First Night Expectations for Volunteers

Our first experiences on the hill may be a little chaotic as we become acquainted with everyone we will be working with over the course of the season – athletes and volunteers.

Athletes and volunteers come together in early January with the start of our program. Many have met and worked together over the years, and are excited to greet their friends at the start of each new season. Others may not know anyone or have never even been to a ski hill. They may have no familiarity with the equipment and may be excited, hesitant, or even apprehensive to begin their lessons. It is our job to make sure their early experiences are welcoming and fun, and will keep them wanting to come back for more!

Parents and guardians often share some of these same nervous emotions – especially a fear of injury. It is our job to ease those concerns. We are a “buddy” program. We want our athletes and their caregivers to know we want to help them achieve success on the hill in a fun and safe manner.

All volunteers and athletes will sign in at the registration table upon arriving at Hidden Valley (inside the main lodge). This is where athletes will be matched with volunteers. As soon as you are matched with an athlete, it is extremely important to read their registration profile to become familiar with any health concerns and priorities, equipment needs, specific goals, and other important information. It is important to discuss these topics with your athlete (and guardian, if present) for accuracy.

For the next step, you and your assigned athlete will go to the rental building and/or DASA equipment locker to acquire any needed gear. You, as the volunteer, will be expected to help directly with this process. Guardians will be encouraged to assist with finding and fitting boots properly, as well as filling out the rental form, as needed. This is a great time to get to know your athlete – tell them about yourself, reassure they are in good hands, and communicate with any guardians or caregivers how the night will progress.

Once all necessary equipment is ready to go, take some time to allow your athlete to become acquainted with it. Introduce the important parts of their gear, and if possible, communicate how those parts will help them slide, stop, turn, etc. For brand new skiers and snowboarders, just wearing the boots (and later skis/board) may be a bit of a sensory overload. TAKE YOUR TIME working through what we call our “boot work” and gradually progress on the “flatland” when working your way to the “magic carpet” (surface lift). Simulate basic movements – such as a wedge – before jumping into any skis. When ready, spend time walking around on one ski, and then two skis before spending any time actively sliding on the snow. “Figure-eights” on the flats are a great way to begin introducing how skis feel when engaging with the snow, while providing additional time for athletes to continue becoming acquainted with their gear. Be sure to explain and practice an athletic stance – flexed ankles and knees while standing upright with hands in a position you might maintain if you were bouncing a basketball. If it is particularly cold outside, it may be best to review as much of this information and activity inside the rental building.

The foundation we will begin building tonight will start providing a roadmap for the rest of our season, and hopefully many seasons to come. Different athletes will progress at different rates. Make sure our participants are comfortable and balanced when working through an exercise before progressing to something new. Aside from returning athletes, do not expect to move beyond our beginner slope during this first lesson. In fact, it may take several lessons to progress beyond this terrain. For several athletes, this area may remain the best terrain suited to their abilities and skills, long term.

Ultimately your success as a teacher depends on your ability to connect on a personal level:
• Be passionate about the sport.
• Be concerned for your athlete’s personal experience and welfare (and that of your own!).
• Be confident in their abilities and your potential to open new possibilities.
• Be patient and persistent.
• Be able to communicate in whatever way you need.
• Be willing to allow new experiences and take the time needed to help athletes grow and learn.
• Be able to function in multiple roles: coach, friend, guide, mentor, or student.

Finally — for our lead volunteers, make sure you are engaging and utilizing our newer or assistant volunteers effectively. Our primary goal is providing a safe environment for all, but having fun is also an essential part of building our program and keeping everyone coming back for more!

Any Questions? Email

Credit for much of the content within this post goes to our good friend and instructor, Pamela Weber.