Longtime Keystone employee selected for prestigious honor
KEYSTONE – Longtime Keystone ski instructor Annie Black speaks passionately about her ski school students, gesturing with her hands as she explains how people’s lives have been changed by the sport she has made her career.”When people come to us they don’t know what to expect, and they typically don’t believe in themselves because, as adults, people have lost the belief that, oh I’m an athlete or I can be part of these mountains,” Black said. “It’s pretty scary at first, so we have the opportunity to make them feel at home.”It’s this spirit that helped Black win Colorado Ski Country USA’s statewide ski instructor of the year award this spring. “It’s a huge honor because I represent the Keystone Ski and Ride School. It’s just an awesome honor. … It’s the biggest honor I’ve ever received probably, I’m elated,” said Black, who’d been nominated for the same award several times before in her 30-year tenure with the Keystone.This time around Black’s boss, Keystone director of skier services Pete Sonntag, wrote a letter suggesting Black be this season’s recipient, partly for her ability to enable students to reach levels in skiing they never thought they could achieve.
“Her dedication to her profession is unparalleled. Her positive attitude, you know, it never wavers. She exudes positive energy all the time, everywhere she is,” Sonntag said.Black, a Joliet, Ill. native, moved to Keystone in October 1976 from the University of Arizona, where she’d graduated with a degree in biology.”That was my dream. I was going to teach skiing for a couple years, then go back to school. Well, it didn’t work,” Black said.Thirty years later, she still skis with people she taught during her first season, only now she teaches their kids also. Along with being a ski instructor and a snowboard instructor, Black is an examiner, which means she conducts courses for fellow instructors. She also plays a big role in BettyFest, Keystone’s women-specific program.Black relates her teaching philosophy to a lesson she learned in her first biology class in college.”I only wrote one thing the entire time I was so overwhelmed, and I wrote, the notes were: If you’re not growing you’re dying, that’s the definition of biology,” she recalled.
That’s the same way she feels about skiing. Taking lessons is more than learning a new sport, it helps people discover who they are and how growth is facilitated by a willingness to change.”I really think it’s a personal growth course,” she said.Black credits her mentor, longtime Keystone instructor Ina Gillis, with whom Black has worked nearly all her 30 years in the industry, for providing a positive influence.”Her heart for skiing and teaching is what I try to follow,” Black said.After three decades, Black says the job is still different every day, and the feeling of seeing her students succeed, particularly those who didn’t believe they could learn to ski, continues to draw her back to the mountain year after year.”That’s exactly why it doesn’t feel like 30 years, because when that happens to you every day, it’s not work, you know, it’s play. I work at my play.
“It’s so freeing for them, which is just contagious to you, to share this love we have of the outdoors, I feel accomplished,” Black said.Black, who lives with her husband and three sons in Keystone, races mountain bikes during the summer and is the lead organizer for the Mountain Sports Outlet Divas cycling club. This summer, she says, she’ll race less and spend more time with her family. Black will also teach mountain bike classes for the town of Frisco.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at email@example.com.
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