The term “Renaissance man” is rarely applied to ski instructors, but it certainly suits Leon Joseph Littlebird. After all, how many ski instructors do you know who are also musicians, song writers, storytellers and wedding celebrants? Add his Native American background to the mix, and this Arapahoe Basin instructor is one fascinating human being!
Freedom, Self Expression and Courage
In an interview with The Summit Daily, Leon describes the connection between song writing and skiing.
They’re the same. It’s about freedom and self expression. I love writing and performing original music because there will be an idea, a brand new seedling and it will start to grow. All of a sudden there is a song, where before there was nothing. It’s like when you hike up to some amazing place on your skis and look down at a virgin powder field. Then you take off your skins, tele down and leave your signature on it.
Hiking up a mountain and skiing down a virgin powder field requires courage and a leap of faith. These are two things Leon understands. A cancer survivor, his doctors once told him that he had 18 months to live. Then, he experienced a spontaneous healing. Perhaps his spirituality had something to do with it.
Native American Roots
Many of Colorado’s ski instructors come from other places. Leon is pure Colorado. His father was born in Silver Plume in 1899. His grandfather was one of the original settlers in Black Hawk. Leon’s Navajo heritage comes from his mother, who was born in Taos in 1911.
Meanwhile, his great-uncle was a classical composer and performer in Silver Plume and Georgetown. Leon’s music blends the spirituality of his Native American heritage, with the spirited sense of discovery that inspired the early Colorado settlers. During his concerts, he wows his audiences with his use of digital loop stations, which allow him to play flutes, guitars, vocals, & percussion simultaneously. Aside from his status as a performer, these skills make him one of the most coveted wedding officiants in the state.
For centuries, the indigenous people of Colorado have blessed their marriages with awe-inspiring ceremonies. Leon uses his background in Native American and traditional theological study to create and officiate Colorado mountain weddings. Many of these celebrations take place at the ski resorts.
A Teacher of Teachers
Leon grew up in Silver Plume, and began skiing at A-Basin over 60 years ago. You might say that he knows the mountain! You might also say that he knows a thing or two about skiing. A teacher of teachers, he worked at Copper Mountain for six years. He currently graces the slopes of Arapahoe Basin with his teaching skills. This is his 30th year as an instructor trainer.
In the Summit Daily interview, he says;
I think an instructor’s main job is to ignite people’s passion for the sport more than it is to teach a technique. People should walk away saying: ‘That was the most fun I’ve ever had, I want to do it again’
In fact, his “Skibonics Video,” which makes fun of ski instructor techno-lingo, went viral on the Internet.
A Tip for Students
One of my favorite tips for all skiers, beginners and Pros alike is always flex at the beginning of each turn. In other words slightly bend your knees, relax, settle in and tip the skis on edge. Let the tails follow the tips and enjoy the ride!
Book a Lesson with Leon
To book a private lesson with Leon Joseph Littlebird, contact Arapahoe Basin.
And for information about performances and wedding ceremonies, visit littlebirdmusic.com.