Snowboard Instructors at Wachusett Mountain
The Coolest Kids on the Mountain
By Lisa Perosi
Skiing down the mountain at Wachusett Ski Resort, I hear loud voices and
laughter. I look up to see a girl, about 15 years old, flying over my head on
her snowboard. She lands a perfect nose grab and rides past me with her friends.
Who is she? She is Missy Wiitala, snowboard instructor.
Most of the snowboard instructors at Wachusett are under age 21. They report to
Matt Leland, their manager and mentor. Leland, a father of four children, has
been snowboarding for 27 years. He learned Princeton, Mass. “Snowboarding is
part of who you are, once the snow is on the mountain I need to ride, its
infectious, and the other instructors share my passion for riding,” he said.
I shared that passion when I went into the terrain park with some instructors. I
shadowed Wiitala for a beginner’s lesson by the bunny hill and got some pointers
from instructor Nicky Fitzgerald.
“I know this park like I know my own bedroom!” Fitzgerald said to me while we
shared a ride up the lift. At 16 years old, she showed incredible confidence and
skill and was a great teacher in the park. With her guidance, I learned to go
off several low jumps and ride in the half pipe.
Leland describes snowboard lessons as “ed-u-tainment” because the student will
be educated but also entertained by the lesson. Also according to Leland, “…it’s
best to learn from a snowboard instructor and not from a friend or family
The instructors’ snowboarding skills range from intermediate to expert, but they
all must attend the Wachusett Instructor Training Course (ITC) prior to
Wiitala started snow boarding when she was 11, and has been an instructor at
Wachusett for about one year. She and remains close friends with the people who
attended ITC with her and enjoys spending time on the mountain with them.
“When I don’t have school I will arrive at Wachusett Mountain at around 8 a.m.
and I will stay there until 10 or 11. When we have school I arrive at 3 p.m. and
leave at around 10 or 11pm.”
Lesson times are 10:30 am; 1:00pm; 5:30pm; and first time lessons only at
7:30pm. Weekend and holiday lessons begin at 9:00am, conditions permitting.
Group lessons cost $30 and a one-hour private lesson costs $65. The instructors
often receive monetary tips from their students, but they agree that the best
tip they can receive is a successful lesson.
Teaching someone to snow board is “…the coolest thing to teach, because you can
give this sport to someone in one hour,” Leland said. “You can teach them to
stop and how to ride heal and toe side in the first lesson.”
Snow boarding has been passed down from generations since the 1940’s, “when snow
boarding began in the 1940’s it was called ‘Snurfing’ and the sport progressed
Leland finds riding the mountain to be peaceful and therapeutic. “It’s like my
therapy, and it’s a great escape from stress.”
I expected snowboarders to be very Zen-like and hip, so I was not surprised that
the kids that gave the lessons were as cool as can be. While leaving the cool
snowboard instructors I reflected on what I had learned from them: I must keep
my knees bent while landing a jump and try not to be afraid of catching air or
of “clearing the landing” (over shooting the jump). Wilson was good enough to
give my novice skier friend some tips for his first time out as well. I was
impressed with how much these kids knew not only about snowboarding but about
other snow sports, too.
Lisa Perosi is a student at Wagner College in Staten Island. She wrote this
article as an assignment for an internship with the Eastern Ski Writers
Association, under the guidance of Janet Franz.