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  • What being a Big Mountain coach has taught me about being a parent.

    March 10, 2023 4 min read

    What being a Big Mountain coach has taught me about being a parent.

    What being a Big Mountain coach has taught me about being a parent.

    Written by ULLR Freeride Ski Coach & Rad Dad, Jeremy Jacques. 

    I grew up racing- waaay back in the 80s and early 90s, when Winsport was still called Paskapoo and had T-bars and trees. One of which T-bars was a hydraulic piston, if you didn't weigh enough, it would pick you up off the ground

    Racing was and still is one of the best ways to get the tools and confidence you need to rip a mountain. What's wrong with going Mach Chicken down an icy slope and trying to go around gates? But what racing doesn't offer is the freedom - the freedom to ski where you want and when you want. In racing you're told where to go by the red and blue gates: left turn, right turn, left turn etc.…

    As for Big Mountain Skiing, well - here's the mountain face, now pick a line, and see you at the bottom. Do you want to hit an 80' cliff with a steezy backie? How about a 50-degree chute with mandatory air in the middle? Or even a gentle knee-deep pow slope through some glades? The mountain face is a blank canvas that you can use to paint your Mona Lisa. I can only imagine where the sport would be if big mountain was a thing back when I was a kid.

    Skiing has always been and always will be a big part of my life. In my early 20s, I competed in the Export A Extreme Series and the Kokanee Freeride at Banff Sunshine Village - Big Mountain competitions on Goats Eye Mountain for qualifiers and Delirium Dive (a LEGENDARY Sunshine Run) for the finals.

    When I found out I was having kids, I wanted to get them interested in skiing quickly. I'd take them to the mountains with me all the time; sometimes, we'd spend 4 hours driving for only a couple of runs, but I didn't care because I was spending time with them.

    With a smattering of lessons here and there, they really picked it up - skiing with me in Delirium Dive by the age of 6. In the Dive, they saw what the world of skiing could offer them: the feeling of accomplishment, conquering their fears, and feeling so small yet skiing big lines.

    As much as I tried not to, I'd always find myself coaching them even when they didn't need it, and sometimes, it took the wind out of their sails, and it would ruin the day. I had to do something to ensure that they had the chance to love the sport as much as I do so I started looking around for clubs that weren't just racing or ski schools.

    That's when I found it - ULLR Big Mountain Club at Lake Louise; I had a long chat with the head coach and it sounded like the perfect place. The only downside was that ULLR is based at Lake Louise. Sunshine Village had been my home hill for the previous 20-odd years, could I possibly give up on my lady for a mistress?

    Well, I chased the mistress and had to tell Sunshine we could still be friends. I convinced my oldest son that it was time we changed hills and learn skiing from someone else.

    During a new athlete orientation, the head coach explained he was short of coaches due to COVID regulations. I offered to help and started taking courses to get certified. Soon enough, I was on snow coaching a discipline of the sport I love.

    At one point the ULLR head coach had asked me once if I'd be willing to coach my sons. I was honest with him and said I'd rather not, simply because it's time they learn from someone new. New techniques, new style, and most importantly, it's not me - I've seen too many hockey dads that thought they should be in the NHL coach their kids - it doesn't always end well.

    I was fortunate enough last season to help coach at a couple of IFSA comps; two of which my son competed in: Kicking Horse and RED Mountain. We have a truck box camper mounted to a flat deck for accommodation. It was in the camper at the campground at kicking horse when the scores came in for qualifiers, and unfortunately, he just missed the cut. So, at this point, I had to be a dad and be a coach; first, Dad to console, and then coach to help find where he needed improvement.

    RED Mountain was three weeks later. Camped in the parking lot, steps from the lift, we both felt good about his qualifying run when the announcement came. This time he made the cut. The bitter lessons learned from Kicking Horse made a difference. Together, we celebrated as father and son; next morning, it was coach & athlete.

    Now my youngest son has followed in the footsteps of his older brother, and he wants to go even bigger. The older brother doesn't want to be shown up by the younger and you can see where this is going. I'm not only Dad and coach - now I'm also a mediator and judge. So, I will say this:

    Coaching in the same group as my boys has given me the ability to separate being a coach from being a parent. When we go to the hill together, they meet up with their coach and I find my group. We may meet for lunch, or we may not. Once I'm done with my group and their parents. I find my boys and their coach. Now I get to talk to their coaches as a parent. If we are not in group. We just ski. No lesson, no criticism. It's time to rip it up.

    Being a parent coach has taught me many things. Most importantly, if we're not in group, I'm Dad.
    Jeremy's freeriding sons and their Paradise Skis

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