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Why go from Seattle to White Pass, to Bluewood, to 49° North, to Mt. Spokane, and to Mission Ridge? The more appropriate question for all of us west-siders is, “Why not?”
With this route, none of these areas are more than four hours apart. Think of it as a ski cruise with wonderful people, great food, beautiful scenery, and great skiing at each “port of call”. Between destinations, you’ll see some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world—eastern Washington. Compared to most cruise ship cabins, the rooms, even at the cheaper motels I stayed in, are spacious and don’t bob! If you use your PSIA member benefits carefully, you can keep lift ticket cost to near zero.
Not convinced this should be your next road trip? Read on! We left Seattle for Packwood about 5 pm and arrived about 9pm. There were lots of vacancies in town. But call months ahead, if you want to be on the mountain. They often sell out for the whole season.
White Pass is about a twenty minute drive from Packwood. An early breakfast on the mountain lets you savoir the mountain and lodge coming to life under the gaze of Mt. Rainier. The sun was brilliant and only a small cloud cap briefly topped Rainier. The surrounding hills stand out as a backcountry skier paradise. The new lifts double the terrain and even though we arrived the second day after a storm, there were plenty of stashes in the trees and off the sides of packed powder groomers. Before leaving the mountain, be sure to stop by Davey’s Yurt below the base of chair 4. Maybe the great beer on tap explains why everyone is so friendly or maybe it’s just White Pass.
Off to Dayton, but leave time for the sites along the way to Yakima, the Tri-Cities, and Walla Walla. Early March or later leaves lots of daylight. There are plenty of wine tasting opps. Wow! Are the sunsets always this fantastic in Eastern Washington? You can’t miss the Laht Neppur (Drink to Life) Brewing Co. and Cellars in Waitsburg. There’s a sign at the main intersection, “Warning: Brew Pub Ahead.” I’d recommend the Toe Tingler Stout, but it will be gone by the time you get there. The brewmeister lost his award winning recipe. But he’ll have something great for you, too, to take along a 34 oz. mason jar or a 32 oz. growler. The Waldon House Inn is a great B&B with large hot tub and free lift tickets with suite or room. There are a couple of motels in Dayton. It’s about 30 minutes to Bluewood. Get there early to get your request in for the breakfast burrito. It’s a local favorite and you’ll need the extra time to eat it all before the lifts open. Check out the ski school for Doug. After the pm line up he gave Chelsea Moore his blessing to show me some of her favorite stashes. In the morning she had pointed out her favorite runs to me on the map after holding the door for me. It wasn’t hard to guess she was a ski instructor. We could all take lessons on the customer service model from her. Take a hike to intersect the proposed new chair line. It’s worth it especially if it’s been snowing all morning! Bluewood is another great area for backcountry enthusiasts, but don’t get lost. It’s only four miles to Oregon!
The Palouse is always fascinating to me. Winter wheat sprouting under a few inches of snow makes the fields a patchwork of green lawns and white blankets as the sun melts the south facing slopes. Pillow after pillow of patchwork beauty stretches out before you. Scoot through Spokane where you can hit a Costco just before leaving town. You don’t have a co-pilot with a smart phone to find the cheapest gas? You may find basing in north Spokane an option. We drove the hour to Chewelah through the tail end of the weekend storm. I do have to recommend the Norlig Motel. Friendly owner, operators Paul and Andrea Tredeau offer Adrea’s fresh muffins with the complimentary breakfast and discount vouchers for 49° North for non-PSIA members in your group. Wonderful folks are on staff and in the ski school. When I told the mountain host I wanted to ski trees, steeps and deep, he said, “Let me call Rose.” Chair 5 was closed for winds, but Rose led me through trees off Chair 4 over and over and over! Of course, that increasing, untouched powder off Chair 5 beckoned us back for yet another day. Rose invited us to check out the Prime Timers group which meets on Tuesdays at 49° since we’d decided to stay the extra day. They started signing in early and are enthusiastic skiers and boarders who clearly enjoy sharing the love of the sport and stories.
I was introduced to Sherry, also a mountain host for the day, who had taught and patrolled in the Northwest. She was heading out so a couple of Prime Timers and I joined her. She accessed my skiing across the top of the mountain and decided we should just head out to Roller Coaster. Since it’s the farthest out, it gave up untracked run after run. The rollers on the hill proved it was rightly named. Slight line adjustments proved to create delightful explorations of the powder and terrain. Of course, then we were off to some glades and trees. Sherry invited us to join the Prime Timers for their après ski in the bar. Two dollars for great appies and conversation! Some of the 49° North Prime Timers also belong to the Mt. Spokane Prime Timers. They said we absolutely had to hit Mt. Spokane tomorrow, Wednesday, since it is closed Monday and Tuesday and the snow had been coming down since Sunday. Also Wednesdays are Mt. Spokane Prime Timers’ day.
