Industry Profile: Park City Instructor Martin Drayton
22 Jul, 2010
Job Title: Snowboard Instructor, Snowboard Staff Trainer/Clinician, Buyer-Snowboard Shop, Board Tester (skate & snow), Freelance Snowboard Consultant, Professional Skateboard Slalom Racer.
Employer: Park City Mountain Resort. Destination Sports/PC Park & Ride, Geckodecks.
Years on snow: 25 years.
Days on snow: Approx. 130 FULL days per season
BOARDS- Never Summer Raptor 159-2011, Never Summer SL-R 155, Rome Notch 158,
BINDINGS- Rome Targas (2010 & 2011).
BOOTS- Rome Marshall custom heat-molded and fitted with Surefoot insoles.
Currently I am: Testing a new type of snowboard for a company called «Nativ» at Snowbird, skateboard slalom pre-season training and testing prototypes for Gecko slalom skateboard decks. Team Leader at PCMR on the Alpine Coaster and Zip Line. Reservations Manager for Dinosaur River Rafting Expeditions.
Shay: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Martin: I emigrated from the UK permanently with my wife and daughter 2 years ago and have now taught for 10 seasons at Park City (25 seasons in total worldwide). I decided after my first ski vacation back in 1980 that I wanted to forgo my Legal career and work on snow. It took a while to get everything in place and I had to give up a lot, but I finally started my 1st full season in 1989.
Shay: How has snowboarding changed your life?
Martin: It has taken me to parts of the World that I would never have seen, introduced me to new friends from all over the planet and has given me a livelihood. I have also had more fun than seems fair!
Shay: How did you get your start in the industry, who or what opened up more opportunities for you?
Martin: After taking large groups of skiers away as a group on a package holiday, the Owner of the company we travelled with was so impressed with my organizational skills that he offered me a job for the next season as a Ski Guide. With my skateboard background, I was an early Snowboard adopter (1985) and with my background in English Language/Literature, I started writing for various British magazines about the new ‘craze’. I had learnt photography, so was able to supply pictures to go with the words and establish a niche in the fledgling British Snowboard Industry as the ‘go-to-guy’ for the mainstream media.
Shay: How has your previous education or work experience helped you in your current job?
Martin: My past occupations as a Judges’ Clerk, Civil Servant, Retailer, Dance Teacher etc., have all helped me to learn to deal with very different people and to ‘work people out’ very quickly. It is important as a Snowboard Teacher to be able to identify the need for different learning styles and to have lots of options for methods of delivering info to someone in a way that will be simple, effective and easy to understand. Having learnt a couple of other languages while working as a Travel Company Representative in France has also helped me with French, Italian and Dutch clients here in the US. Having been involved in the Industry from early has given me a tremendous base of knowledge and experience to call on as a Retailer, Buyer and Product Tester.
Shay: Tell us about your role at Park City Resort and a description of the work you do?
Martin: I am a Private Lesson Instructor and am generally teaching between 5-7 days per week, 7 hours per day. I am also a Staff Trainer and Clinician and therefore heavily involved in the selection and training of new Instructors. My clients range from nervous first-timers to those getting into competing at National level, some have been with me for 10 years and can out ride most of our teaching staff!
Shay: What’s an average day like at work for you?
Martin: I get out to post at 9am for my first lesson which may be one of my regulars, and probably an all day lesson, or a combination of 2 or 3 hour lessons to fill my 7 hours. Consequently I could be hiking and riding Pow all day, carving at high speed on groomers, teaching the basics of tree-riding and drop-offs…. or teaching someone to sideslip on the Bunny Hill! That’s what I love about the job, everyday is different… Then after leaving the hill at 4pm, I rush to the shop Destination Sports/PC Park and Ride, where I manage the Snowboard Department. I check on the days sales, rentals etc and help customers until 9 or 10pm. Then its off home finally, catching up on e-mails from clients about future lessons, sometimes grabbing a bite/drink with some of them after work! My winter days are busy…
Shay: What are some memorable experiences from working in the industry?
Martin: I have had so much fun over the years, it is hard to pick out just a few memorable experiences! Working in France was amazing, incredible mountains inhabited by people who know how to live life to the full. Competing on the World Cup and hanging out with all the big names of the late 90’s. Meeting and teaching the woman who was to become my wife was pretty special! Also I have gotten to teach some very cool celebs to ride – Paul Rodriguez (skater), The Prodigy, Edward Burns (actor), Christy Turlington (Supermodel), David Arquette (actor) and Angela Rippon (UK’s answer to Barbara Walters).
Shay: What do you think are the biggest challenges that the snowboard industry faces and what changes would you like to see for the future?
Martin: Actually one of the biggest challenges to snowboarding is the drop-out rate of beginners. Currently only 13% who start snowboarding actually carry on.
So, between the high water mark of 6.3 million riders in 2004 to 5.1m in 2007 , some 1.2 million snowboarders are no longer involved. From an Industry point of view this is pretty dire (and it doesn’t take a crystal ball to know its not going to be much better this winter or for the next few). Bearing in mind that the average boarder spends around $1000 per annum, that’s about 1.4 BILLION just gone from the Industry. With the appearance of Twin-tip skis, Shaped Skis and Fat Skis, skiing has a lot to thank Snowboarding for, but has this diverted many young snow users back onto 2 planks to our detriment?
Why is snowboarding in decline? My personal opinion, for what its worth, is that the public is being sold the dream of just jumping on a board and immediately becoming “cool” and for most that dream is unrealistic. Those of a ‘sporty disposition’ got involved early on and now those more in tune with their remote controls and sofas want to get involved. We as Instructors are doing our best, but the newcomer to the sport should be made aware by the Industry and the Media that they will NOT be doing the moves that they can do on the Wii within 20 minutes of starting a lesson. I think the snowboard Industry needs to help more at grass roots level, while we still have an Industry… Lets get more companies to make LTR-style boards (twisty twins with bevelled edges and a little rocker)and dedicated boots/binding combos and persuade rental shops to stop sending people out on antiquated kit like Head/Rossi step-ins!
Maybe MTV could do a Reality Show featuring beginners instead of Pros, starring a Couch Potato from Florida?
In the current economic climate, people are looking for even better value for money. Why spend your hard earned cash on a lesson to discover that you are physically and mentally totally unprepared for it and get battered and bruised for your trouble? You might as well have stood in a dark alley in your home town with dollar bills sticking out of your pocket and not had the inconvenience of traveling, and had the same result!
Shay: Education vs Experience…which do you think is more important?
Martin: I think they are pretty much inseparable. Without the education I have I would not have been able to get into the position to gain the experience! Once you begin to gather knowledge through being involved in different aspects of Snowboarding, your opportunities will multiply.
Shay: What advice would you give to people wanting to work in the industry?
Martin: As we become more reliant on technology, a good knowledge in all current forms of media is important. This should be as a supplement to a solid education and to get an edge, it should be at least up to Degree level and ideally in a relevant field. Get involved in the Industry as much as you can and learn a little about all aspects of snowboarding before you decide where your strengths lie and which direction you want to go in. Then go for broke! Don’t be afraid to try and put yourself forward for lots of jobs, the worst you can do is sit and wait for the world to beat a path to your door…its NOT going to happen.
Its a great Industry to be involved in, full of like-minded people who love what you love. Do I regret giving up a promising Legal career in the UK? What do you think!
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