Learning Snowsports the UMF Way

By Emma Pierce Contributing Writer

    The Learn-to-Ski program is teaching students how to ski or snowboard for free as an elective, or as a substitute for a physical education (PHE) credit during the first half of the spring semester.

   “Every student needs to take a PHE credit and this is an opportunity to learn to ski or snowboard as half of that credit,” said Nolan Miler, senior and independent work study for the Learn-To-Ski program. The program has been running since the end of January and will continue to run until the start of spring break in March.

   Lessons occur twice a week at Titcomb Mountain, less than 15 minutes away from UMF. In addition to the free lessons, free transportation is provided for those who need it, and free rental alpine skis are readily available for the use of this course. Enrolling in the lessons also means that the student obtain a free season pass if they have not received one already for the academic year.

   The lessons consist of a small group, normally no larger than 5 people, which helps instructors focus more on strengthening each students skills. Essentially, these lessons are specifically catered to what the student wants to work on with the instructor.

   Portia Hardy, a freshman in the Earth and Environmental Science program and a student taking lessons through the Learn-To-Ski program, makes the most of the lessons. “Before we go down the mountain,” Hardy explained, “[the instructor asks] ‘What are you working on today? Anything you want to focus on?’” With that, they go up the mountain and start working on edging, parallel turns, or anything that the student wants to work on to help further develop skills.

   The lessons in the program are taught by UMF students, most of them in the Alpine Operations certificate program run by the Outdoor Recreation and Business Administration (ORBA) major. Sam Shirley, a freshman in the ORBA program with a concentration in Alpine Operations, is an instructor for the Learn-to-Ski program. Originally from Massachusetts, he has instructed skiing lessons at Ski Bradford since 2016 and has taken on an assistant director’s position at the snowsports school at Black Mountain of Maine in Rumford since his arrival at UMF.

   “I have taught a number of different students in the Learn-to-Ski program of varying ability levels,” said Shirley in an online interview. “Most recently I have been teaching two level 5 skiers.” This means that the skiers are confident on all beginner trails and ready to move into more difficult intermediate terrain, can use turn shapes to control speed going down the mountain, and can generally complete a hockey stop: using the edges of the skis to come to a full stop.

   On top of Shirley’s ski-related jobs, he also teaches Snowcats, an after-school program for children in kindergarten to third grade who want to learn how to ski. Snowcats is also coordinated by the Alpines Operations program, and many of the instructors that teach Learn-to-Ski lessons also teach Snowcat lessons. The larger class sizes of the Snowcats lessons require more instructors than the Learn-to-Ski lessons, and the different teaching style needed for young children compared to adults, Shirley said, “is a much different dynamic for a number of reasons.”

   Even though these two age groups have significant differences in how they are taught, Shirley still appreciates the hands-on experience he receives from these lessons and strongly supports this style of learning. “Having on snow experience is the only way to learn what works best as your teaching style,” said Shirley, “As an instructor, I also learn new things almost every day from my students. They help me develop new methods of teaching and show me new ways to connect with students.”

   There is still time to take ski or snowboarding lessons through Learn-To-Ski. “They’ll allow anyone to join at any point,” said Miler. “We like teaching people to ski so come on over.”

   If a student wants to use this course as a PHE substitute from now until the Learn-To-Ski program ends, they’re encouraged to ask their PHE instructor about how to sign up. If a student want to join as an elective, contact Isaac Seigle at isaac.seigle@maine.edu or Nolan Miler at nolan.miler@maine.edu.