces my thought in an earlier post… that there two seasons. The ski season and the pre-ski season.


After memorial, I wrote in Don’s memory book at the door.. something like, “Don you have taught us all very valuable lessons while here, I have learned that you have become my new measurement of success.. (a teaching term we use in all lessons).. see you soon…”


Lelani and I drove down the canyon, stopping to take a short hike and reflect on the day..

hike DG memorial 1

Again I say… Skiing is life. As I continue to try to find the “Endless Winter” life or live like the grasshopper….


Well done Don!


Ski you later…

First time..(never ever)

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As I reflect on all the things I’ve learned about life from skiing.. one of the biggest lessons come from.. well, the first lesson. This is the first almost every student has put on skis.. sometimes the first time they’ve seen snow.

Now as a “real” instructor, I walk over to my assigned sign.. the “Never Ever” or first time sign. This is where we meet our students for the lesson. I can see the fear and excitement in their eyes.. they can’t see my anxiety because I try to mask it with laughter and confidence. My head is swirling with all the things i have to tell these new students. The first lesson has more instruction and talking than any other lesson. So I start out with introductions, names and a brief discussion about safety. Then we talk about what we’re going to learn in the next two hours and set some realistic goals to reach by the end with a measurement of that goal. The goal/measurement for this lesson is two-fold, everybody knows how to stop and then ride the lift…. Their eyes light up at this point or a sense of doubt comes in. This is exciting.. a new skill, a new experience that hopefully by the end you see and hear the excitement of the little boy or girl coming out to play again!!

Life lesson notes:

– Realistic, reachable goals

– Everybody has moments of insecure, unsure moments

– All things seem easier and less threatening if you feel safe

So we walk over to a safe spot to practice putting on our skis, sliding on one foot, stepping and the introduction of the “wedge”. The wedge is the move that we use to slow down and stop. It’s not comfortable, but at slow speeds it’s very effective. The best way to describe this movement is to show students how “twist their feet”. It’s a leg movement, not a “pushing” movement. More on this later.. Before the wedge can be done effectively, the concept of balance needs to be discussed.

Balance.. it’s the basic fundamental of skiing. The three elements of balance are edging, rotary and pressureThing of it as one big circle (balance) with three little circles inside it. Just like life.. and yes I teach this.. In life we must find balance too so everything can work together effectively. In life we have to find balance with.. emotional, physical and spiritual.

To find balance on skis.. stand up tall with no bending at the waist, bend your ankles in your boots so your shin pushes against the tongue of your boots.. all the time. feel pressure on your shins and the ball of your foot. You should feel pressure on your heel at all, in fact your heel should feel loose.

Like in life, if you over emphasize  one of the elements of balance: edging, rotary or pressure… you will not find true balance. For example, if you over edge as you make a wedge, your pressure on the front of your boot isn’t there.. but the rotary movement will have to be greater to make up for the lack of balance. If your balance is completely off.. you fall. But we get back up.. safely and do it again. I always tell my students that it’s not “if you fall.. you will fall, just do it safely..”

Life lesson note:

– Balance is paramount to find effective movement

– Too much focus on one element of the circle of balance actually throws you out of balance

– Adjusting your balance happens constantly

– Most importantly, we all fall down… get back up and keep going!

After practicing stopping and introducing turning… and everyone feels/looks good stopping… we move onto to the lift!! (dramatic music: pum pum pum) this is the moment that we leave the security of our safe little practice area to head to the big scary beginner hill.

Again, we review what we have learned and talk about safety again with a new focus on how to get on and off the lift without falling. If all goes well and it usually does.. at the end of that first run, the students no longer have that look of fear and defeat in their eyes.. instead, the look of total excitement and passion to “try it again” is displayed on their faces and body language… the little child came out to play, and doesn’t want to stop playing..


Life lesson take away:

– Let your fear happen..  face it and push through it

– Find your balance

– Reconnect with the child inside.. let it come out and play

– Find new experiences to challenge your stale thinking..



Personal side note..

