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My Gap Year as a Ski Instructor: A Case Study

By: Kate Simpson BA, MA - Updated: 16 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Ski Instructor Skiing Training Ski

The gap year is becoming increasingly popular. Travelling and working are the two most common ways to spend a gap year and becoming a ski instructor for a year allows you to do both. We caught up with Nathan Cracknell to hear about his experience of teaching and living on the Canadian slopes.

Q. First things first, what training was needed?

A. Well, I had to demonstrate that I was already an advanced skier and I also had to undergo three weeks of training. I had to pay for the training package but arrangements vary between ski centres. The fee included my ski and bus pass, flights, accommodation, food and training and examination fees, so I think it was good value. The ski company arranged everything for me, which was useful as I was busy with exam revision and working as a waiter a few months before I went out there.

Q. Was the pay good?

A. To be honest, the pay was average but the bonuses more than make up for it. Skiing is an expensive hobby so I felt lucky to have the run of the slopes for no charge. My accommodation was free too. I earned around £8 per hour but could gain commission if I booked repeat lessons with ski students. The customer service skills I’d learnt working in a restaurant whilst studying for my A Levels really paid off when it came to building strong relationships with clients.

Q. Can you describe a typical day?

A. A typical day starts early. I’d usually arrive in the staff room at around 7:30am and check the weather report for the day, as well as looking over the details of my teaching commitments. I’d then get all my gear on and be on the snow for our 8:00am briefing. Lessons began at 9:00am, so I’d use the time between the briefing and lessons to work on my own technique. Ski lessons typically lasted either a half or full day. Whilst I followed a strict routine, meeting and teaching new people on a weekly basis kept any boredom at bay. I also found that, through teaching, I built upon both my skiing and my communication skills. Some nights, I’d head home for a healthy dinner and an early night but on others I’d go out with other ski instructors or ski students to local bars and restaurants.

Q. What are the main pros and cons of life as a ski instructor?

A. There are so many positive aspects to being a ski instructor. Beautiful scenery, practicing a sport you love, meeting new people, getting plenty of fresh air and going to some great parties are all top benefits. There are some drawbacks too, however. It can get a touch lonely, especially when friends leave or move on. Also, a ski instructor’s life is busy, so there’s little time to explore surrounding areas.

Q. What advice would you give to someone hoping to become a ski instructor for a year?

A. First of all, getting fit is vital. A full day of exercise takes its toll and you need to be prepared. A couple of my fellow ski instructors had gained experience teaching at dry slope centres close to their homes, which seemed to prove beneficial. A real love of skiing is also a must.

Nathan may not have come home from Canada cash rich but he certainly gained a wealth of experience, personal and professional, on the slopes. If gathering friends across the globe, skiing daily and seeing a new part of the world sounds appealing, why not consider becoming a ski instructor for a year?

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