The Mountain Times

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Once upon a time in history: Remembering Joe Wood

The ski world recently lost one of its most ardent and dedicated ski professionals with the passing of Joseph "Joe" C. Wood in late August.

Joe Wood was a skier's skier and a professional's professional. He taught over 50,000 people to ski and worked with thousands of ski instructors who took Professional Ski Instructors Association-Eastern Division (PSIA-E) exams to become certified at various levels. Well known in the ski world, he could walk into almost any place and someone would call out "Joe Wood."

Most in the Killington and Pico community will remember Joe as Director of Pico's Ski School and later as the director of the Ski and Ride School for Killington and Pico (2007-2010). Members of the ski schools and PSIA knew him as the consummate professional who loved what he was doing.

A lifetime of turns
Joe Wood was born on Nov. 4, 1951 in Pittsfield, Mass., where he was raised and learned to ski. In a 2008 interview, he recalled learning to ski by age five, adding "My big brother dragged me along" as he remembered a time when they could walk to a local rope tow and ski almost every night.

Wood fell in love with the sport that was to become his life's vocation. He worked in ski shops starting at age 13 and taught skiing at age 16 at Jiminy Peak and then other nearby areas. He also joined the ski patrol and "raced a little" into his college years. He studied environmental engineering but quit after his third year "to go skiing," he said with his trademark smile.

Wood spent a season in Colorado but "preferring the East" came back to become a ski instructor at Stowe, where he stayed for 10 years. He also worked for PSIA-East for many years as a course conductor, running clinics and exams and was the youngest ever to be appointed an examiner at that time.

His time with PSIA-E included serving in many positions - Chair of the Board of Examiners, coach for the Development Team and Examiner Training Squad, PSIA-E board member, executive board member (over 15 years), and a PSIA-E examiner for 42 years.
It was through PSIA that he met Killington instructor Katharine "Kathy" Laderoute  (featured in Killington's Alpine Ski School instructional film) who was taking a PSIA exam. They married in 1981, and he became ski school director at Pico. He also built their home in Shrewsbury where they raised two sons Morgan and Kyle as well as horses at their small Northam Farm with views of the mountains he so loved.

Off-season, Joe Wood worked at various jobs, including construction for the Belden Company. He was a certified soccer referee for both high school and college matches, a position that took him to several New England states.

In 1991, he left Pico to "make my fortune in the real world," he recalled with his typical self-deprecating wit and wry smile but soon returned to Killington where he worked as a children's ski school supervisor before becoming the Snowshed Base Area Operations Manager. He held that position for eight years and "oversaw all departments at Snowshed from food and beverage to ski school" before becoming Ski and Ride School Director in 2007 for both Killington Resort and Pico Mountain.

During his long career, Wood witnessed tremendous change, from the evolution of equipment to teaching first-timers on shorter, shaped skis and the introduction of snowboards. He noted that the advent of snowboarding was the biggest change for ski schools since it meant even the instructors had to learn before they could teach riding to others.

He attributed skiing faster today to the grooming changes that has made the terrain smoother since the 1960s. Terrain parks constituted the latest change, he noted in 2008, with the Ski and Ride School offering park lessons for all ages and abilities, including those who wanted to "test the waters and try the rails or tabletops."

Under his tenure, Killington introduced a new lesson strategy called Max. 3 and Max. 5 (group lessons designed to provide the personal attention that contributes to a better experience and higher return rates).

Joe Wood was proud of efforts to convert first-timers to dedicated skiers and riders, noting, "We think we are still trending well ahead of the industry norm of around 15 percent who become lifetime skiers and riders with our 25 +/- percentage rate. Nationally, it appears the rate is inching up a bit, but it had been rather stagnant until a recent NSAA initiative," he stated, displaying his penchant for keeping up with trends and best practices as well as his dedication to and love for his work.

Diagnosed with Stage 4 Renal Cell Carcinoma, Joe Wood left Killington in the spring 2010. He and Kathy moved on to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he worked as Western Business Manager for North American Industrial Services, Inc.

He waged a strenuous battle with cancer that saw him double his prognosis time before his passing at age 61.

A special memory
The Joe Wood Memorial Page on Facebook has the apt subtitle "He is making Perfect Turns with God" and shares many stories and photos. This quintessential posting by Tim Petrick, President of K2 Sports Global Sales and Marketing, captures so much of the Woods I knew as neighbors and ski professionals that it is excerpted here (with his permission).

"Thanks for posting that photo of the ETS exam in '75, IJ. Joe and I were both proud members of the Sepp Ruschp Ski School back then. Suppose we were on the Eastern Demo Team at that point, just before we went to Alta for the national D-Team tryouts in 1976.

"Joe was a machine as a skier. Cantrell loved him. Flawless demos. Solid, no BS technical skiing. The guy was strong. I remember running up [speed hiking] the Lift Line at Mt Mansfield with him in the late afternoons after work painting houses in summer. Joe, Spike and I were on John Nichols' crew in Stowe. Little known fact for many of you, but Joe was an amazing painter. He could cut in trim like nobody, steady as a rock.

"In winter, Joe and I would drive all over the East Coast doing PSIA clinics at ski areas big and small. There were countless hours of windshield time with that man where we solved all of the problems of the instructional world. And times back in Stowe when we spent days and weeks writing technical manuals for the Stowe Ski School.

"Throughout, there was always Joe's laugh and that smile and that wry, slightly sarcastic wit that made you not take yourself (or the job of teaching skiing) too seriously. Joe and I were always friends, but we moved apart as I went from the instructional world to other jobs at magazines and resorts and on the supplier side of the ski business. Kathy got us back together in Park City where I lived from 2010-2012. Lots of nice dinners together, thanks to her. They had a special relationship and I feel so sorry for her loss, but I am happy she reached out and brought us together again.

"It was great to spend time with Joe in his final years. On those special evenings we picked up and carried on like we had never been apart in the intervening years. What a great smile. What a great laugh. What a good man. I will miss you, Joe."
Celebration of life, Oct. 12

Joe Wood's life will be celebrated with a gathering of friends and family from 2 to 4 p.m. on October 12 at the Pico Base Lodge.

In honor of his memory, donations may be made in his name to the PSIA-Eastern Education Foundation, 1A Lincoln Avenue, Albany, NY 12205.