Director of Dining Services
Washington State University
Born in: Butte, Mont.
Lives in: Spokane, Wash.
Wife, Kay Mohr, is an administrative secretary for Housing & Residence Life at Gonzaga University, in Spokane, Wash. Has three kids: Peter, 33, Adam, 29, and Melissa, 26.
Gary Coyle, director of dining services at Washington State University in Pullman, has loved skiing since he was in sixth grade. But it wasn’t until college when he took a physical education class that his hobby turned into a second career as a ski instructor.
“I started instructing when I was at the University of Montana. During my first year at the university we were required to take a certain number of P.E. courses and I saw they offered a course in ski instruction. The class taught me about how to teach people and on-the-hill practical teaching. At the end of the course we had to go through a ski exam to get our grade. The exam was similar to what people take when they test to be a certified ski instructor. You have to complete a number of skiing tasks and drills. You have to demonstrate your proficiency in doing different ski maneuvers. They give you a scenario to teach and have you go out and teach something. The teacher of the course allowed the students who had passed her course to teach her P.E. courses at the university. So for the next four years I taught students how to ski for class credit.
When I was taking that course I also was in a management seminar class where I worked on a class project to develop a ski area for Missoula. On the weekends I worked as a ski patroller. So I was skiing about five times a week while I was going to school. I began to think that resort management was something I’d like to get into, as well as becoming a professional skier.
When I graduated I had three applications out: One at a newly formed ski resort, one with SAGA foodservice—I had also worked in dining services as a student manager—and one with my father’s newspaper company. When it all played out I ended up going with foodservice. I still wanted to keep my hat in the ring with my love of skiing so ski instruction was a way I could do that. I worked my way through the different exams to where I am now a fully certified ski instructor.
My favorite place to ski and instruct was in Colorado at Winter Park. I went down to Colorado for five years to work at Regis University and I put in my instructor application at both Vail and Winter Park. Vail wanted me to work for their children’s program and Winter Park wanted me for the adult program. At that time both Winter Park and Vail were vying for who was the No. 1 ski resort in the country. I chose Winter Park because of its training. In skiing, we all have a certain way that we move. Basically Winter Park took me apart and rebuilt me by changing the way I moved. When I went back to Montana to ski people couldn’t recognize me. Winter Park changed my style of skiing for the better.
Recently I worked with a client who has lupus. During our first session, she could only make one run down the short learning hill before needing a rest. As we progressed, her ability and confidence grew, allowing us to do what might have been impossible given our first encounter. At a later lesson after two successful runs on the short learning hill, I asked if she was ready for the next challenge. With a smile and a nod, we were off to the top of the mountain. During the next hour, I skied the entire mountain backwards while coaching her as to what tactics to apply given the terrain and where to make each turn. As we got back to the lodge, my student called her husband with the news of her accomplishment. Her husband skied quickly down the mountain to celebrate his wife’s achievement. Being able to take someone who has never skied and helping them to achieve the next level makes the job so enjoyable.”