Taos Stories: Michele Potter

Taos Stories: Snowsports Addition   

Who are you? Why did you become a ski instructor at Taos?  

My name is Michele Potter. I've being teaching at TSV for 22 years, but I'm originally from Aberdeen, South Dakota--where it's flatter than your grandmother's table. I didn't see a mountain until I was fifteen, when my family moved to Oregon. My brother and I got on his Honda 90 and went up to Mount Hood. I fell in love with mountains and that has never changed. I'm a ski instructor because I was a failed ballerina. Actually, I had a wonderful High School English teacher who I'm still friends with and he took us out on climbing expeditions. I've taught in Oregon, Germany, and Aspen before here--some of it was nordic skiing and racing. I raced in ten countries; my  idea of a good time is still to get out early and skate uphill on my nordic skate skis before work. 


What are you inspired by when teaching? 

I'm inspired by great learners, people who are curious and willing to try. Especially people who are brave about trying even when they're afraid. We're all afraid. Inevitably I have to ask them what makes them exceptional learners. One simply said he went home each night and dreamed it; he visualized! That might be one of the best ski tips ever--learn to visualize. 


Best tip you give to students?

I don't know about the best tip I've ever given is but we all have our funny ways of getting students to remember. Sometimes I ask: "What's your favorite vegetable?" They might say "carrots." I say "No, your favorite vegetable is a turnip.You're going to stand up, look up, and turn up." Okay. it's dumb but they laugh and to me, that means I have a chance. If I can get people to play, it's a great day. I try to get people to get out of their own way so they can learn. I think of it as "enlarging the cognitive map" and that means they learn on levels that are both physical and metaphorical. Teaching is in my DNA--I've also been a college teacher for 25 years. But with skiing, you can see someone's mind at work in the physical realm. It's a huge privilege to get to know people by skiing with them. 


Favorite après ski?

Wherever I can locate the best talker. Or listener. Or whoever's buying me a drink. So it varies.  


Ski and boots of choice this season: 

This season, I got new Head boots. A lot of my ski guests are buying them too.


Finish this sentence:The Ernie Blake School is:

One big dysfunctional family. Always was. Still, is, probably always will be. What families aren't? I love the people I work with. Nobody's perfect---lots of characters around here. Highly entertaining. Each of my three sons have also worked here. 


Taos just got a foot of new snow?

Well, one day I got first tracks on Pierre's in two new feet of fresh. I still dream about it. I could stand to repeat that!