Skiing and helping to ski

Posted: Friday, November 19, 2004

Jeffra Clough, a lifelong skier, has the perfect job for somebody who loves to play on snow-covered mountains.

She's the director of the Eaglecrest Ski and Snowboard School and spends six months of the year on the slopes or convincing others to test them out.

But being on skis is not all that makes the job perfect, she said.

"Skiing and being outside are certainly very important, but if that's the only thing I wanted, I'd buy a pass and ski every day," she said.

Equally important is the opportunity to work with people and help them have a good time in the winter, she said.

When Clough was growing up in the mountains of Colorado, avoiding the ski slopes was never an option.

"That's just what you did," said Clough. "You either sat inside or you skied."

So she became adept at the sport, and it became an indelible part of her life. Armed with a degree in physical education from Colorado State University, she transformed her love of skiing into a career of sharing that passion with others.

"I love to see them challenge themselves and exceed their expectations," said Clough, who has been a full-time ski instructor since 1988.

Clough came to Juneau in May 1992 with the intention of working for a summer before returning south as a ski instructor in the winter. But she met her future husband, Al Clough, about the same time that the assistant directorship of the ski school opened up, so she decided to stay.

In 1996, she was named ski school director. This year, she added marketing the ski area to her job description.

Clough brings Eaglecrest Ski Area a "vision," said the area's vertical activities coordinator, Barb Lindh.

"She's trying to grow the base of people that come to Eaglecrest through the ski school," Lindh said. "Through her efforts, I think she's been successful."

As director of the school, Clough is in charge of seven full-time and 45 part-time instructors. Her employees - high school students as well as retired people - teach alpine, telemark and Nordic skiing and snowboarding.

"We look for people who enjoy working with people, and who also are looking to learn more about skiing and snowboarding," she said.

Ski skills can be improved, but people skills can't be taught, she said.

Clough's philosophy for any ski lesson is that it should be fun, she said.

"I think my favorite people that I've taught were this couple in their late 70s at Copper Mountain (Colorado)," she said. "They finally decided it was time to learn how to ski, and they loved it."

Another of Clough's favorite lessons was with a group of advanced women skiers at Eaglecrest. For several weekends in a row, Clough led the women to the toughest snow on the mountain.

"I know I was having as good a time as they were," she said.

Clough serves as a perfect role model for the area's other instructors, said Lindh.

"She's not only an excellent skier but she's had years of teaching experience and she's able to adapt her teaching style to whatever the student needs," Lindh said.

Eaglecrest may be a smaller ski area than what Clough was used to in Colorado, but it lives up to the popular quip that if a person can ski Eaglecrest she can ski anywhere, Clough said.

"I like the family-like atmosphere of Eaglecrest," she said. "I like the wide variety of terrain and snow conditions. The people in Juneau are so incredibly lucky to have Eaglecrest in their back yard."

• Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.



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