Ski area’s locals lessons provide reasonably priced path to improvement |

Ski area’s locals lessons provide reasonably priced path to improvement

— It was a day of bump skiing that was oddly almost entirely without bumps.

Of course, the famous White Out at Steamboat Ski Area still had bumps, icy and jagged after a week without snow. But the often-fearsome Rolex was as tame as a kitten — albeit a steep kitten. Ted's Ridge, the treacherous black-diamond drop that's sent many a skier skidding right on by on Heavenly Daze was ground into a welcoming blanket of corduroy, and Cyclone, an often bumped-out black near the Four Points Hut was smooth sailing, as well.

That didn't do much to deter Steam­boat Ski and Snowboard School instructor Chip Shevlin and his class of skiers, however.

"Ski in a tight corridor," he hollered as the class of a half-dozen good-but-not-great local skiers made their way across an easy section of a green run. "You'll never ski in the bumps if you can't ski in a tight corridor."

And skiing in the bumps was the goal of Shevlin's section of the school's annual Locals Saturdays clinic.

Teaching turns

Shevlin said he's been involved in the locals clinic as long as it's been around and that he's seen many of the forms it has taken throughout the years.

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Originally, it was more a locals' week, five consecutive days of work with a ski instructor in a class aimed at the already ski-savvy Steamboat population.

Now, though, those five days are spread across five Saturdays, and the ski season is split into two clinics. The first started Dec. 5 and, taking several breaks during the holidays, was scheduled to wrap up Jan. 16. The next session starts Saturday and runs through Feb. 27, skipping Presidents Day weekend.

One hope was that parents dropping their children off to participate in other lessons that share the same schedule would participate. The Trail Busters and Mini Busters programs are aimed at children and run on the same days and between the same hours.

Whether that's what draws them in, many think the deal is a bargain. Available to skiers and riders older than 16 and anyone skiing Alpine or Telemark or riding snowboards, the program costs $225.

That's $45 a day. A five-hour adult private lesson, meanwhile, costs $495. Five hours in a group lesson for an adult with a lift ticket runs $99, or $86 for a half day.

Shevlin tried to cram as much information as he could into his class, which starts at 10 a.m. and ends a little after 3 p.m.

He offered pointers throughout and then, having taken photos during a previous session, pointed out mistakes in skiers' stances during a lunch break.

"I like it because in one day you can cover several subjects and aspects of skiing pretty closely. They can practice it, do the different drills and work pretty intensely," Shevlin said. "Then, they have all week to practice it. Each week, I will want them to focus on one or two things."

Carefree training

They don't always do their homework. The group gathered just outside of the gondola building at the top of Thunderhead Peak on Jan. 9 and was as quick as a class of schoolchildren to produce excuses as soon as Shevlin approached.

"We may not have improved much," Ralph Scafuri said, glancing around at his classmates.

Still, every member of the Saturday-morning group insisted that great improvements had been realized during the course of the class.

Like most of the class, Scafuri already had logged considerable time on the slopes of Mount Werner, and he's a respectable skier. He can easily tick off groomed blues and blacks and, with a little more effort, make it down nearly anything he comes across on the mountain.

He wants to be better, though, and thus enrolled in a session of locals classes for the third winter. He even persuaded a friend to join for his most recent go.

"I like classes more than individual work because you can see other folks. It helps me learn," he said. "For me, Chip makes it click. You get these 'Ah ha!' moments where you get what he's talking about. He just says it in a way that makes sense."

Scafuri paused and cast a quick glance at Shevlin, whose attention was focused solely on lunch for the moment.

"He's got a gift for it," Scafuri said, his face pulling into a smirk. "Don't ever tell him I said that."

Mutual support

Scafuri's laugh-first personality was the dominant one that day, but his fellow Steamboat locals didn't hesitate to play along.

The group also included Nancy Sindel­ar, Gary Pon, Marti Hamilton and Steve John­son. All grew quiet when standing atop The Ridge, a black run that falls sharply toward Buddy's Run from the top of the Morning­side lift. Each skier in turn carefully picked a path and made his or her way down through several hundred yards of still-exposed rocks and young pine trees. Those at the bottom looked up and watched, offering congratulations at the end of the run for a strong series of turns or an especially spectacular escape from a perilous position.

Of course, any particularly hilarious and injury-free tumble was sure to draw a few quips, as well.

"This bonding is common among these groups," said Sindelar, who's owned a home locally for 16 years and started with the sport before the concept of shaped skies took hold. "When you ski something like The Ridge like we did and you all make it down good, everyone is excited and happy."

Organizers say the program draws skiers and snowboarders of all ages and ability levels, and some of that variety was present in Shevlin's class.

Whether young or old, broken in on wooden skies or fiberglass, the skier's focus was on perfecting the turn. The better, quicker and more stable the turn, the easier a trip through the trees or bumps can be.

Plus, refining the stance is just smart, some said.

"By taking lessons, you help prevent injury. You can do it all easier. It's less stress on your body," Scafuri said. "The whole kick is as we're maturing that we can keep doing this.

"This helps you so when you get in tough situations, you don't revert to bad form. It really helps make it all more enjoyable."

If you go

What: Locals Saturdays adult ski lessons

When: New session starts at 10 a.m. Saturday

Where: Steamboat Ski Area

Cost: $225 for a five-week session

For more

For more information about the Steamboat Ski and Snowboard School, visit or call the school at 800-299-5017.

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