Whistler ski instructors represent at Interski 

Four Whistler Blackcomb instructors attend Interski congress

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Members of the Canadian squad at the Interski congress in Argentina is shown.
  • Photo submitted
  • Members of the Canadian squad at the Interski congress in Argentina is shown.

Every four years, ski instructors from around the world come together and learn one another's customs on the hill.

At this year's Interski congress, held in Argentina, four local instructors went south to show what Canada had to offer and see what they could pick up from their counterparts as well.

"We showcase what we do in our countries," said Whistler Blackcomb Ski School instructor Natalie Wood, noting topics range from techniques to philosophies. "We discuss what we would present on snow, and then we do presentations."

In advance of the congress itself, which was held Sept. 5 to 12 in Ushuaia at the Cerro Castor resort, those representing Canada attended a three-day training camp at El Colorado, Chile to prepare.

Once Team Canada had all its ducks in a row, it demonstrated to the world what it could do on its assigned topics.

"It was a really heavy schedule — get up early, get to the mountains," Wood said. "On our day, we would do five runs. We would do two synchro runs. We (also) had snowboard, Telemark and skiing.

"We would explain what we do as far as our progression is concerned."

In her role, Wood explained she was assigned to check out presentations discussing how countries teach some of their youngest athletes to progress on the mountain.

"One of the most amazing ones was Italy. They had amazing props and it was mainly showcasing what SPM (Sports Equipment) can do for ski hills," she said, noting equipment from gates to arches to cushions was demonstrated. "They explained how they use the props and they can start from two-and-a-half-years-old and even kids that age will be engaged all day. You can make it fun so they don't realize that they're learning."

The thread of thought, Wood explained, is that the kids who receive this entertaining training will hopefully increase not only the next generation of skier, but of instructor as well.

Snowboard instructor Paul Howard took in his share of workshops and while there were some interesting points scattered throughout the presentations, he was glad not to encounter any earth-shattering content.

"We gauge our system on the world stage, really. We see what Canada is doing really well and we see what CANSI (Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors) is doing really well and then we look to 'Where can we improve? What are some ideas we can bring home and help develop our system?'" he said. "We're doing really well. Our systems are some of the best in the world.

"It's one of those things I feel like if we had come back with a ton of stuff, 'We need to do this and we need to do that,' then that's saying what we're currently doing isn't as good as it could be.

"We were stoked to see that we're more leading the industry than trying to play catch-up."

There is always room for improvement, though, and Howard noted he's particularly interested in emphasizing experiential learning — "giving students freedom to learn and explore their movements on their own before the instructor jumps in."

"(We're looking at) little changes or how we present a philosophy or maybe emphasize something that we're already doing but we're not really highlighting," he said. "(With experiential learning, it's about) finding the validity of when to let the student just be and experiment on their own."

Howard operated at the other end of the spectrum from Wood, as he helped run a workshop on advanced competencies for riders.

Olivier Godbout and Yasuyuki Kawasaki were the other two Whistlerites to attend.

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