She ‘totally loves teaching telemarking’ |

She ‘totally loves teaching telemarking’

Post Independent Photo/Kelley Cox

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” At 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jim Markuson hadn’t a clue how to make a telemark turn.

By 1 p.m., he was carving arcs like a pro, courtesy of Megan Ballard, one of seven telemark instructors at Sunlight Mountain Resort.

At 20, Ballard is less than half Markuson’s age, but no matter. With her kind, calming manner, she led her student slowly through the essentials of the telemark turn ” named after a town in southern Norway where the free-heel Nordic ski turn originated.

Markuson was one of three lessons booked with Ballard on Saturday, where she teaches telemark, alpine skiing and snowboarding ” though telemarking is admittedly her passion.

“I totally love teaching telemarking,” she said, riding up the Tercero lift at Sunlight on Saturday. “I seem to be able to pinpoint more what people need to work on with it. Plus it’s fun to see people progress.”

Ballard, who took gymnastics for 10 years, methodically carves exacting turns while explaining the dynamics of telemarking during her ski classes. But get her on a run when she’s got time off and she, in a word, rips.

“She’s amazing,” said Joe Sims, a supervisor at Sunlight’s adult education center. “She’s got a great sense of balance, and she’s so fluid. She’s really got a natural ability.”

An early start

Ballard started skiing ” albeit, on little plastic baby alpine skis ” when she was 1 or 2.

“My mom was a back-up racer on the C.U. ski team, and both my mom and dad were ski patrollers at Saint Mary’s Glacier when there was a rope tow or T-bar up there,” she said, of her parents, Lin and Henry Ballard of Boulder, where Ballard was born and raised.

Ballard was 9 when she decided to break away from downhill skiing and devote herself entirely to telemarking.

“My brother Brian, his friend Andrew and I decided we wanted to telemark,” Ballard said. “We decided it was cooler than downhill. I didn’t touch alpine equipment for 10 years.”

With the advent of plastic boots and shorter shaped skis in telemarking equipment, the kids have outmoded their parents through the years.

“My mom still skis in leather boots,” Ballard said with a smile. “She just got some new skis, but I keep telling her, ‘Mom, your boots aren’t going to be able to handle those skis.’ But she likes the old style.”

Powder days, night classes

It wasn’t so long ago when Ballard herself was “old style.” She showed up at Sunlight last year with her own pair of old leather boots, after spending her freshman year ” a ski-less year, unfortunately ” at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

“I was all disoriented in Oregon because I didn’t have mountains for reference,” she said. “Plus it rained all the time and there were thousands of students. It was too much.”

Ballard met some people in Oregon who told her about Colorado Mountain College, and she started thinking about transferring to the Glenwood Springs campus to take classes in wilderness management.

“I grew up coming up to Glenwood with my family to camp and hike,” she said. “It never really occurred to me to go to school here.”

Once the school year was over in Oregon, Ballard didn’t waste any time registering at CMC ” and more importantly, getting a ski pass at Sunlight.

“I didn’t get to ski at all in Oregon,” she said. “So I was bad. If there was a powder day, I’d be up here instead of in class.”

Ballard said she fell in love with Sunlight.

A strong ski community

“The people up here are so supportive,” she said. “They helped me with my skiing. I’d come up here every day, and see everybody on the mountain. They’d ski the trees and tell me to keep up. It really made me a better skier. We have a really strong ski community here.”

Sunlight instructor Terry Bannon is one of Ballard’s favorite skiing mentors.

“Terry gave me a pair of shorter shaped skis he had,” she said. “It totally changed my skiing style. And I got a pair of newer plastic boots that are really nice.”

Ballard spent last summer river guiding for Blue Sky Adventures in Glenwood, and rearranging her ski and school time.

“During season, I’m registered for night classes,” she said with a smile. “Otherwise, I get into trouble.”

And she applied for a ski teaching job at Sunlight ” and got it.

“This is a great place to work,” she said. “Sunlight is what’s kept me here. I don’t want to leave.”

Ballard’s mom and dad now ski patrol at Devil’s Thumb, a cross country ski area near Winter Park. Ballard’s qualified to patrol, too ” but said she prefers teaching skiing.

“I get more satisfaction from it,” she said. “Like with Jim Markuson. By the end of his lesson, he was linking turns. I was pretty impressed!”

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

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