Where Will Skiing Take You?

Where will skiing take you? By Danisa Guardati

 

From small beginnings a global career is started. I caught up with fellow Aspen Ski Instructor Marian Krogh to chat about how ski instructing has taken her to more than 15 countries, competing in international freeride competitions, ski mountaineering expeditions and starting a non-profit.

What is your background?

I guess I firstly describe myself as a skier and that encompasses most of my life and has influenced many decisions I’ve made as an adult. I’m currently a ski instructor for Aspen Snowmass, a freeride coach for Treble Cone and a physiotherapist working with many skiers and athletes of all ages.

How did you first get introduced to skiing?

I first knew about skiing as a child because my cousins skied. I was always jealous of their ski holidays and wanted to ski myself, but my family was never in the position to go skiing. When I was 19, I studied French at university and spent my first summer break (northern hemisphere winter) in France working in a hotel at a small ski area. The hotel was next to a poma lift and I would try to go skiing during my afternoon breaks from work. It took me at least a week before I could even make it to the top of the poma! It was so hard, but I knew once I could get up the hill I would be able to ski down. It turned out going down was hard too but by the end of the winter I could ski down blue runs and thought it was the best thing ever.

How did you get introduced to ski instructing?

My second summer at university I worked at a hotel in France for the northern hemisphere winter. As a fearless 19-year-old I taught myself to ski there. Despite spending more time falling off the poma lift than actually skiing I was hooked on the feeling of sliding down the snowy mountains. I’d previously taught swimming and so thought I could teach skiing could be a fun next step for my next summer break. My (non-skiing) mother had heard of Whistler, and apparently it was quite good.  I’d never even heard of it, but booked a ticket to Vancouver and signed up for the ski instructor hiring clinic.

What made you turn the one season experience into a career?

It was never an intention or goal of mine to make skiing a career, it just happened.  Season after season I couldn’t wait for the next winter. I had so much fun as an instructor, made so many friends and became so passionate about skiing.

To begin, I actually was only hired to teach three- and four-year old’s on the magic carpet (my skiing wasn’t deemed good enough to teach anything more advanced). I loved it. I taught for three months on the magic carpet and it was the best experience I’d ever had. Eventually after a lot of training I passed my level one and was granted permission to teach up to level fours on the chairlift. A whole new world opened and I became so passionate both about progressing with my own skiing and instructing. I worked in Whistler for three more seasons, I kept training and studying and got my level two ski and snowboard certificates and it kept snowballing.

How has being a professional skier and ski instructor shaped your life?

Without skiing I would definitely not be who I am today. I have had so many amazing experiences which have stemmed from ski instructing

Can you tell me about some of those experiences you have had from skiing that you might not have had otherwise? 

I think what I have appreciated the most is my experiences competing in international freeride competitions. I was able to travel the world and compete, my favourite location was probably Norway.  It was really motivating to train really hard in the gym and in the mountains to be as strong as possible. I also connected with and made friends so many others in the freeride world, I have friends in the mountains all over now.

Competition, international freeride competitions. Around the world, favorite country Norway.

Where else has skiing taken you?

My skiing career acted as a segway into ski mountaineering. I’ve backcountry skied in so many areas and countries now, it’s such a great way to explore. I lead two multi-week ski mountaineering expeditions to Kyrgyzstan and the Southern Patagonian icefield.  These were very difficult but very rewarding challenges. Very few people can access these areas and we went there on skis. For both expeditions I and my team were able to receive funding and awards in recognition of these efforts, this is something I never would have expected 15 years ago.

Also because of my extensive time in the mountains, I’ve noticed the significant impacts of climate change on the ski industry and the lives of those who live in mountain communities. To try to help with this global problem and turn my passion into purpose I founded the New Zealand chapter of Protect Our Winters in 2018 and I’m currently volunteering as the lead advocate. I’m gaining so much experience in this leadership role advocating for the outdoor industry.

What advice do you have to recommend to instructors who are thinking about transitioning to a full-time career in ski instructing?

If I could give some advice to my younger self, I would say be patient. Patience is the most valuable skill a ski instructor can have both with their instructing and with their career path. It can be easy to get frustrated in your first few seasons with the training and certifications processes taking such a long time. Make sure you remember why you chose this career in the first place. Skiing is so much fun, don’t forget that. In terms of transitioning to a full-time career I would recommend reaching out to find a mentor who has been successful with this and find a resort to work at where you really feel part of the community.

What other certifications do you have?

I’ve spent a lot of time diversifying my certifications which helped me become so successful. I’ve got snowboard, children’s and freestyle certifications through PSIA. Through IFSA, I’m a certified judge and freeride coach. I’ve also got avalanche certifications, wilderness first aid, and I’m a licensed physical therapist. These certifications combined help put me in the top one percent of ski instructors and help me create and maintain a lot of business.

What do you like most about being a professional ski instructor?

At this stage, I’m most passionate about training future ski instructors. I gained so much from the training I had in my early years and I’m excited to give back to the industry that has given me so much. I love working to the next generation of instructors and passing on my passion for skiing, instructing, adventure and environmental advocacy.

What are your favorite moments? Do you have a funny story to share?

Coaching junior freeride athletes at Treble Cone in New Zealand and then judging their end of season competition would probably be one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. It’s so fun watching them progress over the season or years to ski and compete at levels they never would have thought possible. As far as a funny story, I’ve got several from instructing in Aspen but having travelled so much with ski gear, I’ve gotten pretty good at avoiding extra baggage fees. In both India and Kyrgyzstan, I got away with saying that my ski bag was a golf bag and therefore was exempt from overweight charges!

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