Mythic skier & mortal man words Suzanne Cheavens
When Luigi Chiarani talks about skiing, it’s as if he is lit from within. His eyes sparkle and his smile is sunny and infectious. Such is the joy this 20-year veteran ski instructor feels when he talks about teaching others the sport he loves.
In his two-decade career with the Telluride Ski and Snowboard School, he has enjoyed watching children grow up on skis, and made fast friends with those who’ve tapped him as an instructor year after year. His secret, he says, is “becoming them.” Listening to his students is his pathway to teaching the basics. “As a ski instructor, we build skills,” he explained. “Beyond that, you have to listen to them, so you can hear what their personal challenges are. The instructor is the support mechanism. There’s a lot of creativity in teaching. We help them keep their desire.” He laughs when he says he’s part ski instructor and part psychologist. But he’s serious. People who visit Telluride come from all over the world, often from stressful, high-demand jobs that leave them frazzled and distracted. When he takes someone out on the slopes, he eases them from what he calls their “situational reality,” to their true selves. “I try to see the world as my students see it,” he said. Teaching kids to do the gravity dance with confidence and skill is easier, he said, as they’re more open and less concerned about appearing inelegant, falling or not being able to master the sport easily. “Gravity is a huge force to reckon with,” he said. It’s one of the common denominators all ski students must take into account when learning to ski. The other is the very environment that surrounds ski students when they’re on the mountain. Luigi loves winter in all her guises and equally loves sharing it with his clients, from sparkling bluebird days to grey, cloudy skies that soften the light, and from whiteout powder days to warm, slushy spring conditions. He makes his students aware of Telluride’s natural beauty, incorporating the weather and the conditions into the overall ski experience. “When you’re out in the environment, from skin to soul, you become alive and aware.” The Detroit native has the mountains in his blood. Luigi hails from the Tyrolean Alps, where he frequently visits family to ski or explore the mountains depending on the season he travels there. A professional hang-glider pilot when he arrived here in 1987, his earliest Telluride days were spent in a series of jobs ranging from ditch digger to waiter to the stint for Telski Guest Services that eventually led to his current job as an instructor. Like all Telluriders whose passion is skiing and the outdoors, he learned quickly that locals seek night jobs so they can ski all day, most every day. His natural ease with people makes him an ideal instructor, but he allows that it can take years to make it look easy. “It takes a while as an instructor to grow into the job,” he explained. “You have to be completely adaptable to all situations and learn just how to be a support system to help students achieve their goals.” While Luigi is adept at imparting the basic skill to becoming better skiers, the bottom line for him is the fun of skiing, and he knows exactly what his ideal role is to that end. His high-watt smile lights up his countenance again. “I help them find joy.”