YOUR SPACE Editor’s note:

In a post on the PSIA-AASI Community, we asked members to share their stories of rising up the ranks from snowsports instructor to a position in area management and taking advantage of college- or university-based curriculum and mentors along the way. Gail Setlock’s journey definitely followed that trajectory. Perhaps yours can too.


By Gail Setlock I

grew up skiing at Oak Mountain, a small area in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. I remember always being intrigued by the ski instructors, and, at the young age of four, decided that I wanted to be a ski instructor when I grew up.

My love for skiing stayed with me, and I contemplated how I could make a career out of teaching skiing to others. When I went to college, I settled on a physical educa- tion degree, thinking it could help me along my chosen path. And I purposefully chose a school near a ski area, New York’s Greek Peak. This was back in 1979. In my first year of college I got a job working as a Greek Peak lift attendant. I worked evenings, so after class I’d head

to the mountain and make some turns for an hour or so before my 5 p.m. shift for night skiing. The technical director, Bjorn “Swede” Haglund, noticed that I was always out skiing, and one day he said I should consider teaching the next season. I remem- ber being so flattered that he thought I was good enough to be an instructor! It was as if my childhood dream was starting to come true. In the meantime, I changed my major to outdoor recreation, something I thought


Victor Ybiernas

In 1967 – I was 10 at the time – my dad took the family skiing at Badger Pass in California. It was the first time my older

brother, younger sister, and I had ever seen snow, and we were going to learn how to ski! I’ll never forget walking into the rental shop and the clerk saying, “Raise your hand” as he placed a pair of skis next to me with the tips at my wrist. He then handed me a pair of leather boots and a pair of poles and we were off to the slopes. We couldn’t afford lessons, so the three

of us sat on the side of the slope and watched other people until we eventu- ally figured it out (with a lot of falling). I remember the rope tow being the most exciting and challenging part. From that first day, I knew I was hooked!

8 | 32 DEGREES • SPRING 2019 I started my snowsports career working

in a rental shop, and one day a blue jacket (our term for instructors) told me he’d seen me skiing and said I should try out to be an instructor. I did, and I got my own blue jacket to start instructing in the 1996-97 season at Snow Summit in California. Since then I have achieved my Alpine Level III and Snowboard Level II certifications. Fast forward to the 2017-18 season and,

at 61, I am working as a weekend instruc- tor at Bear Mountain, California. I have been a PSIA-AASI member since 1997 and can confidently say that PSIA-AASI has given me the drive and motivation to keep learning, growing, and inspiring others to be better at what they aspire to. My favorite member benefits are the pro deals, of course, and also the opportuni- ties to develop my knowledge and experi- ence through events and training. I’ve definitely had some memorable

events with the association. I was in the same group as Glen Plake when I took my

would help me pursue a career in the ski industry better than physical education.


The following year I tried out for the ski school and was thrilled to be hired. Greek Peak had a great training program, and Swede was always thinking of progressive ways to help us all be better teachers. I was intrigued by the instructors with PSIA Level III certification (called full cert at that time) and decided to go for my certification. I dedi- cated myself to training and quickly attained my full-cert pin. While I was working on my certifications, some of my trainers went on to make the Eastern Development Team,


Has PSIA-AASI made a positive impact in your life? We’d love to share your story in a future issue of 32 Degrees, VR SOHDVH fiOO RXW WKH -RW)RUP DW WLQ\ cc/WhatPSIA-AASIMeans

Alpine Level III exam at Mammoth Moun- tain in California. It was inspiring to see a skier at his level discipline himself to under- stand and learn the movement patterns – the whole event was just awesome. The recognition that comes with PSIA-AASI certifications has definitely helped me professionally by giving me more credibility. I also apply many of the same concepts I use in teaching, such as interpersonal skills, to my personal life – there’s a lot you can transfer between what makes a good instructor that also helps you be a better person. To me, the best thing about being an instructor is making a connection, seeing people’s faces light up when something “clicks” and they have a breakthrough.


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