OGDEN — Two-time world-champion freestyle skier Bob Salerno has returned to his hometown of Ogden with the desire to help others learn how to ski.
But what is different is that Salerno teaches people how to ski using a uniquely designed simulator.
His love of skiing began at the age of 14 at Snowbasin ski resort. Now 59 years old, he admits he isn’t interested in jumping over glaciers anymore as an expert aerialist. He would rather make sure others learn to enjoy the sport.
“There are a lot of people out there who fail, but we can teach them the skills to go up and ski intermediate runs right after our training,” said Salerno, who is quick to add that training on the simulators doesn’t replace official instruction on the slopes.
The simulators help prepare someone, similar to working with a simulator in driver’s education or a flight simulator before getting into an actual airplane. It can help students understand the terms and skills used in skiing and snowboarding.
“On the mountain, you have to deal with riding up chairlifts, and you are scared to death because you don’t know what’s going to happen. Your muscles then are tired because you keep falling,” said Salerno. “Here, you learn muscle memory and the skill development, so it’s easier for a student with an instructor. They have the skills, but they wouldn’t necessarily know how to use them on the mountain without an instructor’s help.”
It’s an extreme sport, but anyone who can walk can learn to ski, Salerno said.
Salerno was introduced to the simulators in the 1970s when he needed extra training on his aerials. At first, he thought the machines were silly, and couldn’t possibly help expert skiers improve their skills. In the months following his simulator work, he was quick to acknowledge how helpful the equipment had been for his training.
Salerno originally began instructing ski and snowboarding students on the simulators in California in the late 1990s. After sending thousands of students up to the mountain with their new-found skills, he decided to expand his business into Utah and has begun working with people out of his shop at 1165 Patterson St., Suite No. 103, in Ogden.
To use the simulator, students are hooked into a safety harness, then hold onto safety bars as they work their skis or snowboards over the moving carpet. They put headphones on and watch a video directly in front of them as they mimic the movements seen in the video. Salerno then helps guide the students to make sure they are doing the skills correctly.
“What people don’t know is that it’s actually harder to ski on these machines, because there is no forward momentum, but it promotes perfect practice because the muscle memory and skills are there when they go to the mountain,” Salerno said.
Snowboarding is a particularly difficult sport to learn, with many boarders finding that out the hard way.
“I learned how to snowboard with all the bumps and bruises, so I put people on these machines so they learn how to get down the mountain a lot easier, without falling down a lot, and get to the point of enjoying it faster,” said Salerno.
He recently worked with his 13-year-old niece on the simulator with her snowboard.
“Being on the simulator helped me figure out the best stance and the best way to turn, especially since the machine is a lot narrower than most slopes, which helps me keep all of my turns compact,” said Marissa Salerno, of Ogden. “It’s also fun because I can go as fast as I can, and the machine helps me feel secure with what I’m doing — and then I can take that feeling with me to the slopes.”
Many of Salerno’s clients are kids, including a 7-year-old he has worked with since the age of 3, who became a winner at a national snowboarding competition.
Most of the people Salerno works with, however, are beginners, intermediates stuck in an intermediate rut or people who have disabilities or struggle with injuries.
For more information, visit www.virtualsnowutah.com.