Mt. Spokane has condos near the mountain, but it’s only 30 minutes from several inexpensive motels on the north side of Spokane. True to plan, we arrived with two days of snow on the hill and more coming down. The Prime Timer’s came to the rescue, but that’s another story! Brad turned out to be a previous ski patroller, instructor, part-time ski shop salesman, retired firefighter, and proud participant in many heliski adventures. He knew the best tree runs with snow coming down and the best lines off the top as the weather cleared. At lunch a group headed out for some side country and I couldn’t pass that up. Rob, leading the group, cautioned us to pick a partner and never lose sight of each other. As we started off the back side and into a wide glade, Mike and his partner made four turns, cut left into the trees, and I didn’t see them until the bottom.
I headed down the gut of the meadow with a “V” of trees ahead and nothing but untracked ahead of me and the others to my right. As we hit the trees, I imagined the God of Powder had lined them up just for me. I howled with joy, encouraged by the group. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, “Because there’s powder, I know there’s a God who loves us and wants us to be happy.” As we got to the trail back, Mike was being helped out of a creek by his partner. He must have thanked Brad three times on the hike out. Brad had insisted we stick with our partners and Mike knew he would have been in serious trouble with his. I’ll remember those turns and friends forever. Thanks Mt. Spokane and Prime Timers.
The last leg of our cruise through eastern Washington was the trek on Highway 2 from Spokane to Wenatchee. Truly awesome! Snow on the Columbia plateau is phenomenal as the sun sets in late winter. Stop by Grand Coulee, if time allows. Our wheeled cruise through eastern Washington was a spectacular palette of vistas, valleys, gorges, and canyons. Wenatchee has plenty of motels, B&B’s and restaurants and it’s a short drive to Mission Ridge. Of course, (are your picking up the plan yet?) Mission had been closed Tuesday and Wednesday, and the snow had been piling up. Being early once again paid off. Although I waited 45 minutes in line for the lifts to open, I was 27th out of at least 150 lined up. The locals love their mountain and flock there on a day like this. I followed a group of four that looked serious and I was not disappointed. A powder morning at Mission can turn into an afternoon of spring skiing. The sun came out by noon. The mountain and surrounding terrain were gorgeous. As we were greeted at the beginning of our trip, Mt. Rainier also bid us farewell. And so we ended our ski cruise of eastern Washington.
Why would you? Five great areas, six days of fantastic skiing and riding, gorgeous scenery, wonderful people – Why not!
Ray is a PSIA Level III Alpine instructor with Summit Learning Center. He has skied over 60 different ski areas in North America. He doesn’t claim to have invented the road trip, but is committed to perfecting it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Text and photos by Linda Cowan
The state of education in our nation is a hot topic. As a result, the amount of research and study on the practices that lead to student learning are reaching unprecedented levels. The Center for Educational Leadership works in partnerships with school districts across the nation employing current research from University of Washington’s College of Education to maximize learning for all students. Core elements of high quality instruction are a primary focus of their work. There are several dimensions, but two of the key elements for effective instruction are purpose and teaching point.
The purpose of this snowsports tip is to share the importance of having a clear purpose and teaching point every time we step in front of a group of students (or athletes if you’re a coach.)
Purpose is defined as being the “why or because”of our teaching, and the teaching point is the ‘what or how’ we achieve that purpose. Let me give an example of how I would start my teaching segment with a clear teaching point and purpose once my students have warmed up.
Follow me through this familiar scenario: After watching my students skate to the lift line, for our first run together, I can’t help but notice their hips continuously falling behind their feet. Now, I begin thinking through what I want to teach
“Class, everyone gather around, we have some important learning to do today! Effective skiers have continuous shin cuff contact because it allows them to balance on a moving surface.”
My teaching point (TP) in this teaching segment is to have continuous shin cuff contact, and the purpose for this movement is to stay balanced on a moving surface. By having a clear purpose for my teaching, now, every decision I make during this teaching cycle is intentional and meaningful and centered around this purpose.
