“Don’t think of it as skiing down the mountain. Think of it as running, skipping, dancing down the mountain.” –John Egan
If you like to watch movies about skiing than you’ve in all likelihood heard of John Egan. He’s been in more than 14 Warren Miller films, was named one of the top skiers of all time by Powder, and is generally recognized as one of the early pioneers of extreme winter sports. I’m not sure there’s a mountain left on the planet that he hasn’t skied.
John’s home ski area is Sugarbush Resort in central Vermont. He now serves as the “Chief Recreational Officer” there and guests can pay to spend all or part of the day exploring the mountain with him.
When I was a guest along with my family at Sugarbush for two days in December 2013, my husband Matt and I were invited to ski with John one morning at the Glen Ellen area of the resort (our sons were taking lessons at the Sugarbush Ski & Ride School). I’ll admit that although I was excited to ski with John I was also nervous. He’s one of those people whose name is inevitably paired with the words “legend” and “icon”. What would I say to him? What if I couldn’t keep up?
Ski coach, physics teacher, Zen master
I need not have worried. John is amazingly humble and friendly. When we first arrived I was (to my mortification) having trouble snapping into my binding. Before I knew what was happening, John was down on his side scraping ice from the bottom of my ski boot. By the time we were climbing onto the lift I felt like he was already my friend.
Having been just about everywhere in the world, John can converse readily about everything. Want to talk global warming? He led scientists on an expedition in the Arctic to study. Curious what it’s like to ski in South America? He has led groups there in the company of his young son and tells rousing stories of persuading the boy to ski off cliffs that would intimidate grown men.
He also speaks just as easily about friction and gravity and their impact on your skis and form as he does the inherent joy of motion and how to handle fear – which is interesting since I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have any.
There are numerous reasons that it’s worthwhile to ski with John. For one thing, he knows everything about the six mountain peaks that make up Sugarbush Resort. Not just the terrain, but the ecology, the history, and the people. From the placement of the elements in the terrain parks to the oil that drips off one of the Mount Ellen lifts on warm days, there is not one small detail that eludes him.
There are also few people who understand the mechanics of skiing better than John does. When he explains something technical, he does it simply and clearly. After watching me stop a few times he explained that I should imagine myself spraying a friend with snow each time and that I should be able to look that friend in the face because I’m squaring my shoulders down the mountain. Boom! I instantly translated that simple instruction into a series of perfect hockey stops.
Conditions didn’t permit us to do any backcountry skiing with John. Nor did we get to explore any glades or test my new skis on the bumps. We repeatedly went down the same few trails that were open. And yet I easily had one of the best mornings of skiing of my life. Partly this was because John’s joy is infectious, as is his gratitude. He clearly loves what he is doing and doesn’t care if the snow is thin or he has to ski only groomers. It’s easy to feel happy when you are skiing with someone who reminds you constantly by example how fun the sport is.
And then there was the simple pleasure of trailing him down the mountain, of watching how effortlessly and perfectly he moves. Following his swooping turns, asking myself are his skis actually making contact with the earth or is he floating?, going a bit faster than I might otherwise ski, I could imagine for a moment that I was as good a skier as he is.
I could feel like I was running, skipping, dancing…and flying.
- We skied only the open blue trails at the Mount Ellen area of Sugarbush Resort but John will take customers on any part of the ski area that is open including off piste. Depending on your ability level, he can teach you to ski moguls, among the trees, or off cliffs. He is intimately familiar with the mountains, having skied there for years.
- John skis with individuals and groups. He said that he especially enjoys skiing with families (he has kids himself) because he not only likes to see them having fun on the mountain, he likes seeing them have fun with each other.
- It’s not cheap to ski with John; a family of four would pay nearly $400 for two hours on a midweek day. I think it’s worth the expense. A tour with him would make a fantastic birthday or holiday gift for the special skier in your life – an utterly memorable experience. Reservations are required.
Want to read more about Vermont skiing? Check out the All Mountain Mamas blog from Ski Vermont.
As I mentioned earlier, Sugarbush Resort gave me and Matt lift tickets and also invited us to ski with John free of charge. All opinions are my own. You can always count on me to share when I’ve received something for free.