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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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A career with IBM that began with business machines and spanned the advent of the computer took Don and his wife Pat to Ontario, then to New York, then back to Ontario. In the intervening years, Don morphed from a marketer to a pioneering systems engineer.

But it was Don’s youngest daughter who got him back into skiing and, like Doug, into teaching. Thank God for women.

"Daddy, you’re going to be retiring soon," she told him. "Teaching would be a great thing to do in your retirement."

And so it has been.

Don is a rare ski teacher. He prefers, is in fact passionate about , teaching skiing to people who have never skied before and been saddled with doubt as to whether they ever could. He is perfect for that role. His eyes twinkle with anticipation. His voice is soothing and reassuring. His whole countenance whispers confidence. Taller and much better looking, Don nevertheless is Yoda, Jedi Master and patient teacher.

That doesn’t always work to his advantage. Twice during the past season, Don’s been scheduled for a whole week of private lessons with never, ever skiers. Twice he’s taken them from non-skiers to level 4 skiers in so few days he’s had to pass them on to other instructors for the second half of their ski week. It’s not that Don couldn’t continue with them, teach them to ski bumps and steeper pitches, he just prefers not to.

A dozen years ago, Don’s cultural bifurcation was made whole in one of those ironic life accidents. He noticed, almost too late, a call for ski teachers to go to Japan during the slow days of January. Too late to join the rest of the group, he finagled his way in and set out on his own.

The program is tailor-made for a systems engineer looking for a proving ground to hone his maverick teaching theories. For some time, Don had noticed that a significant segment of the population was physically incapable of moulding their physique into the CSIA’s pedagogy – they couldn’t snowplow.

The systems engineer in him sought fault with the system, not the user and thus was born the Guthrie Let’s Let Everybody Have a Skiing Experience Technique for teaching beginners: Carving from Day One.

"I’d been teaching groups of Chinese who’d come up on bus tours to ski. None of them had skied before and the lesson was part of their tour. I’d noticed in particular that many of the ladies just couldn’t physically point their toes in. Telling them to snowplow was like asking them to point their feet backwards.