“OK group, I am going to model for you what shin cuff contact looks like. What do you notice? Where are my hips? Where are my shoulders?”
I like to have my students quickly turn and talk with a neighbor so everyone is engaged in what I want them to see and eventually do. Cognitive engagement moves students towards physical success, and when I’ve heard several comments that show me understanding, I continue teaching. This is also checking for understanding, but holds higher accountability than “Does everyone understand?” which is a question most students are reluctant to respond with a “no.”
“Now I want to model for you what skiing backwards slowly in a wedge looks like and feels like on my shins. Remember shin cuff contact helps me to balance on a moving surface (TP). Once I can feel my shins against the front of my boots, I’m going to turn around and try to produce the same sensation on my shins while moving forward.”
While moving through the teaching cycle, we know that students need to understand the teaching point for themselves, so I continue to weave in my teaching point verbally throughout my lesson as I model and share feedback with each student. The reason? If my supervisor slides up to my class, he or she should be able to ask any child (or adult) in my lesson, “What are you learning right now?” And my students need to be able to answer, “We are working on constant shin cuff contact because it helps us balance.” If my students are not able to articulate what we are doing and why, is my teaching truly effective? If I don’t hold my students accountable for understanding, how can they apply this learning to another environment on their own?
Providing effective instruction has many benefits for both students and instructors. For instructors, always having a clear teaching point and purpose, keeps our lessons meaningful and focused. For our students, this helps them to clearly see and understand what we are doing, and why and supports their owning the information for themselves, which should always be our end goal as teachers.
Linda Cowan is a member of the PSIA-NW Technical Team, is an Alpine Examiner, coaches for Stevens Pass Alpine Club at Stevens Pass and is a 5th grade teacher at Woodmoor Elementary School, in Bothell, WA. Email: email@example.com
by David Berkey
When I first heard about the Gradual Release of Responsibility, a.k.a. “GRR,” I wasn’t on snow, yet there was snow around us, albeit not much. This year, the fog and wind in November at Timberline forced us indoors, with groups all clamoring for space to be heard – Grrrrrrr! Fortunately, the group presentation by Linda Cowan was in the cafeteria, behind glass, and we could hear everything. Linda’s topic was GRR. What I discovered was a tool to potentially assist instructors, new and experienced alike, to become better instructors. It’s not complicated. Most instructors utilize some form of this model in one way or another. I’ve been experimenting with this model in my clinics and classes. All I can say is, “It works!”
After talking to others about Linda’s presentation, I found a lot of skepticism. On our drive back to Seattle, my fellow Training Directors (TDs) discussed if there were any merits to this system. I was in the “pro camp,” while another pointed out his doubts as to its value to the customer. He pointed out that if he pays for a clinic or lesson, he would prefer not hearing from his peer group. He would want input from the paid professional. That was a good point, but I pointed out that it’s up to the professional to guide the discussions, so all students could benefit from easily measured, specific actions. By each student participating, each better owned the information provided.
No sale. He thought that GRR would produce more Grrrrrrrrrrr, or frustration for the student. Still, I wanted to experiment. I needed to find out for myself. As it turned out, I demonstrated GRR’s usefulness in our Level I clinics. Read on and
you’ll see how.
As I mentioned already this acronym stands for Gradual Release of Responsibility. It was developed, as I remember Linda’s story, by a swim coach. He found that by using GRR, he could offer more targeted, personalized instruction at a cognitive level, which provided for greater understanding by his swimmers. They actually helped or taught each other, with guided feedback from the coach, whereby he could constantly check for understanding, providing correction where necessary. This model is such a hot button in education that the Northshore School District located on the “east side” with its district office in Bothell, WA has adopted it. Being an educator in that district is why Linda is so familiar with the concept and a great resource, should you want to understand more. Fortunately, her home turf at Stevens Pass is my turf too, so we get her guidance more frequently, if needed.
As you can see by the Figure aove, and which can be found on the PSIA-NW website, it illustrates that the teacher and student are in what we call a dance. The teacher takes the lead and shows, or
demonstrates, as in “I do it,” then he/she involves the students in a “we do it” together, as in student and teacher dancing together, to check for understanding and provide individual feedback. The instructor then gives the reigns to the students in a “you do it” (teacher watches/guides), with students dancing and guiding each other, increasing their level of understanding by them paying attention to specific desired movements or outcomes.
