Ski school offers instruction for Asian skiers starting in 2014

By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly

A previous ski class offered by Key Donn gathers on the slopes. (Photo courtesy of Key Donn)

Taiwan is not known as a place for skiers. But the island off the coast of China is where Key Donn learned how to ski while in college. Now, more than 40 years later, he is getting ready to open a ski school this winter, catering to Asian skiers.

SinoSki makes its debut this January at Snoqualmie Pass Ski Resort. At 65, Donn, who has years of ski instruction under his belt, saw a need for an Asian ski school and is embarking on this vision.

Donn has observed many Asians picking up the sport in the past five to 10 years. He notes that many children of Asian workers moving to the Seattle area enjoy learning to ski. This is partly due to the influx of workers at Microsoft and other tech companies that have hired Asian employees, according to Donn. Their families relocate them to the area and want to pick up local hobbies like skiing, which their parents seem happy to accommodate. “While many adults don’t want to spend money on themselves for ski lessons, they are willing to spend lessons on their kids,” said Donn.

Key Donn, skiing. (Photo courtesy of Key Donn)

Donn learned how to ski while earning money in college during his sophomore year in Taiwan. He had a job near a ski resort during the summer. The resort was run by the military in those days, and he asked if he could work there while learning how to ski. He worked as a coach and a guide for a youth organization on the resort. Already a proficient water skier, he thought snow skiing would be easy to learn. “I thought skiing was like waterskiing,” he mused. “It’s totally different.”

When Donn came to Seattle in 1980, he took his family skiing at Snoqualmie Pass. He recalled how his kids learned to ski with the rope tow. He wanted to become more involved and eventually began teaching ski lessons. Donn worked for Rokka, a school that taught skiing for mainly Japanese students.

SinoSki was created in conjunction with Ullr, an existing ski school organization that operates at the Snoqualmie Pass Ski Resort. Donn, who served as an instructor for Ullr, approached the school about the possibility of creating a ski school catering to Asian skiers, who may be more comfortable speaking in their native language. According to SinoSki’s website, it maintains “a narrow age and ability range within our classes so that we can better specialize our instruction to form a learning partnership with each individual student.” Skiers of all ages are welcome to receive instruction from SinoSki.

SinoSki will operate on Sundays starting in January 2014 with morning and afternoon sessions. It will have instructors for both beginners as well as those with some experience on the slopes. Donn plans to keep the instructor-to-skier ratio low, with six skiers per instructor. The class will also include a “cadet” skier to assist the instructor.

Although the school was started with the intention of catering to Mandarin-speaking instructors, Vietnamese-speaking instructors have been added, and others are welcome. Donn sees the school as a place to “learn, teach and have fun.” He envisions the group going on ski outings to other mountains. He would like to see the school grow, get established, and eventually be taken over by younger people. “I hope that 30 years later, this ski school is still here.” (end)

Donn is a senior system architect with the Boeing Company. In addition to establishing SinoSki this year, Donn participates in sailing during the summer and volunteers at the Museum of Flight.

For more information and/or signing up for lessons, visit: http://www.ullr.com/ullrsinoski.htm.

Jason Cruz can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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Photos on flickr