Editors note: This is about as done as it's going to get. If you've got corrections or additions, please send email.

The second annual AASI (pronounced "ozzy")-Eastern Snowboard Academy was at Stratton Mountain in Vermont from 12/6 - 12/10. This was a great community and skill building event. This event was split off from the traditional alpine Instructor Training Clinic (now called the "Pro Jam" - hey they're sounding more like riders every day!) at nearby Mount Snow in order to expand the number of snowboard participants (at 450+ skiers, there was no room for more than 2 groups of snowboarders). This year, despite poor snow conditions (again), there were 27 participants split among 3 groups. The groups were broken up into "be kind to the snow", level 2 prep and "watch out". Although the level 1 cert portion of the event was canceled because only two people were signed up, the two riders who rode in the be kind to the snow group were so hot, they got their pins anyway!

Brian Spear and Neville Burt switched roles this year. Neville handled the organizing and the headaches and Brian took the "level 2 prep" group out. The other clinic leader/examiners were Terry Duffield and Ted Fleischer. Terry had the "be kind" group and Ted's group tore up the mountain.

For those of you who canceled due to unfavorable conditions: tsk tsk. Rain was limited to a few sprinkles Monday and a light soaking after the groups quit Friday afternoon. We had top to bottom skiing all week. Even though the coverage was pretty thin, we had all the snow we needed to get the job done. Off the top, North American was open, "butt" ugly. Also off the top, Spruce, Liftline? and Drifter? fed into the Interstate cat track to the lower part of the mountain. At the bottom, the terrain park offered an alternative route to the "box" and "6pack" lifts. The park had 6 great jumps and each jump had sides shaped for quarter pipe hits. Although the conditions called for using "rock boards", Rusty was using a 7 day old board and only picked up a few minor dings. We were fortunate to have snowmaking at the top through the middle of the week, but a persistent (and incredible!) 15 degree temperature difference made snowmaking at the bottom impossible.

This year the event was really focused on the participants' needs. We also got updates based on feedback and experience using last years newly introduced AASI manual and video. For example, Brian moaned about how difficult it was to produce the learning concepts section (Chapter 2) of the AASI manual. There are so many learning theories to choose from and most have some merit, but it's too much to choose from (and remember), so the approach (i.e. stuff to remember for exams) is read from the section on page 35, starting from "To accomplish this...". Brian specifically recommended Eric Jensen's Super Teaching book for more detailed reading on learning concepts. Another nice touch was the opportunity to provide feedback to the movers and shakers (i.e. Brian, Neville and Joe) in Eastern snowboarding. Brian asked how we felt about snowboard examiners not having fancy uniform jackets like the ski examiners have. The thinking is that the examiners went to the manufacturers and said "What can we do for you to help snowboarding? How about wearing your clothing?" and thus the movement was born. For those interested in not moving up the food chain, Joe, the lone Snowboarder on the PSIA-E board, provided advice on how not to get elected to the PSIA-E board: "Stay out of Grizzly's when Brian is in town". All the examiners ended the day at Grizzly's. It was great to be able to have a drink and get to know them better and also get introduced to the locals.

Did you know that AASI lets new hires attend the Eastern Academy? Even if they've never taught a paid lesson before, if they've at least attended some indoor training prior to the academy, they are welcome to attend the event. Those who study ahead of time and ride well can even get their level 1 certification at the event! There are some issues with this approach, but this is truly a great opportunity for new instructors.

Here are some notes that Rusty took in his level 2 prep group.

The group
Our group was composed of Josh Zuder (Montage), Nate Runion (Bryce), Flynn (aka "Flick") Hulver (Bryce), Les Garcia (Windham), Paul Beaudin (Sugarbush) and Sean Naughton (Jack Frost/Big Boulder) and yours truly, Rusty Carr (Whitetail). During the week we got visited by DJ (aka D Day) Seagraves (who's working to get on the national demo team), the infamous Trish, a recovering Jesse (aka Julie) from Stratton who was supposed to be part of our group but was sick most of the week, an always smiling Shauna (soon to have a last name of Duffield) and Sean, who dumped us so fast I did not get his last name (grin).


