Class of the Mountain

Hayley Hurt began skiing when she was 4 years old, and she’s been in love with hitting the slopes ever since. Yet when she was introduced to snowboarding about 10 years ago, her first experience was anything but pleasant.

“I hated it the first time I did it,” she says. “I actually put skis back on. But my uncle talked me into doing it again, and ever since then I’ve stuck with it.”

The Southern Nevada native’s perseverance paid off, and she is now nearing the end of her fifth year as a snowboard instructor at Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort, where she heads the Snow Kids program.

Hurt’s classes are filled at the beginning of the season, but activity drops off in the spring as the temperature rises, snow begins to melt and kids start turning their attention toward sports such as baseball. She teaches adults, too, and this is the time of year when many of them are simply looking for a unique Vegas experience.

“We get more people who are tourists and aren’t looking to become pro riders or improve on their riding,” she says. “They’re up there more to experience snow in Vegas than they are to actually progress.”

There are certain drawbacks to teaching the grown-ups: Hurt once discovered that a man who seemed to be getting progressively worse during his snowboarding lesson had been sipping from a flask the entire time. With kids, the biggest challenge is much simpler: keeping their attention.

The 22-year-old has one semester left at the College of Southern Nevada, where she is studying secondary education. She finds that the skills she applies with groups of excited kids on the slopes are equally helpful in the classroom. Her experience teaching children will also come in handy once her 10-month-old son, Makai, is old enough to start skiing in a couple of years. She says it’s easier to teach kids to ski first rather than snowboard because they’re better able keep their balance on skis. She doesn’t recommend putting them on a snowboard until they’re about 8.

With the resort scheduled to shut down for the season on April 10, Hurt’s time at the resort could be coming to a close not just for this year, but for good. She says she could use a change of scenery, and is leaning toward continuing her studies in either Colorado or Hawaii. No matter where the future takes her, though, Hurt wants to continue teaching people how to snowboard as long as she’s physically able to.

“It’ll always be something I want to do,” she says. “Even if I could only work one day a week doing it, I’d still want to do it.”

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