HANCOCK — It's that time of year again.
The leaves are falling, the air is cooling, and the endless hunt for ski and snowboard instructors has ratcheted into high gear to handle the thousands of lessons that will be given on the slopes of Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort this winter.
According to Sherrie Bradway, director of snow sports at Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, more than 300 instructors will be needed this year. And while the work is part time and doesn't pay a great deal, each employee gets to ski free at the mountain resort all winter. That could be important, because to be a good instructor, an enthusiastic love of the sport is really quite helpful.
But rounding up, hiring and training that many instructors is a challenge, and Bradway and her staff are hustling hard to get it done before Thanksgiving weekend — typically opening weekend for the mountain.
Including instructors and ski team coaches, Jiminy will have 325-350 instructors working a variety of shifts and classes at the resort through the season, Bradway said. They will range in age from teens to retirees, and everywhere in between.
That might seem like a lot, but the staff taught more than 34,500 lessons last season. The Kids Rule program alone drew more than 10,000 youngsters to the slopes.
And while they have a strong cadre of returning instructors every year — 156 this year — so far there have been only about 90 applicants. And the hiring clinic is set for Nov. 14 and 15.
Bradway said instructors are attracted to the job for a number of reasons. Some do it for the season pass. Some just like having a reason to get out on the slopes on a regular basis. Others do it because "they love the sport and love sharing it with others."
The students range in age from 2 to 90, and have a range of physical abilities. Classes range in size from 1 to a dozen. The Kids Rule Mountain Camp program, for which families sign up on a day-to-day basis, is a full-day program that includes lunch and lessons.
"We're not looking for hot skiers and riders," Bradway said. "The people skills are what we're really looking for. Someone who can communicate and relate. The people skills are the most critical."
At 65 years old, Rob Mosier has been teaching hundreds of people how to ski every year for 20 years at Jiminy Peak.
"It's very rewarding to teach people how to ski — to pass along our enthusiasm and love of skiing to new people," he said. "And it's not that difficult if you keep it simple. It gives you a real sense of satisfaction when you see someone that gets it and feels it."
In big picture terms, having a successful ski and snowboard school can only be good for the future of the business, and in general for the local economy because of the economic impact generated by ski resorts.
"Our snow sport department is hugely important to our organization," said Tyler Fairbank, CEO of Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort. "We are focused on being the very best in the business at converting non skiers to skiers. It is critical to our growth and our future. More instructors is the name of the game. They don't need to be Jean Claude Killy either. If potential instructors bring the right attitude, we can take care of the rest."