Chip Maurer, Software Engineer on Snowboarding

My name is Chip Maurer and I’m a Software Sr Principal Engineer at Dell EMC in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. 20 years ago, I joined EMC, a company I had never heard of. For the first 15 of those 20 years, I worked on some backup and replication products for customers that used EMC storage.  It was a lot of C++ and Java, a lot of fun, a lot of good friends, and a lot of learning about the storage industry.

When I was in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  I took a year off to figure it out, so I lived at home with my parents and worked at McDonald’s. That winter, I went skiing every day and/or night at the local ski resort: Catamount in Hillsdale, New York.  I quickly realized that living at home and working at McDonald’s was crushing my soul, but skiing was amazing (Snowboarding had not been invented yet). About ten years ago, I was chaperoning the ski club for my kids’ school at a local “small” mountain. I was still skiing at the time, and, frankly, it was boring because the mountain was so small.  I decided to teach myself how to snowboard – it was a huge mistake not to take lessons!  Eventually, I was able to go down the hill without falling every 10 feet.  It was amazing!

I became a snowboarding instructor with Wachusett Mountain Ski Area after a friend of mine encouraged me 9 years ago. Since I became an instructor, I’m now on snow at least 3 times a week during the winter. At the mountain I teach at (Wachusett Mtn, 1000’ vertical), most of the snowboarders I work with are half my age. I love trying to keep up with them; they are always willing to show me new tricks. The Saturday shifts are great fun there.  We are close to Boston and Providence, and I have taught people from so many countries.  One of my favourites was a young man from Brazil who was a surfer.  It was not only his first time snowboarding, but his first time seeing snow.  I’ve never seen anyone advance so quickly.  By the end of the lesson, he was a real “shredder”.

Regarding my equipment, I have a couple of snowboards to use.  When I teach, I have an older K2 board that I don’t mind if it gets run over by a student. When I free ride, I like my Burton board.  As an instructor with AASI (American Association of Snowboard Instructors), we get opportunities to buy equipment at discounted “pro” deals, so I add at least one new piece of equipment every season. We are also expected to do a lot of training and take national courses every season.  There are 3 AASI instructor levels, and I’m level 1.  I will be training this season for my level 2.  It’s very humbling to be at a training event with so many instructors that are great teachers and great riders.

When it comes to snowboarding itself, I love cruising and carving.  I’m getting better in bumps, but it’s rough on the body. I have learned some freestyle tricks, like 180’s and buttering. I venture onto terrain park features now and then, but it’s not my favourite. I’ve fallen a few times on a box or rail, and it sucks. My favourite places to snowboard are on the east coast – Mt Snow, Killington, and Sunday River are among the best. Out west, they are all amazing, but Jackson Hole in Wyoming is the clear winner. The one day I will always remember was my trip to Jackson Hole a few years ago.  It was snowing like crazy when we took the tram to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain.  They shove 100 or more skiers and riders onto the tram, the door closes, and there is a nervous excitement in the air.  The tram operator gets to select the music for the ride up.  Jamies Crying by Van Halen cranks; it was surreal.  We got to the top and came down Rendezvous Bowl, with the snow coming down – it was my best day on snow.

No matter how I am feeling physically or mentally, it all disappears when I’m on the snow. My wife recently referred to it as my “addiction”.  You always want to push yourself, and ride that fine line between fun and terror.  It makes you feel alive! When I take a beginner class out for a lesson, I tell them about my difficult and painful self-taught start. My advice for anyone looking to take up snowboarding is to take a lesson. No, take at least 3 lessons.  There is an instructor saying: “Skiing is easy to learn, but hard to master.  Snowboarding is hard to learn, but easy to master”. In the end, a bad day of snowboarding is better than a good day in the office.

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