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Feature - Heroes, role models and twinkies

They draw on their experiences in long, productive lives to teach people the skills to slide down a mountain, and in this they find meaning

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Or maybe it isn’t. Two of Doug’s children grew up to teach skiing. That would be two of three daughters. Yes, once again it was women who showed Doug the One True Path. There’s a pattern here, I think.

So at the age of 52, Doug began teaching as a weekender at the newly launched Blackcomb Mountain. Nine years later, faced with the difficult choice of continuing to work at Scott Paper, where he eventually put those business classes to good use for 30 years, or moving to Whistler to teach full time, Doug chose the only sane career path – become a full-time ski school teacher at age 61. I’m sure Sheila had something to do with that decision too.

In the years since then, Doug’s garnered Instructor of the Year a time or two, taught countless classes, made countless friends and skiers out of perfect strangers and always been near the top of the heap in the privates pod.

Doug’s known for two things around the Ski School. The first is sessions. Sessions are what Ski School does on the mountain before the public heads up. Teachers teach teachers in sessions. Sessions are often highly technical, geared towards laying the pedagogical foundation for instructors to climb the next rung on the CSIA ladder. Doug says he goes to learn. Well, actually he says it’s a great chance to rip up the mountain when no one’s up there. Doug never misses sessions. Sessions happen at an ungodly early hour. Sessions are not mandatory. Draw your own conclusions.

Perhaps as a concession to age, Doug limits his teaching to levels 1-5. "I can ski a good morning with a strong Level 5," he says. "They’re keen on getting good in bumps, powder and steeper slopes. The next level up, they’re already good in that stuff and are looking to be taken to terrain that will challenge and delight them. I’m just not there."

So what keeps a guy well past what most people think of as retirement age performing a job most people think belongs in the world of the young? Get Doug talking enough and you get the slightest hint of evangelical fervour, a keen desire to share the beauty and pleasure so integral to sliding on mountains.

"I was teaching a, shall we say, mature couple. It was a perfect Whistler day, blue skies, sunshine. They were low level skiers making reasonably quick progress when they could take their minds off the scenery long enough. I decided to take them on the grand tour through Burnt Stew Basin when, half way up the old Peak Chair, the woman burst into tears. I tried to calm her down but it was only when we got to the top I learned she was terrified of heights.

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