Finally, students move to a “you do it alone” mode, becoming independent, dancing by themselves. Students end up with better ownership of what was taught. As instructors, we set them free, as hopefully better skiers. But, do our clients truly have ownership of the knowledge we have imparted? I have found that by applying GRR, my students are more self-aware, with a better understanding of body movements and the cause and effect of those movements. They seem to value what they’re taught and want more lessons. They want to learn.
I can best explain this by some examples. How else do teachers best explain their actions?
Example 1: Earlier this season, we started clinics for our Level 1 candidates. Some are quite young and one in particular was frustrating one of the TDs. He just wasn’t paying attention, standing still and listening. Remember the doubt expressed in the car when returning from Timberline? This was one of those TDs, and he was irritated with this candidate’s lack of attention. (Grrrrrrr!) I asked if I could try something. With his blessing, I paired everyone up, asking everyone to pay attention to their partner’s movements. The task we had demonstrated was an edged traverse. I again explained the points to look for, but asked them to only observe the outcome: to see if their partner’s tracks were evenly spaced, both being parallel and if the tracks showed signs of slipping or edged skis. I asked them to work with each other, then asked them to comment on what they observed in front of the group. OMG! They had to pay attention.
In addition, both of us TDs could check their individual levels of understanding and keep them from not straying from the defined outcome. Rather than correct overall skiing, I wanted them to concentrate only on those body movements that affected the creation of the desired tracks in the snow. As we were also working on body alignment and balance and how it affects good skiing, we could guide them toward the cause and effect of correct body alignment to a traverse. After half a run working with the pairs, I asked them to take on a bit more responsibility and work on each other to a meeting point down the hill, trying to perfect each other’s tracks. At this point, both of us TDs were to back off and observe what they did, only stepping in when there was a question or obvious lack of understanding. Sometimes, we had to remind them of the goal: 2 parallel, edged tracks across the snow while in a balanced, correct stance. In the end, we did some free skiing, keeping to the theme of stance and balance. As for input from us TDs, we kept it to a minimum, encouraging them to be aware of their stance while skiing and answering questions.
The results: 1) the disruptive student became engaged, taking the Grrrrrr out of the experience, 2) each student had a more cognitive experience about a simple traverse, and 3) it provided us with another class management tool. In the end, they better understood how a poorly accomplished traverse reflected a lack of alignment skills, which affected their free skiing.
Example 2: If GRR worked in a large clinic, why not in a class situation? My classes range from skiing easy blues to greens on one day to skiing the mountain on bumps and off-piste the next. My approach has been the same in applying GRR. I start each lesson with a goal and skill for students to try and accomplish. This skill may be taught throughout several lessons, but I break down the skill into bite size chunks, so we can concentrate on a specific body part or movement, which the students can easily observe.
At first, I demonstrate and explain, like we all do, using the “I do” stage of GRR. Then, I pair the students up, switching partners throughout the lesson, moving into the “We do together” stage. If it’s an odd number, I even pair one of the students with me. I become one of them when reporting observations. I use myself as the example of what I expect them to be observing. I instruct each set of partners to watch each other, reporting back what they observe, sharing those observations with the class. That way, I can make corrections as necessary. As they start to work more independently in the “You do together” stage, I invite the class to chime in to help with the corrections. I try to be more the observer. At first they were tentative. But after several attempts, I was blown away by what students observed and understood. I was amazed how quickly pupils started to understand the cause and effect of body movements to ski performance. It was just so cool! Normally, this level of understanding has been owned by the top performers in the class. Now, it was everyone in the class, and I knew to what level they owned the knowledge.
The other advantage is that all the students become engaged in the process. They have to pay attention, to understand, in order to teach another person. Students want to live up to expectations, and I set those expectations by defining what to observe and their responsibility to their partner. All I can say is they have responded to this approach. Remember the skepticism about utilizing such a model I discussed previously in this article? Professional vs. peer group input during a class? To confirm that GRR was working to their benefit, I asked my classes if they’d rather me just teach, not have them help each other, or continue having them help teach each other? I received a resounding affirmation of preference: being included in the teaching/learning process made the class more fun. They really liked
the GRR format.
I am wondering if anyone else has been trying GRR in their classes or clinics. If not, I urge you to try it. To me, this tool has brought more focus to each lesson and understanding from the pupil. GRR has also permitted me more time to check for understanding on an individual level, being able to customize the lesson for each pupil. Bottom line, I’m sold. It has been a great tool for me and taken some of the Grrrrrrr out of instructing, especially when dealing with larger groups. Thank you Linda for bringing this model to our attention. It’s a great tool.