Breckenridge is renowned for the quality of its ski and snowboard instruction, a tradition that continues to ring true at the national level, as two Breck ski instructors were selected this month to serve as Freestyle Specialists on the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) 2012-16 National Team.
Team selection for snowboard and alpine (ski) freestyle candidates took place at Copper Mountain on April 8-12, the second round of a process that began earlier this year. At the culmination of the four-and-a-half-day event, local freestyle instructor David Oliver was invited back for a second term, joined by Breck Ski and Ride School Training Manager Kelly Coffey.
Oliver and Coffey carry the torch for Doug Pierini, Breck’s Director of Skier Services, who stepped down this year after three terms on the alpine team, and Gregg Davis, the veteran trainer and Method Academy co-founder who served two terms on the snowboard team. Breck snowboard trainer Cameron Hunter and alpine trainer Kevin Eddy also made a bid for the teams this year.
“It’s really cool to be part of Breckenridge where in this past term we had three National Team members,” said Coffey, who looks forward to working under the mentorship of experienced team member David Oliver. Originally from Virginia, Coffey moved to Colorado after graduating from college and worked at Vail for ten years before making the move to Breck in 2010.
Now a freestyle examiner for PSIA Rocky Mountain (RM), Coffey admits to starting out as a self-taught freeskier before PSIA RM introduced the freestyle instructor accreditation process under Oliver’s direction. “It was right after the Freestyle II where I actually learned the movements that I was supposed to make—how to teach it and break it down into simpler steps—that it really exploded for me,” Coffey said, explaining how he was then able to apply a much saner process to his own park skiing, learning tricks comfortably instead of simply “hucking” himself at features.
David Oliver became the first Freestyle Specialist on the PSIA National Team in 2008 when the position was added. In that role he played a pivotal part in the nationwide integration of freestyle into ski instruction.
He got his start in Taos and Angelfire, New Mexico, where he raced, taught skiing, and earned his certifications in winter while putting himself through college in summers, earning a degree in biomechanical engineering from the University of New Mexico before moving to Breck in 2000. Today he wears many hats, from Education Chair on the Alpine committee for PSIA-Rocky Mountain and PSIA examiner to long-time slopestyle and superpipe competitor in events including Dew Tour, USSA, and X Games qualifiers, to name a few.
A skateboarder since the 1980’s, Oliver credits his “skateboarder mentality” for opening his eyes to park and pipe. “I remember getting kicked out of the snowboard park a lot for being a skier,” he reminisces.
This year, the number of Freestyle Specialists on the PSIA National Team increased to three, including also Ryan Christofferson. The three candidates not only had to teach and demonstrate national-caliber freestyle skiing, but also perform at the highest level in traditional alpine ski instruction to make the team.
Coffey describes the process as “exhausting—physically, mentally, and emotionally,” but nonetheless lauds it a “great experience” wherein the seven freestyle finalists “formed a very tight team,” helping him to perform at his best. What is yet to come is most important, however, as National Team members spend the next four years working with representatives from across the country to chart the direction of the snow sports instruction industry.
It is a mission that David Oliver and Kelly Coffey have embarked upon already, as they headed out to Snowbird, Utah, to support candidates for the traditional component of the alpine team, in addition to Nordic and adaptive candidates, for the remainder of the team selection process on April 22-26.