This week I learned that a very good friend and fellow instructor, Don Gale is dying of cancer. He let us all know that he has been given a couple of weeks to live.. this broke my heart.. again.  I reflected on all the friends I have that are dealing with cancer or some other deadly/life changing experience. I realized that I have 4 or 5 friends fighting cancer right now. To you I say thank you for show me how to live with passion and without boundaries. Mary, Don, Molly, Kevin and Kim.. I love you and am proud to not just call you friends but learn from you about life, skiing and true balance…


Next “Lesson”… Turning/changing direction… D.I.R.T.

It’s official… now the work begins.

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It’s official!!! I got hired as a real ski instructor… here’s how it went down.


I went through the entire training in the apprentice program. This was in 1995, I was single, making life changes and facing one of my biggest demons…. skiing. I have always enjoyed skiing, but since I had such a nasty broken leg when I was 12, that image and the pain of recovery has stayed with me to this day. Becoming an instructor  would not only force me to face my fear of getting hurt again, but hopefully build the confidence to teach others about the sport I loved as a kid.


The day I got hired.. The training was done, the evaluations were complete.. now we wait for the results. I was called into Mary Wittke’s office (ski school director) to find out was they decided… Mary looked me in the eye and said something like; “Dain we are happy to offer you a position with the Brighton ski school.. now the real work begins..” She went on to explain how this will change my like forever. I remember her telling me that “I was a lifer..” I asked what she meant.. “you won’t be satisfied with just one or two seasons, you going to be here for a while..” she said. Hmmm.. I was looking at this as a possible distraction for a season or two.. you know, until I figure out my life.


Those words from Mary have stayed with me all these years, and like a wise future-seeing-ski-prophet… she was right.


The next step was to shadow lessons from real instructors and then the “checkout”… (cue the music).. The checkout.. I had to actually teach a lesson to real students.. this is a bit scary. There was a process we had to follow every time.. do the paperwork, shadow a lesson (sometimes 2-4 times) and then ask to checkout. I caught on quickly and started the process. First “Never-ever” students, then “Learn to Turn” and “Green lessons”.. phew.. I worked hard and fast. Especially since I was part-time.. By the end of the first season, I was checked out through “Blue lesson”, “Kinderski” and I earned my Cert I from something called PSIA. Oh and I took like 40 clinics taught by other instructors to improve my own skills.


Mary was right.. I had embraced the ski school culture.. or “The Brighton way” as they kept calling it.. more on this later. As I look back over that first season, I realized something. I not only faced my demons… I actually danced with them too. I made some life-long friendships and I learn that I still have some thing to learn… a lot of things.


Life Lessons learned:

– Sometimes the things we fear the most, are exactly the things we need to face and embrace the most. Fear is something we create, confidence through accomplishment no matter the level, diminishes fear.

– Once the hard work is done and you reach a level of accomplishment, you can only see how much farther you  really have to go.. that’s when the work begins.

– New challenges and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is the only way to see more potential.


Do I fear getting hurt? Sure.. that little voice is always there, but I’ve learned to mute it or quiet the fear by actually letting go. Becoming a kid again, playing, laughing and moving down the hill.


Don’t forget to let the kid inside you come out to play….. frequently. 

The basics…

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The beginning..

As with most things, we start out with a sense of wonderment and fear. As a child learning to walk, play and interact came as a combination of observations and practice with mentors and peers. Just like skiing…


I started down my new journey as a ski instructor after following the advise of an old friend who had been doing it for several years. “How cool”, I thought. She had this whole other dimension to her life That never knew about. She suggested I contact the Brighton Ski School to tryout. I did and got call back from the assistant ski school director, telling me to show up at a time a place to learn more.


At this first meeting I met several experienced instructors that were to become our “trainers”, ok, hold on. “Train for what? Skiing is easy..” I thought to myself. Sooo… there’s work and learning involved? But skiing is so easy… or so I thought.

I need to remember the trainers that day:

Mary (Ski School director).. I would realize later what a dramatic and profound influence she would have on my life.

Carolyn.. Another of my life/ski changing mentors.

Chip.. Great guy, and great trainer.

Deb.. Great skier and trainer.

Jennifer or “Fir” as she was called. Great leader.

