When the lifts close Saturday, Max Lundberg will have a difficult decision to make. Something in the order of picking the most perfect pearls in a matching strand, or the best art works from the world's masters, or the best days in the past half century.
Lundberg is currently in the process of picking the best skiers in the United States from a pool of the very best.The parallel to these skiers comes as easy as sleeping. When they ski, people watch. Just standing on skis they look graceful. At any other time, at any other resort, on any crowded slope, any one of the contestants would stand out.
But now, 55 of the best are at Snowbird this week, and Lundberg and other officials of the Professional Ski Instructors of America must pick the best 10.
These 10 will, for the next four years, be America's show team. With matching uniforms and dynamic parallels, the U.S. Demonstration Team will stop at resorts around the country over the next 1,461 days, showing skiers and fellow instructors the right way to turn skis. Then, near the end of the four years, the team will perform at an International Interski along with 24 other skiing countries.
The selection process started with the 16,000 professional ski instructors in the U.S. From that, the 55 best were offered invitations to Snowbird this week. Interestingly enough, among the finalists, nine are locals seven from Snowbird, two from Park City.
During testing, Lundberg said he's been looking at the way each uses his or her skis, the balance, the edging, the ability to steer, and then grading them from one to 10. They've also been asked to make certain moves, maybe a turn emphasizing muscular effort, or one using gravity to turn. During the week, each will have made every imaginable turn, and quite likely some never seen before. They'll teach, free ski and deliver lectures on skiing topics.
On Saturday, the team will be announced.
There is, of course, none better than Lundberg to sit on the selection committee. A Utah-born-and-trained skier, Lundberg has long been recognized as one of the world's finest skiers.
He was himself on the U.S. Demo team from 1968-1973. He was then made coach of the elite group between '73 and '77.
After holding many odd jobs with the PSIA, he is now director of Educational Foundation there. On a higher level, he is international vice president for the PSIA and vice president of the International Association of Ski Instructors. This means he is, on an international level, the No. 2 man and possibly, some day, could hold the No. 1 spot.
More meaningful, however, is the fact he is the first American skier to hold the international v.p. post, and the first American to sit on both international boards.
American skiers can best thank him for helping to make skis turn more easily. He was, in fact, very instrumental in helping to turn America's ski teaching program from a fill-in act into a main attraction. Now, at the International Interski, when the U.S. Demo team skis, there isn't a wondering eye anywhere. The U.S. is considered a leader in ski pioneering. Other countries copy us.
As Lundberg remembered, "Instructors used to take the approach to teaching where they taught students moves, right or wrong, they wanted them to do. It wasn't working well, so we stepped back and found out what the skiers' needs were, then trained the instructor to teach them to the student."
Another early mistake made was there was a rush to teach quantity, not necessarily quality. The goal was to get a student on skis and moving.
"The result is we have a lot of skiers that can come down a hill, but not a lot that can ski a hill. Now, the emphasis is not on how fast a skier learns, but how well," he explained.
Selecting the demo team is all part of it. It's a do-as-I-do thing. Learn by example. Watch, see what can be done if you learn the correct method.
Saturday, the team will be made for 1988-1992. It will meet, practice skiing together, then when areas re-open next winter, travel around showing perfect turns and teaching others how to make them . . . all with the Lundberg stamp of approval, of course.