Insight From Mike Ma on His PSIA-AASI Adaptive Team Experience

In honor of the PSIA-AASI National Team Selection process in Big Sky, Montana, Sunday, April 21, through Friday, April 26, we’re taking a closer look at all the things your team does to make being a PSIA-AASI member a better, more rewarding experience for you.

Here, PSIA-AASI Adaptive Team member Mike Ma shares insight about how being on the team helped shape and inform his own teaching journey.

You can also enjoy last Wednesday’s post, in which PSIA-AASI Director of Education Dave Schuiling provided an overview of the years of dedication and commitment each instructor invests in even considering trying out for one of the highly coveted roster spots.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to try out for the team and what did you understand about what it would take to actually make it happen?

A: I had a point of view about building bridges between the able-bodied and adaptive worlds, because that was my experience, and I’ve learned to love both. I thought making the team could be a good platform to evangelize this message.

I also thought a lot of the work that we were doing with the new integration of certification standards would be a way to institute this as well for the betterment of our members, adaptive schools, and most importantly, our guests.

I understood the tryout process was going to be a grueling, unpredictable gauntlet – but I can’t say I had any real idea of what it was going to take. The only thing I can think of is the best support I got from my wife, Katherine, the night before tryouts when she said, “You show them exactly why you care about this so much.”

I still get chills and tear up a little bit thinking about that call. At the end of the day, she reminded me what it was going to take. As always, she was right.

Q: What is the application process?

A: The application process consists of a lot of writing, presenting, and off-snow work. My philosophy was to create materials that accentuated my thesis for trying out – building bridges between adaptive and able-bodied schools. So my written materials provided the background for what the selectors may see when I was on snow during tryouts. I wanted to give them a full picture about my candidacy, and that was the thought that I used to organize my application materials.

Q: How much work does it take to even consider this as an option in your career?

A: Unlike most of my teammates, I have a full-time day job off snow in venture capital backing early-stage companies, so it took a lot of creativity to make sure I had space to do both jobs effectively.

There were a lot of early morning and late evening calls, chairlift emails and zooms, creative scheduling, and supportive colleagues and entrepreneurs who made it all possible.

Q: How did you prepare, and what are some of the key things you learned about yourself in the process?

A: It was hard training during COVID, since many adaptive programs, including my own at Mount Snow, had shut down or greatly reduced operations. So I had to travel to other programs to get time with adaptive to train.

It was actually great preparation to spend time at programs, other than my own, and build a broader understanding of the broader adaptive community. Yet, at the same time, I realized how isolated many individual adaptive programs are and how little things can make a huge difference to a program.

That resolved me to think that if I made the team, I would strive to be the most accessible team member I could be. Whether it was traveling in person or being present on social media, I was convinced I would like to try and be a connector as part of my term, and I hope I made good on that.

Q: Highlights along the way? Or lows?

A: During the tryout, the highlight for me was teaching our ONEteam segment. We were paired with a candidate from another discipline, and we had to collaborate on a longform teaching segment to a group of mixed-discipline candidates.

I was fortunate to be paired with Grant Bishop, an amazing instructor, and we had our group run a mixed equipment, flatland freestyle jib train. Our message to the group was that if we share fundamentals, we can do the same tricks. We collaborated on one big train of fun, filled with common technical movements.

It was hands down the best segment I’ve ever taught, and I’m thankful to have been paired with such a talented partner. I owe Grant a great debt.

Q: What’s it feel like to actually make it?

A: It was unbelievable. In every sense of the word. I did not believe it.

It took me a solid year until I really let myself absorb that I actually made it.

Q: Top takeaways from actually being on the team the last three years?

A: I was so proud to wear red, white, and blue in Finland. For me, Interski cemented the importance of American snowsports on the world stage. Being able to represent our country’s commitment to independence, innovation, creativity, and student-centered learning was an honor I will never forget. I can’t wait for the world to see us on our home turf in 2027!

We have done so much in starting the journey toward diversity, equity, and inclusion through leaders like my teammate Ann Schorling. But blazing the very beginning of these trails has made me realize how far we still have to go.

I am in awe of our members every single day. It’s been one of the greatest honors of my life to be able to travel this country to schools, far and wide, big and small, able-bodied and adaptive, to see firsthand the work that everyone does in the trenches every day.