Marian Krogh, a native of New Zealand who's taught skiing in more than fifteen countries, is back in Aspen for another season as an instructor. But with the world in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, this season will be like no other.
For our annual Winter Guide, we chatted with Krogh about what brought her to Colorado, and why she keeps coming back.
Westword: What brought you to Colorado?
Marian Krogh: I had previously been a ski instructor in Whistler [British Columbia] for five winters. I loved it there, but after an injury, I had to take a season off, and I looked at it as an opportunity to work somewhere new. I had returned to the university to study physical therapy, and as a student was able to get a J1 working holiday visa for the States, so I wanted to take advantage of that. I was looking for a more professional ski school, and Aspen Snowmass has a reputation in the industry for having one of the best ski schools in the world. I knew it was difficult to get a job there, but with my certifications and experience, I thought it was worth a shot. I was really excited when they offered me a job, as I knew it would be a huge stepping stone for my ski career.
What are some of the differences between working here and at other ski schools around the world?
I’ve worked at ski schools in Canada and New Zealand, and none of them have as many highly qualified or experienced instructors. When you train as a ski instructor, you can be certified as a level one, two or three instructor. It takes years of training to complete and pass the level-three exam, with many instructors attempting more than five times before finally achieving the standard. Aspen has hundreds of instructors with their level three. In New Zealand where I worked, and at most other ski schools, there were only about ten instructors of that level.
Another difference is the ability to work independently and develop your own business. Private lessons are much more common here. and if you have a diverse skill set, you can build a great business. In Aspen I have been able to generate a large clientele base, and now mostly only work for families who request to ski with me year after year. People like skiing with me because I’m a good instructor, of course, but also because I grew up in New Zealand, and guests really like that. That would never happen at home.
In New Zealand and other parts of North America, the ski season is only three to four months. The season here is much longer, about five months from Thanksgiving until late April. and then longer for backcountry skiing. This means more skiing, which is my favorite thing to do, but also more work opportunities as a ski instructor.
What are some other differences between New Zealand and Colorado?
I’d say in general, in New Zealand people are much more environmentally conscious and live with smaller footprints. While Aspen Snowmass is a leader in the industry with its environmental and general sustainability initiatives, the guests who visit are much less aware. It’s concerning to see that disconnect, and I worry about the future of the ski industry. We need more outdoors people standing up and protecting our playgrounds.
The housing and public transport systems here are far superior to those in New Zealand. There’s dedicated seasonal housing here for ski-area workers; it’s small and simple and competitive to get a spot, but at least it exists, which it does not in New Zealand. Aspen and most other ski areas in Colorado have excellent bus networks that are either free of charge or have a minimal cost. This means it’s easier to move here for the winter, as you don’t need a car and you don’t have to rent a whole house and worry about finding roommates to fill it. That is the situation in New Zealand.
What have you enjoyed the most about living and skiing in Colorado?
I love that I get to meet people from all over the country and the world. I now know people from New York, San Francisco, Texas, Denver and more. I speak Spanish, and there are a lot of Argentinian instructors in Aspen whom I’ve made really good friends with as I’ve become part of the community. The skiing here is amazing, too. I competed for many years on the Freeride World Tour qualifier circuit and skied in Japan, Norway and Canada. The quality of snow in Colorado is incredible, and it’s almost always sunny, a combination you rarely get in other ski areas.
What are some of the challenges associated with immigrating to the States and living here?
In my opinion, the health-care system here is pretty challenging. It’s frustrating that so many services are only available to those who can afford them. I’m used to a public health-care system where everyone has equal access to the care they need. I work as a physical therapist in New Zealand, and everyone can afford my help there.
The constant moving is becoming more arduous every year. I make my biannual migration across the world with two ski bags every May and November. In some ways, I’m really appreciative of this lifestyle, as it minimizes how much ‘stuff’ I have. On the other hand, I’m constantly looking for a new place to live and housing in ski towns, and haven’t been able to buy a place of my own yet.
Do you have any suggestions for readers planning to go skiing this winter?
Book early. If ski areas have to limit visitors, those who purchased tickets first will have priority. Pick a week during a traditionally quieter time of the season, like late January or early March before spring break. Book a ski-in/out apartment for accommodation. That way you can ski home for lunch and won’t have to worry about restrictions at on-mountain restaurants.
Book some private lessons. There’s always more to learn with skiing and snowboarding. An instructor will also guarantee you lift access, and they’ll have plenty of insider tips for where to avoid crowds and have a safe and successful ski vacation.
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