Interview with a “Snow-Guru”
Crystal Riders’ Lodges are a whole new concept in skiing/boarding accommodation for the 2011/12 season. Each Lodge features a Snow Guru. The company’s first ever Snow Guru is 25-year old Ashley Stewart from Kent. FamilySkiNews.com’s content editor, Teresa Fisher caught up with him over beer and hot nachos at the bar in the Riders’ Lodge in Tignes:
What’s your skiing and boarding background?
I started skiing and boarding as a kid, and spent as much time as possible at the snow domes and dry slopes near home and college. I then did two years in New Zealand spending winters on the mountain as a Ski Host the first year and as a Courtesy Patroller the second year.
What’s a Courtesy Patroller?
The fun police basically – stopping people skiing too fast or dangerously… also doing signage, safety and that kind of stuff.
Out of all the Crystal seasonaires, why do you think you were selected to be one of just two Snow Gurus this season?
New Zealand Ski have a partnership with Crystal and I was keen to ski the Alps, so I applied to Crystal to be a rep. I was assessed on arrival (as are all the reps). I think I was picked because of my experience in New Zealand, plus the fact I emphasised again and again that I was here for the riding, and not the usual rep stuff. I also love videography so I think that helped too. I love boarding, skateboarding, photography, film-making and music so I guess it was the perfect job for me. I also studied Exercise and Health Science and then worked as a Physiotherapist’s assistant for two years.
Why didn’t you continue with that?
My urge to travel was stronger than the desire to do a Masters in Physiotherapy even though I had a place. I bought a round-the-world ticket on an impulse whilst in a pub with a mate in Brighton one evening and went off back-packing through Thailand, Oz and New Zealand. In New Zealand I found home!
What’s your role as Guru?
My role is to make sure everyone in the Lodge gets the most out of the resort, on the mountain and off the mountain, when it’s rubbish weather … where the slopes are empty… and then to document it.
This is a new role. How would you like to see it develop?
I’d like to see it develop so that I live in the lodge and solely look after this lodge (I currently do some ‘rep-ing’ at another chalet too). I’d like to go out daily with the guests, to implement rider-specific tours as well as the already-existent ski-escorting tours, and to add some competitions.
What sort of competitions?
Just some simple, fun snow games, especially for the kids – some little races, simple tricks and stuff.
What kit do you use?
I ride my Gnu Park Pickle 153 with union bindings. I’m regular, not goofy, and I ride 15/15 duck stance. My camera is an Olympus U-Tough HD video camera. On the stick [half a ski stick!], I have an HD Go-Pro which is really versatile. It can go on my helmet, my board, my chest… anywhere really. It’s waterproof, it’s bump-proof, it’s drop-proof… it’s awesome.
Do you think the Crystal Riders’ Lodges are a good choice for a family holiday?
It’s awesome for kids. In the lodge, there’s X-box, pool table, ski films, board games…. And the food’s particularly good for fussy kids with stuff like toad in the hole, rather than rich French cuisine. The kids I’ve had so far have all been super-keen, especially to go to the park and do some tricks. The parents can cruise while I take the kids out. They then can watch the tricks back on the video. It’s fantastic.
Saying that, are you worried you could become a ‘free’ childminder for some families?
No – as long as they can ski. The Lodge is good for older children, not toddlers or beginners. As long as they’re competent and keen to progress, it makes no difference to me if I’m on the hill with adults or kids.
What do you do in your free time?
I’m on the hill at every opportunity. I’m here for the snow. Most days off, I’m usually found lapping the jump park when there’s no powder around. I love doing quirky tricks on my board, and just buttering around. I also do more filming on the hill – of friends. I also like to chill with the boys and chill with the guests…any chance to talk about the riding, and I’m there! I eat, drink, breathe, chat, live the riding!
And the future?…
Well, boarding’s my thing so my plan for the future is to get really good at skiing as well as boarding, and to do another couple of seasons as the Snow Guru in Tignes or elsewhere. Eventually I want to become a ski patroller (on a board) in New Zealand.
Finally, any tips for kids keen to start riding the snow park?
Always stay in control. Get really confident on the piste doing little 180s, jumps and other little tricks before you try anything too ambitious. Know your boundaries but also know how much to push yourself and when – it depends a lot on snow and weather conditions… and get out on the hill as much as possible.
Below you can see Ashley’s film footage from our day out together in Val d’Isère. Check out the powder!
Thanks, Ashley – it was an awesome trip!