Day 1 - Warm up and movement analysis

Warm up runs - Brian likes to methodically explore the mountain. While we hit the trails from left to right, Brian was sneakily getting his own legs warmed up and assessing his group. Brian planned the group's activities mostly by request and opportunity.

Since Rusty had heard about a "new" movement analysis technique from his Whitetail buddy Kurt (who had attended the previous weekends' "trainer" session), and asked about it, that became our topic for the early afternoon. The technique (generously provided from the Rocky Mountain division) puts a measuring scale to 3 different riding parameters such that one could use these measurements to describe a riding style over the phone. The three riding parameters are:
1) fore/aft balance,
2) rotation relative to stance angle,
3) alignment relative to the terrain (e.g. angle of shoulders relative to the pitch of the slope).
By using a minus 5 to plus 5 scale (or whatever scale you like) and describing the rider in each portion (beginning,middle and end) of heel side and toe side turns, one gets a pretty good picture of a rider. The only problem is that it is darn hard to watch a rider in real time and come up with the numbers. You need to practice (a lot).

Later we rode switch and boy were we (cough) "rusty". We ended the day with a campy video interview grilling the group members who had aggressive stances on why they had their stances set up that way. Rumor has it the price to burn the tape is up to $50.

Brian's subtle suggestion of the day: if you're going for exams - go with the set up you normally ride with. Rusty's blunt interpretation for the hard of hearing: If you normally ride with an aggressive stance, don't plan on using that as an excuse for poor switch riding. Switch riding is harder with an agressive stance. Switch riding is required for the exam. You figure it out.


Day 2 - Hard snow and teaching segments

As a sign of snowmaking to come, the morning snow at the top of the mountain was "firm". So the topic du jour was "how to get a grip". This became an interesting example of how to query for technical knowledge. So of course our group's answers were all over the map. Brian made his point by complaining simply that our boards were too loud. He was right. Fortune smiled when the video camera came out on the slope - the fog rolled in and chased us down the mountain to the softer snow. Nevertheless, Neville managed to capture enough (damning) evidence for future split screen analysis.

We spent the afternoon mostly doing our teaching exercises. Rusty did rolling your front knee forward. Josh stunned the group with Monkey Turns (holding one hand over your head to initiate a turn). Sean did Giants and Midgets. Nate did handle tow turns. Flynn - what was your exercise? Brian hinted that weak teaching presentations MIGHT sneak by on day one (to account for nerves), but not on day 2 or 3. We got a lot of feedback on things that helped you pass (e.g. have a name for your exercise, get a lot of riding in, go for 2-3 segments, mix teaching styles and feedback, demo what you say) versus things that helped you not pass (going too long, talking too much versus riding, not having enough meat [how versus what], safety problems, being wrong with your feedback). Brian mentioned that although you can now pass your teaching segment by teaching something bad, it would make passing your pro knowledge section harder.

Brian's subtle suggestion of the day: bend the damn board to get it to dig into the snow.
Brian's major discovery of the day: Magic markers can be used to draw pictures on hard snow. Rumor has it that someone was drawing something else (besides snowboard and center of mass tracks) later that evening.

For fun, we started hitting the terrain park. Brian challenged us all (including himself) to clear both table tops on the left side by the end of the week. Although Les got a "been there, done that (30 years ago)" flyer, he was spotted catching some air. Brian presented the two competing theories of clearing table tops: small steps versus just go for it. With the small steps approach, you start from a set point and ride straight to the jump. By starting close to the jump and working your starting point back up the hill, it's easier to gain confidence as you go bigger and bigger. The problem with this approach though is that as your landing point starts to reach the back end of the table, you're landing a lot harder than you would if you landed in the nice soft landing zone. Thus, the go for it approach has it's merits too. Being a big chicken, Rusty took the small steps approach and ended up with a full appreciation of the hard landing at the end of the table top. Brian added a tip for beginning jumpers: stay low on the board and don't pop off the hit.


