From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 103, Number 22 - February 1, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Professional Organizer for skiers, snow, and ďstuffĒ

by Nikki Mann

Ellen Galbraith is only 26 but laughs as she says, ďIíve had a full life.Ē She feels blessed with the opportunities she has had, but is not slowing down. Ellen is busy this winter juggling her work as the head coach for the Sublette County Ski and Snowboard Association, assistant coach for the high school alpine ski team, her work in the Events Department for the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, and her own start-up business as a Professional Organizer. Sheís a little hard to pin down, but if you can catch her between jobsÖ

How did you end up as the coach in Sublette County?

Tomís been bugging me for years. [Tom Johnston, Boulder resident, was Ellenís racecrew boss at the Olympics in Salt Lake, and they still work together at some events.] A friend offered me a place to live in Bondurant. Bondurant felt right, and once I was here, I wanted to give what I could to the ski club. I did a summer camp last year and was really impressed with these kids.

What is your favorite part of the coaching job?

The kids! Theyíre so cool. This program has been in place for about five years, but Iím the first full time coach. Unlike race crew, Iím building something I donít have to tear down at the end of the day, which is great.

What is the hardest part of the coaching job?

Itís hard to be in too many places at one. Weíve got kids traveling and kids staying homeÖitís tough for one person to do it all. Itís impossible really. Thankfully, Iíve got Jeff Wohl hired as another full-time paid coach and an amazing group of committed volunteers to help facilitate all three of our programs. Without them, itís tough to take on nearly 50 kids alone, 70 when you add in the high school team.

How did you get into skiing?

My parents were both skiers and I was a ski racer growing up. Everyone in Alaska either played hockey or skied. You have to do something in the winter. I lived in Anchorage until I started going out-of-state for school and ski racing when I was 15.

What do you think about Natrona Countyís proposal to eliminate their ski teams?

I think it would be awful. High school ski racing has been, for me, the most fun form of competition Iíve ever witnessed. Thereís competition for the first guy to the last guy. They make it affordable and fun.

Iíve been so impressed with the quality of high school racing. To let it all go, everything that is already in place, itís a slap in the face for the kids.

Theyíre [Natrona County] state champs. How is Natrona going to let their state championship team go?

What do you feel is the most important aspect of ski racing?

The fact that the kids arenít sitting on the couch on Saturday. Skiing is a lifelong sport. I donít get mad when kids miss practice if they tell me they were swimming, or something similar. Just do something. Thatís it.

What do you think is the most valuable thing you are teaching, or have taught, the ski team/club kids?

Being a coach, I am paid to not only teach kids to ski and race better, but to be good sportsmen. I care much more how my kids behave and treat each other than how fast they ski. I expect kids to show up to practice and do their best, whatever that is. I try to encourage their positive habits, be it missing practice for jazz band, or requiring an athlete to ďsay something niceí after an insult has been voiced at another teammate.

Every day I show up and try to do my bestÖsome days are better than other and I donít always get it right. Iím very honest with my athletes, and I hope it helps them to learn.

What is it like working ďrace crewĒ and what does your day involve?

For my upcoming race in Montana, on a typical day during race week, we get on the CAT to go to the top of the mountain around 6:30. Then Iíll go down the course from top to bottom, putting up extra fence [safety netting designed to keep racers safe when they crash] where we need to, fixing problems, adjusting things. During the actual race, Iím chief-of-course so I have to stay at the top of the course. Itís hard to stand still, because Iíve worked with the guys down on the course for so long.

When the race is over, we fix holes, and pull fence if we need to run a CAT. If necessary, Iíll jump in with a CAT operator and we might re-groom sections but we try and avoid that if possible so the snow stays hard. Weíre usually done around 4 or 5, although on an occasional night I might be out until 8 or 9.

Then I eat and stretch and go to bed and start all over again in the morning.

What do you like about race crew work?

The people, the places, the actual work itself. I really enjoy my co-workers and where this incredible job allows us to go. And I honestly love shoveling snow. Doing this kind of work, I am focused on the task at hand. My mind doesnít wander. I enjoy the fact that Iím outside with good people and I donít have to think about anything else all day long. I like that way we feel at the end of the day and going to bed tired.

Whatís the hardest part of race crew?

The hardest part is leaving the people and places I care about when the races are over. For example: Iíve spent a number of years working at Beaver Creek in Colorado. Theyíve taught me a lot about race crew, hired me as a Cat operator, and I have a really strong relationship with my host family in the Valley. I miss them when itís all overÖbut I can still look forward to next year.

The weather is also tough because we have really long days and frustrating things happen. When you do a ton of work, and it snows two feet on top off all of your hard workÖ

What is a ďProfessional OrganizerĒ?

Professional Organizers reduce both stress and clutter by helping people get organized. This can involve teaching people different organizing skills and habits, or hands on work such as setting up filing systems, organizing the garage or cleaning out the attic.

People call me when their home or office loses the ability to function properly. When someone can no longer fit their truck in the garage or eat in the dining room because itís become the den. Also professionals hire me when they become inefficient because they are buried under stacks of paper. People waste money when they canít find what they need when they need it, so they buy more stuff even though they already own itÖsomewhere. Iím pretty busy with ski work right now, but Iíll be taking on more organizing work in the spring.

You have already done some work as a Professional Organizer? Why does that job have so much appeal to you?

Itís mental and physical and makes peopleís lives easier. I enjoy problem solving and working with people to reduce stress in their lives; itís very satisfying work. I love that Iím my own boss. I donít have to ask anyone to take Friday off to go to a wedding. [Laughing] Being self-employed fits me very well!

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