21|22 September Pro of the Month : Michael Sorokin
Our Pro of the Month column celebrates the remarkable individuals within The Pro Collective. Enjoy inspirational stories shared by your fellow mountain professionals and see how Faction Skis allow them to thrive on the front lines. To be featured as a Pro of the Month, or to nominate someone you know, fill out the form linked here.
Michael Sorokin, is a Big Mountain Coach based out in Mammoth Mountain, United States and is our September Pro of the Month. Growing up on the East Coast of the US and after serving 5 years in the military, Michael opted for a career in the ski industry. He sums up the various jobs he’s had on the mountain, his passion for the industry and gear of choice to shred the mountain.
WHAT'S YOUR JOB ON THE MOUNTAIN? AND WHAT DOES YOUR JOB ENTAIL?
I’m coaching on the Big Mountain Competition Team at Mammoth. The program is new, but it’s among many programs at Mammoth that have a rich and storied history. So we’re standing on the shoulders of those who came before, using lessons and strategies from other teams, to create a successful program that fosters great athletes and great humans.
I mean, the job is the most fun. Take young rippers, and go find every secret stash and jump on the mountain. Being in a mountain with dramatic snowfall means the mountain evolves with the weather, and that makes training super fun. There’s always some new zone to start working in, whether it’s hard charging GS turns down a steep face, park laps for air awareness, tree runs for the soul, or just hitting every type of side hit we can find or build. Doing this within the context of competing helps everyone on the team become a better skier, hone their mountain craft and develop their visions: of goals, of skiing a line with style, and of growing as a person.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THIS PROFESSION?
I grew up skiing on the East Coast of the US with a mogul coach from the Soviet Union. I learned a lot. And so after trying college, serving in the military for 5 years, and then trying college again, I decided to drop everything and just go skiing. I applied everywhere around the country to be an instructor, and Mammoth said yes quickly, so I started to move. I knew Mammoth from ski movies that our coach had, but I was mostly only aware of their legendary terrain parks.
Boy have I been surprised! This place has so much! The mountain is way bigger than anything I’d skied on the East Coast, and there’s a ton of big mountain and backcountry terrain to explore.
So, I taught at ski school for a year, learning how to teach many age groups. After one awesome season, I moved to coaching. I got brought onto the All-Mountain Team, the Chargers, and I fell in love with the job of coaching young athletes. After two seasons on that team, a slot opened up on the Big Mountain Team last season, and now I’m gearing up for my second season of coaching on this team and traveling to competitions.
WHAT ARE THE ASPECTS OF YOUR JOB THAT MAKE YOU FEEL PROUD TO WORK IN THIS ROLE, AND IN THIS INDUSTRY?
I’m proud of the work we do because our programs follow the same principles that we instill in our athletes. Integrity, personal responsibility, and a growth mindset.
I have ownership of the kind of program we’re developing, and that’s been a theme throughout my time in the industry. Teaching and coaching are creative pursuits, and there’s a ton of freedom in how you structure things. That makes me feel like I’m part of a team, where everyone can be a leader, while also learning from each other.
I also really enjoy the parallels between being a good skier, and being a good person. There’s no one to blame for your mistakes. Personal responsibility is inherent in our sport, and I really believe that it’s also important in order to live a happy life.
DO YOU HAVE ONE OR TWO SHORT STORIES TO DEMONSTRATE HAPPY OR NOTEWORTHY MOMENTS ON THE JOB?
One is a theme of last season. We had to do mental training, but I wasn’t handed a checklist for what that entails. One of the points we focused on this last season was breathing. It’s always funny to see people’s faces when you ask them, “Hey, have you guys heard of breathing?”
There’s ways to activate your nervous system, there’s ways to relax, and ways to stay in the zone. Just sharing with them that they could pay attention to their breathing, and that they might find some superpowers within that, has been rewarding. Especially when at the end of the season, an athlete remarks that if they learned anything this year, it’s to just breathe!
Dropping your biggest hit yet? Breathe.
Disagreement with someone? Breathe.
Stretching at the end of the day? You guessed it, you gotta breathe. So that’s been cool.
WHAT DO YOU SKI ON AT WORK?
Moving on a whim, I’ve had to take what I can get as far as skis. So my quiver is composed of several different brands.
However, to give Faction the credit it deserves, when I first moved here I hadn’t skied anything wider than an 85. I got to working at a local boot shop, Footloose, and some keen people there suggested I should try the CT 3.0 in 192 length. I’m 6’2”, 170lbs soaking wet, but that was way bigger than anything I’d used before, and I was skeptical of the maneuverability of something that size.
And then I skied it, and everything changed. I saw that a big ski can cruise over chop like it’s a fresh coat of snow, while also being super fun to ride switch, do butters, do some ski ballet (thanks Vitaly), and make tight turns in trees. As far as skiing over chop, I felt that it was big and smooth like a Cadillac Escalade. I just hadn’t considered that such a thing was possible, and the CT 3.0 will always be in that category of ‘my favorite skis of all time.’
"Any time I’ve skied on Faction skis, I felt that they were just ‘right’. They didn’t do the skiing for me, while also never being burdensome. Sometimes a good ski can be like a good boot: you don’t notice it because you’re too busy having fun!"
WHAT KIND OF SKIING DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
I love skiing in the trees. I’m a big fan of the solitude, and the quietness of being in a forest with really big trees and no crowds. I joke with the team that the trees are friends. They’re homies, and they can help you out if you treat them with respect, but you could also fall in a tree well if you become complacent.
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR WORK DURING THE OFF-SEASON?
That’s been interesting to figure out these past four seasons, but this summer has been the best so far. I’ve been coaching on our Cross Country Mountain Bike Team, and coaching at a local trampoline club. I like to be active, and so I’m grateful to have found work that combines fitness, mindset, breathing, and play, along with being outdoors and in nature.
LASTLY, WHAT SUMMER SPORTS ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?
I’m most passionate about action sports, and motor sports. My father was a rally driver in Russia, and I grew up exposed to some philosophies of movement that have shaped my passions. Anything movement related, I’m in. Huge fan. And there’s not only physical movement, but mental and spiritual as well. So even though I don’t follow American Football for example, watching a Super Bowl where a team comes back to win from behind, that’s a really sick move, and I appreciate it the same as a sick slash on a ridge line.
Have your own story to share with The Pro Collective? Apply to be featured as our next Pro of the Month via this link.