Connie.. Amazing skier and always smiling.

(more on these personalities later.. all had a profound affect on my learning and life changing principles)

The next few weeks were filled with learning some familiar skills and so not so familiar. I skied with really cool trainers that slowly (at first) guided our learning and understanding of what would be expected. Part of this learning process was the idea of teaching/learning models. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was actually learning to do things and assimilate the concepts of skiing through other means. For example.. the trainers asked us all to come back one week prepared to teach a “non-skiing” skill. We had to follow a predetermined set of “progressions” to teach this. It started with and introduction, safety, a plan and a measurable goal. This would then be followed with a summary which would include specific parts.. “past, present and future”.

All of which had to be present to the group is a 3-5 minute demonstration… it also had to include some sort of movement.


I thought about this and decided to teach my group how pat your head and rub your stomach.. with an added level of difficulty.


**Try this..

Here was my presentation.. It works and is guaranteed to make even the most uncoordinated person feel like a master of the skill.

– Start with patting your head with your right hand.

– Rub your stomach with your left hand… without stopping your head patting.

– Keep doing this for about 15 seconds so if feels familiar.

– Now switch hands… can you do it? Most can’t without stopping the motion.

** Here’s a hint/trick.. touch your stomach first with the hand that will be rubbing FIRST, then start patting your head.

Start again..

– Start out by touching your stomach, now pat your head..

– Switch hands..

– Switch hands..

Got it? Practice until you feel comfortable..

Now the added level of difficulty..

This time start jogging in place before your start to pat your head and rub your stomach.


Ready? Start jogging.. be careful not to get to close to another student, if you lose your balance you could bump into them..(“Safety”) now touch your stomach and follow with patting your head. Now witch without stopping or hesitating the motion or rhythm.. Can you do it?

Now you can master even more difficult levels of this skill by adding “hopping on one feet”, “spinning” or simply changing tempos.


Everyone in my class was able to do, I reminded them that before we started there were some doubters and fear about this skill. Now with practice and focus on the “hints” I gave them, they could play with more advanced combinations that I introduced.

I noticed that later some of my trainers were trying to do the exercise off in a corner… “Success” i thought.. I got my mentors to try something new and saw that they were having a difficult time doing it as well…


Life lesson: Learn a skill (even if it seems stupid) and teach it to others. Pass on the new experience..

My personal lesson — I learned some interesting “non-skiing” skills from people I just met, that became friends through the process. You can learn things from everyone you meet. Some of our life’s lesson don’t all translate into immediate results, but the idea of sharing new influences and ideas with interested strangers is a real scary, basic concept we all go through. Facing the “demon” of looking/feeling stupid in front of others.. we all have it or have had it at some point.



**Next up: Getting the job as the real work begins..

The before stuff..

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Skiing, as in life, requires a certain level of prep. That is to say, getting ready for the season. Getting in shape physically, mentally and spiritually. It is widely known that there are two seasons for skiers. The ski season and the “pre-season”. The ski season simply means enough snow to slide on at altitude. The pre-season encompasses that transitional time of the year when the snow turns to slushy, muddy stuff and the trails are too soft to bike or hike. The pre-season extends into the Spring, Summer and Fall months with nothing but warm temps, with trails and rocks to explore.. this becomes the prep for skiing.

As I look back over my life.. I see a parallel here. Most of our early years are spent exploring new adventures as we “prepare” for life. The school system starts out basic and gets more complicated. Our understanding grows and we take on new challenges and levels of learning. I remember spending Summers in Northern Utah riding my bike on the dirt trails at Mack park next to our house. We would challenge each other to see who could go the fastest, or jump the farthest.  That park was amazing. Lots of hidden trails and hills. There was also a great stream that ran through the middle of the park that was always good for an afternoon of fishing or tubing. These were the days I remember most of my childhood. Playing football with the neighbor kids, riding our bikes and learning the magic of playing hard and getting dirty.  My younger brother Robyn was usually there in my shadow. He was a fearless bike jumper and trail explorer.. many times I would challenge him to do a jump hat seemed impossible to achieve.. that of course is the older brothers’ job.. I tell you, Robyn ALWAYS made the jump with plenty clearance to spare. He always amazed me. On those rare occasions that he didn’t make it, he would jump up, brush off the dirt and try it again.

