Among the throngs of fresh-faced young ski campers in the Windells Camp summer park, the bearded visage of Jeff Curry sticks out. At age 25, Curry is one of the more seasoned skiers here.
As head ski coach of Windells Academy, Curry spends more time on snow than almost anyone, ushering his student-athletes from competition to competition all winter and spending the summer on Mt. Hood's Palmer Snowfield. Now that it's October, Curry spends his days on a narrow vein of snow on the side of Mt. Hood, where Windells Academy students train for four hours a day in their own private terrain park.
Although Curry works full time coaching the next generation of skiers, he's still busy making his own mark as a skier. In addition to appearances in Meathead Films' "Head for the Hills" and "Prime Cut," Curry's polished style scores him frequent cameos in the Line Traveling Circus webisodes, and he recently released a summer edit online (watch it above).
Curry's skiing lifestyle hasn't always been so enviable. His first stomping grounds were Bousquet Mountain, a small hill near his hometown in Pittsfield, Mass. When his dad entered him in a local ski race, eight-year-old Curry smoked the competition by several seconds. "It was then," he says, "that I started to feel like I might have a knack for skiing." After several years of racing, Curry was introduced to newschool skiing.
"I remember being in race practice, sitting on the chair, and seeing this guy bust huge mute backflips right under me," says Curry. "I remember thinking, 'What am I doing going left and right all day? That looks like way more fun.'" He quit racing and started hitting the local handrails. By the end of high school, he had picked up a few sponsors and was competing regularly at nearby Mt. Snow, Vt., where the New England park skiing scene was largely centered.
Curry attended Champlain College in Burlington, studying business with dreams of one day owning his own ski shop. But during his junior year he got a call from Meathead Films inviting him to a photo shoot. Curry spent the rest of the season filming with the Meatheads for their film "Head for the Hills."
The next winter, Curry tore his ACL on the second day of the season. Not wanting to stay off the hill, he started coaching his landlord's two sons and volunteering with the Mt. Mansfield Ski Club. He graduated from college in the spring, and soon afterward, he received a job offer from a friend who was running a weekend program at Windells Camp in Oregon.
That fall, Curry moved to Mt. Hood, coached with the weekend program through the winter, and stayed on for the busy summer sessions. When the director of Windells Academy, Mike Hanley, went looking for a ski coach, Curry was an obvious choice.
I try to teach my kids to put their own stamp on their tricks. I encourage them to all do different things. I don't want any of the kids to look the same.” -- Jeff Curry
"He had the right balance of technical skills and brains and personality to work with kids, and there was naturally his amazing skill on-hill," says Hanley. "It was a perfect fit."
When Curry started with the Academy in the fall of 2010, one of his students was Nick Goepper, a young but extremely talented skier from Indiana who showed incredible technical ability, but was still working on bringing his style up to speed with his tricks.
"We were skiing together, and he kind of took me off to the side and said, 'Nick, you've got some bad style, man, you've got to change it,'" says Goepper. Throughout that fall, Curry encouraged Goepper to add his own flair to his tricks. Thanks partly to Curry's influence, Goepper had a breakout season last winter and reached the podium in almost every competition he entered, including Winter X Games and Dew Tour slopestyle events.
"I try to teach my kids to put their own stamp on their tricks," Curry says of his coaching style. "Learn it one way with a stock grab, but then evolve it into something else. I encourage them to all do different things. I don't want any of the kids to look the same."
Curry is a specialist in the field of style, not only as a coach, but also as a skier himself. "I like to do things that are kinesthetically pleasing," says Curry. "Doing a 360 mute doesn't give me a good feeling at all, but doing a 360 safety and tweaking it out so that I'm almost blowing my knee with my grab ... that gives me a good feeling."