Dec 1, 2002 | Marmot, Winter 2002

A new Look and a New Leader for Snow School

Snow School Director Mike Manara has come to Vancouver Island from Marmot Basin in Jasper, Alta., where he spent three years as Director of Skier Services.

Snow School Director Mike Manara has come to Vancouver Island from Marmot Basin in Jasper, Alta., where he spent three years as Director of Skier Services.

And he’s wasted no time in putting his stamp on the Mount Washington Snow School: streamlining programs, adding new features and emphasizing training amongst the snow school instructors.

Manara has been skiing since he was five years old, learning on a 130-foot “bump” in Markham, Ont. and then Quebec. “I have a passion for it,” he says. “I think I was lucky enough to go to school in Quebec and ski at the same time.”

After graduating from Bishops University, east of Montreal with a double major in business and economics, Manara worked as the assistant head coach at Jay Peak in Vermont before getting his break in Jasper. At Marmot Basin, Manara was in charge of 70 pro instructors at the ski and snowboard school, guest services, day care, mountain Snow Hosts and the terrain park. “That’s where I really got my start in the business,” he says. ” While in Jasper I worked hard to earn my Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance Level 3 certification, Level 2 Canadian Ski Coaches Federation ticket and my Level 1 stamp with the Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors. Somehow I found the time to learn my Level 1 examiners certification. “It was a busy, busy time but I learned a lot.”

Manara spent his first two months at Mount Washington getting to know his staff and reassessing the snow school programs. The first change he has made is increasing the availability of lessons at the Resort.

Private lessons will happen every hour on the hour (except for the lunch break). Group lessons will run at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. and Discover Skiing will run at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

One of the newer programs Manara has instituted is Big Mountain Riders. Following the latest ski industry trend, Big Mountain Riders is aimed at teens who are pretty good riders but who want to challenge themselves, go all over the mountain, he said.

Teen participants will go out with pro riders into some of the more extreme, free riding terrain. “We re trying to develop programs for teens because it’s a big part of our market,” he said.

Other new weekend programs include Ski or Board the Trees & Steeps and Free Heelers for Telemark skiers.

” With the expansion of night skiing, we have really developed a lesson program around that,” he said. The resort offers Discover Skiing and Snowboarding group lessons, beginner and private lessons under the lights at the Green Chair, for discounted prices.

Manara has an experienced staff behind him. He has 80 full-time and part-time pros teaching myriad skiing and snowboarding classes to adults. “We have got guys who have been teaching here since the mountain opened (24 years ago),” he said. “There’s been people skiing here over 20 years and others who are brand new.”

Three-quarters of the instructors are from the Comox Valley, which will help in dealing with the 40 per cent of Resort guests who are from the surrounding area. Manara brought five instructors with him from Marmot Basin, and recruited a few more young instructors. “As well we snagged an additional Level 4 pro for skiing and we have three Level 4 senior snowboard instructors that will focus their skills on all-mountain riding and technical progression of our snowboard instructors,” he said. Manara himself is working on his Level 4, and hopes to spend time on the slopes honing his own skills this winter. “I’m a very much on-hill type of person,” he said, smiling.

And while Mount Washington’s instructors may be masters of the boards, they are also skilled in their personal lives. “Some of our instructors are fishing guides in the summertime. Some of our snowboard guys are heavy into surfing, so they spend their days off at the West Coast,” Manara said.

There is also a legion of ex-military members who are now ski instructors. They have a varied background, from air crew to maintenance. What all the Mount Washington instructors have in common, says Manara, is the enthusiasm to teach and a love of the outdoors. “A lot of people are mountain enthusiasts. A lot of them are coming up to go hiking in Strathcona Park or coming up the mountain to go mountain biking in the fall.

” Those are the types of backgrounds and the types of people we like to see because they re passionate,” he says. And that passion translates into customers coming back.

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