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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Outdoor Recreation desperately needs skiers and snowboarders to teach its “learn-to” programs this winter, according to Ron Stark, Outdoor Recreation program coordinator.

“We have no instructors on base right now,” he said.

Outdoor Recreation relies on volunteer instructors who get certified through the Amateur Ski Instructor Association, or ASIA, to teach lessons to beginners on its ski and snowboard trips. Outdoor Recreation is hosting an ASIA Level 1 Certification Course for intermediate-or-above skiers and snowboarders in January.

“We use ASIA because it gives our program credibility and we know they all teach to a common standard,” Stark said.

The course will be held Jan. 18-22 at Okunakayama, a small ski and snowboard resort in northern Japan. Two instructors from ASIA — a skier and a snowboarder — will lead the nationally recognized course, Stark said.

The cost is $400 but Outdoor Recreation will subsidize $300 for those who sign a voluntary service agreement to come on four “learn-to” ski or snowboard trips during the 2007 season, Stark said.

“They teach a two-hour lesson and the rest of the day is free,” he said.

Certification is good for two years, so participants can volunteer the following year, though they’re not obligated to do so, Stark said.

Outdoor Recreation had to cancel its ASIA certification course last year due to lack of participation. This year’s sign-up deadline is Dec. 31 but at least 50 percent of the 10 ski and 10 snowboard slots need to be filled by mid-December, Stark said. If that doesn’t happen, “the downside to the Misawa community is that the ‘learn-to-ski’ programs will be canceled this year,” Stark said.

Participants must be 18 or older to enroll in the certification course, with Date of Estimated Return from Overseas (DEROS) no earlier than July 2007. Military personnel also must provide proof of authorized leave during the course dates or a note from a supervisor indicating that leave will be authorized for the period. Stark is encouraging commanders to grant permissive temporary duty to airmen who are interested in taking the course.

“The payback might be that commander’s kid taking their lesson,” he said.

Japanese firms provide insurance for winter sports

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Hit someone on skis and you could be liable for thousands of dollars in medical bills, loss of income and damaged equipment, even if the collision was unavoidable, say base officials.

“The rule of the road is if you hit something in front of you it’s your fault,” said Ron Stark, 35th Services Squadron’s Outdoor Recreation program coordinator.

Stark advises Americans to purchase personal liability insurance to cover any expenses associated with a collision on the slopes. The insurance is available at car-insurance offices off base but starting Dec. 1, it will be harder to buy annual coverage. Next month, AIU in Misawa is discontinuing its yearly personal liability policy for skiing and snowboarding. The policy costs 2,100 yen (about $17) per person and will be available only until Nov. 30. Coverage for an individual ski or snowboard outing still will be offered this season for 500 yen.

Ford Insurance Agency in Misawa also provides personal liability insurance per day or per outing, said owner Kimiko Sawaya. The insurance covers up to 10 million yen (about $85,000) for personal liability. Japanese insurance companies, she said, are discontinuing the annual policies because the premiums are so cheap but “they have to pay a lot of money” if people have a collision.

— Jennifer H. Svan

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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