From the Archives: “100 Things Every Instructor Should Do Before Dying” – #24

In this installment of “From the Archives,” we go back to Spring 2000, when Gladiator won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor; Santana’s “Maria, Maria” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 consecutive weeks, from April 8 to June 10; and Survivor debuted May 31, on CBS, helping to establish the reality genre on television.                

Leading up to the Spring 2000 issue of The Professional Skier, the editorial team asked members, “What should every snowsports instructor experience before heading off for the Great Beyond?” One of the more informative responses came from Interski International President and former PSIA-AASI Board Chair and AASI Snowboard Team member Eric Sheckleton, who offered four reasons instructors should become familiar with snow grooming. Food for thought for the upcoming season . . .


I know what you’re thinking, “Stop the brutal snow grooming,” right? Well, I’m a big fan of natural terrain too, but when I had the opportunity to learn to drive a snowcat, I became a changed man.

It’s hard to find a snow groomer who will let you try your hand at the sticks. But I was lucky enough to be put in charge of building a new terrain park – complete with the services of a snow groomer. After long hours of pushing snow, my cohort and I decided it would be much better the next year if I were able to just hop in a cat and build the park myself.

After taking snow grooming lessons, I have to confess that it’s much harder than it looks. Not only are you driving a huge piece of machinery with one hand, but you’re working a blade in front and a tiller in back with the other hand. On top of all that, you’re craning your neck forward and backward all night to keep the lines straight and the snow consistent. Now you may be saying, “That’s great, but why would I want to do that?” Well, here are four reasons to give it a go.

  1. Get a new perspective on a groomed run. It’s easy to grouse about someone else’s snow grooming, especially when you have little understanding of what it really takes to leave those lines.
  2. Develop a respect for the night crew. Snow groomers have a difficult and exciting job. If you don’t think so, ride along with them down a steep slope that hasn’t been packed and see what it’s like to “slide for life.”
  3. Learn how to differentiate snow consistencies and find out how quickly they can change. One minute you’re pushing snow that’s packing nicely, and the next you’re in sugar so deep you’re afraid the cat might sink.
  4. If you want to feel powerful, this is the best. Remember your days of playing with Tonka toys in the sandbox? Well now you get to push around thousands of pounds of snow and dump it wherever you like. And monster jumps that would take you days to build by hand only take minutes with a cat.

So start thinking of how you’re going to bribe your local snow groomer into letting you come along for a ride. Skiing and riding will never be quite the same.