There are only three resorts left in the U.S. that ban snowboarders. Two are located in Utah. Deer Valley and Alta. Say hi to Mike. Mike used to be a "snowboader". The 29-year-old with a PhD in physics moved from Toronto to Salt Lake City for the backcountry terrain and to chill for a winter while he figured out what the hell he was going to do with a physics degree. Like most eastern Canadians, he grew up snowboarding and playing hockey. However, Mike quickly learned he wasn't a fan of splitboarding in the backcountry. "It sucks," he says. Fat, rockered, shaped skis on the other hand are making it easier than ever to experience big mountain terrain. So his Alta friend talked him into learning to ski. This year.
I met Mike on day 90 of his very first ski season. He told me he had never worn ski boots before November (2012). That day, I bore witness to what determination, athleticism, clinical thinking and time can create. In other words, Mike rips. Of course, as a ski instructor, I can find several areas to 'tweak' but as a regular Alta ski bum, I stood back and cheered as he followed me through some of my favorite shots in heavy spring crud.
Mike has learned by watching videos, good skiers, and replicating what he sees. Not a single lesson from a "professional." Okay, well he was taking mental notes behind me. ;) But honestly, Mike skis better than most people who have been skiing all their lives. I can only imagine how he rides. When I first asked to tape him he said shyly that I should wait until next season "when he's better in the bumps." I told him next season he wouldn't be a story. He reluctantly gave me those few turns for the camera.
I asked Mike on our last lift together, "So, if someone asked, 'Are you a skier or are you a snowboarder', what would you say?" He paused. "I'm a skier," he said with confidence. Yeah. Alta has that effect on people.