The American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI), the snowboard arm of the Professional Ski Instructors Association (PSIA), held its third-annual Team Training Week November 1—6 at Copper Mountain under sunny skies and soft upper-mountain snow.
Since the PSIA launched the AASI two years ago, the team-training week has served as an important time to set the agenda for the organization and get the geographically diverse team together in one place.
Last year the emphasis was on the AASI training handbook and video. This year, much of the attention was on the upcoming team selection that will happen in late May in Snowbird, Utah. The first selection process of its kind, the May event will be national in scope and will strive to pick a team of seven riders who are both excellent instructors and reflect current snowboard trends and attitudes (read, no more hard boots). Once chosen, the team will instruct the thousands of AASI instructor around the country on the latest teaching techniques.
Since its inception, AASI has encouraged the snowboard industry to get involved–either through sponsorship or by simply voicing their views about snowboard instruction. However, Marketing Director Mark Dorsey emphasizes that you don't need to be a sponsor to voice your opinion.
Once again select members of the snowboard industry attended the event to support the organization. Burton, Elan, M3/MLY, and Rad Air all had demo tents set up at the top of the American Flyer quad and were busy getting instructors out on the latest gear. It was a small but influential group they were catering to. After all, if the instructor believes in your products, won't he or she suggest it to the people they're teaching?
Burton was pushing its new Learn To Ride Program (LTR), which is made up of two uniquely designed board lines, day-one boards and day-two boards. Day-one boards are twin shaped, very soft torsionally, have lots of sidecut, and a three-degree base bevel. The main goal of the day-one boards is to let the beginner quickly and easily link turns without the threat of catching an edge every time a turn is initiated. Day-two boards are directional with stiffer torsional flex, shorter transition zones, more sidecut, and the same three-degree base bevel. The main goal of the day-two boards is to build on the accomplishments of the first day, gain confidence, and expand the riders' experiences.
According to Burton's Josh Reid, resorts that use the LTR program have a 30-percent customer-retention rate compared to a ten-percent rate at resorts that use traditional ski-school-based programs.
On the other end of the spectrum, Rad Air's Jim Rockett had just come off an East Coast tour with founder Harry Gunz, in which the two had been pushing the company's Tanker series, a group of longboards that run between 170 and 200 centimeters. Rad Air is a new sponsor to AASI, along with Vans/Switch and Palmer, who weren't at the demo day.
Since it's likely that at least some of the current snowboarding team won't be returning after the May event, the banquet on the last night turned into a ferocious rager that began with the entire team decked out in the worst Partridge Family tuxedos and ended when one poor sap who shall remain nameless (Randy Price) woke from his sake-bomb haze to find his entire snowboard–top and bottom–completely covered with Burton stickers.
Let's hope next year's team has the same spirit.