Day 3 - Teaching follow up and video party

In the morning, Brian provided more general feedback on the teaching segments. One hint was to relate the teaching segment to who it applies to. A single exercise is not likely to work for both kids and adults, beginners and experienced riders, or neutral and carving stances. Brian talked about how teamwork is important, but not to overdo it either. Help your group mates, but don't over do it in the discussions. The group should make a real effort to establish rapport quickly and do little things like stopping in the right places, paying attention to (and PARTICPATING in) other members teaching presentations, no dilly dallying during the segments (but don't rush the poor guy either). Another hint is to ACT on your little safety voice. If you've ended up in a bad spot, move as soon as you recognize it, don't worry about the interruption.  Speaking of interruptions, Brian mentioned that outsider interruptions into your presentation do not count towards your time and that if your examiner breaks off from your teaching segment momentarily due to outside interruption that this is a sign that things are going well. So don't worry!

Instead of a stuffy old banquet, Neville had a split screen party at his barn. Unfortunately, there were not a lot of women around. The sluttiest bitch of the party (Casey) was a real dog. The highlight of the party was the opportunity to get hands on experience with the computer video analysis tool.

Brian's not so subtle suggestion of the day: Complain to your rep about not having a company store at the event. We did not have one at all and the skiers only had their orders taken vs having stuff on hand to walk home with. Rusty says "we understand there was illness on the staff", but it's still LAME!


Day 4 - Personal missions

In the morning we stayed at the bottom and watched the snowboard team run "snowboard" slalom gates. These were shaped like triangles (so cool). We also witnessed a minor miracle: a 7.5 month old skier being taped by the RSN camera. Speaking of wobbling on the snow, Brian introduced us to "wobble" turns. These are turns accomplished only by ankle movement. Since the turns end up being fairly shallow (vs across the hill), this exercise is best done on a relatively flat run. If you do this exercise correctly, the turns will be totally carved (i.e. no snow thrown up). Next, D Day did an exercise focusing on twisting the board (i.e. changing edges on the front foot before the back foot) to help initiate turns and added that when going heel side he likes to add rotation to the twisting action.

Brian started giving some of the rest of us personal missions. Although Rusty had already started getting his personal mission on day 1 (don't bend at the waist), Brian did not heistate to add another one (PRESS on the toes versus riding on them). Les's mission was to ride bowlegged on heel side turns. Sean's mission was to increase the time spent in turn transitions. Paul worked on riding taller. Meanwhile, D Day walked us through a "check turns" exercise. This is where you traverse across the hill and check your body position before turning. You do this by touching your hands to your shoulders, hips, then knees to check for neutral positions, then turn and traverse back across the trail.

Since we started clearing the table tops in the terrain park, we switched to the 1/4 pipe hits and covered the basics for teaching beginners. For first timers, they should use the hits as berms and not ride all the way up to the vertical portion. As you get more comfortable, you should stay low on the board and keep your shoulders parallel with the pitch of the hit as you ride up the wall. Pressure the tail all the way up the hit. When you reach the max height, if you're in the air just rotate and ride down. If you're still on the wall, just do a LIGHT hop (so you don't jump straight out) and turn. We all agreed that Stratton's approach of carving 1/4 pipe hits into the sides of the jumps was a better way of learning to ride in the 1/2 pipe, because the distance in between the jumps gave you much more time to get your act together. We also started getting air off a roller at the bottom of the park, doing grabs (or in Rusty's case, touches) and spins.

Brian's subtle suggestion of the day (to himself): in order to make 360s work, one needs to look DOWN the hill. Where the head looks the body goes.


Day 5 - Exam guide walk through

In the morning we covered the exam study guide indoors. News Flash: Rusty scammed a copy of the printed exam guide late Friday before leaving for home!

Riding during the day was mostly just putting the lessons during the week into practice, but Brian added a little nagging for the folks who were working on personal missions. People started hitting the road around lunch time, but most of us came back to the Roost to celebrate the level 1 awards and pick up our split screen video tapes.

Brian's subtle suggestion of the day: There's a difference between riding switch and riding fakie. The difference is so subtle, Rusty just didn't get it. It had something to do with riding backwards with just your head turned in a different direction versus rotating your lower body as well.


And the name of the discount card that gets you rooms at the Stratton Village Lodge for $50 per night is Entertainment Publications. The price for the DC book was $35. The hotel search on their web site does not find the Stratton Village Lodge as a participating hotel in VT, but it worked for Rusty...