I didn’t know it then, but I realize it now. Those Summer days filled with jumping our bikes, hiking the trails and swimming in Smithfield creek all helped with our balance, agility, confidence and sense of play. All critical in skiing too.

Life is a funny thing… You don’t really see your growth or progress until you stop for a second and look back to see you path. Most of the scary seemingly impossible feats all seem easier after the fact. Plus you can see that you really couldn’t make it to the place you are now without the steps or challenges that came before.

When I think about ski season, during the per-season.. I always have a flood of thoughts from my past adventures mixed with new ideas for challenges that will push me even harder. I truly believe that when you “dance” with your demons, you start to play again. Finding your demons and crafting a plan to face them is all part of the “prep” work for life and skiing. I broke my leg when I was 12 while skiing.. this, I would learn later, was a huge demon for me to face and dance with.


Life challenge —

**actually write this down**

– Take a deep look inside and meet your demons.

– Identify the root of those fears.

– Realize you can step out of your fear/demon and play with it.

– Take the steps to do something about “exercising” the demon.


Keep that list close.. you’ll add to it. More on this later.

Getting ready for the ski season involves physical challenges that usually bring mental challenges as well. The toughest part is just actually starting to move your butt and set a plan for your bike ride, hike or run. I didn’t realize how out of shape I was until one season I was skiing with our trainer Caroline. She asked me to do Hop-Turns down a slope… couldn’t do it. This the maneuver that forces you to turn your feet about 45 degrees from side to side while maintaining speed control down the steep slope. Caroline added the new element of having me hold onto her poles as she skied backward, forcing me to control our speed with hop-turns. After about 5 hops I quickly realized how much work I had to do.. needless to say I DIDN’T do a great job controlling our speed. Caroline’s comment was something like, “you need to get into better shape.. yah?” I thought… mmmmm, Yah! She suggested that we have so many trails in the Wasatch front and I should try hiking them…. Caroline is one of my hero’s in my ski world. She has a way of challenging all of us as instructors and students of life. She was the first one to introduce me to the idea of “skiing is life”.

I realized that I was going to be a “lifer”, as my first ski school director Mary Wittke put it, when I started thinking about skiing all the time. For example, while we lived in Houston, I would run the levees and sidewalks in our neighborhood. I wouldn’t just run, I would constantly think about balance, edging, pressure and rotary. I would even pay close attention to my ankle, knee, hip and spine alignment as I would run. All things become part of the “pre-season”…. it becomes an obsession.. kind of.

Preparing is also a common thing as we were growing up, like the scouting program.. “Be Prepared”. Everything leads to something else.. or at least it should. So I suggest my next thought.


Make your preparation with a purpose..

Think about it. A comedian doesn’t walk out on stage and just tell jokes, they have a plan. A radio DJ doesn’t just walk into a studio and play whatever they want… it’s usually prepared beforehand. Sorry.. I have also been in broadcasting for 25+ years of my life.. preparing for who knows what. more on this later…

Anyway, Here are some pictures of my Summer vacation… or as I like to think of it…




Red Pine Trail in Little Cottonwood canyon


This has been my “prep” for the ski season.. What I have learned from this, is just how luck I am to see, smell and hear the mountains. Caroline was right!! What an amazing experience to prepare for skiing and life. The mountains have become such a source of strength and growth. I find myself hiking and taking pictures for hours at a time. Can’t get enough of it… Through this process, I feel my body getting stronger. This is what Caroline must have meant..

I have also taken my bike on some pretty cool trails.. and yes jumps that even my brother Robyn wouldn’t do.

I have learned that doing all this stuff with a purpose has actually allowed me to re-capture the little boy who loved to run and play in the park all Summer long. The mystery I have uncovered for me is a true parallel. Learning to play again is so cool!!

Try it.. You’ll be amazed at how much fun it is to find that old demon and dance again like you used to.


Now we need a “Snow Dance” to get the season started…….