Snow Enthusiast Editor, Rob Stewart, a former full-time ski teacher himself, catches up with some old friends to find out what life is really like in the ‘World’s best office’ during the final winter before Brexit might have a huge impact on how British instructors can work in the EU.
Here’s what they have to say:
Isla Marsh is a BASI ISIA ski instructor and BASI 1 Snowboard instructor working in Hakuba, Japan and Perisher, Australia for independent ski schools, Hakuba Snowsports School and Perisher Snowsports School.
The best thing about her job is: “Watching people get stoked on skiing” and nothing much frustrates her apart from the odd management issues.
Would she recommend ski teaching as a career? Isla said: “If you love teaching and being in the mountains then yes, but not if you want to become an instructor just because they want to ski for themselves all the time because that doesn’t often happen”. And life after Brexit? “I would imagine it would just become like every other place we work overseas that need visas like Japan. You will just have to apply to the embassy instead of having free movement”.
Final thoughts: “Ski instructing is a lifestyle choice, you do it because you love the whole package and look forward to working every day”.
Phil Smith is Director of Snoworks Ski Courses and holds a BASI Level 4 qualification with French Equivalence. He’s based in Tignes but also travels around the world with Snoworks to deliver courses on off-piste skiing adventures.
The best thing about his job is: “The amazing destinations we go to and the variation of the work we do. Off-piste, adventure, race, instructor training, ski touring. We travel to a Japan, Chile, Argentina, Turkey, Kashmir, Norway, Canada, America and closer to home, France, Italy and Austria.
Would he recommend ski teaching as a career? Phil said: “Yes but like everything in life if you want to make a career out of something you love doing it’s hard to get to the top. It takes determination belief effort and of course a fair amount of money”. And life after Brexit? “I don’t expect anything to change. Entry level qualifications will be able to get jobs everywhere except France. Level 4 will still be able to work in France. I think”!
Shona Tate works in the Chamonix Valley and St Gervais/Megeve (Evasion Mont Blanc), France for the British Alpine Ski School (BASS) and holds the BASI, International Ski Teacher Diploma (ISTD), Level 4 and Irish Association of Snowsports Instructors (IASI), Alpine Level 4 Euro Ski Pro, qualifications.
The best thing about her job is: “Providing the opportunity for all to enjoy the mountains and learn to ski all terrain. I love working with people of all ages, abilities and walks of life”.
Would she recommend ski teaching as a career? Shona said: “Yes, it’s an amazing career and gives a real quality of life living and working in the mountains. It is a long-term training programme to get to the level to make it a full winter season career and requires a lot of dedication, time and opportunities. And life after Brexit: “I believe that with the UK leaving Europe there may be a tightening of the work visa’s required to work in certain countries, this will depend on your passport rather than your country of qualification. This is not too dissimilar to how it is now”.
Final thoughts: “I have been a ski instructor for 30 years now and loved every minute of it regardless of the weather or snow conditions. It’s such a family orientated outdoor sport where everyone can be enjoying it at their own level”.
John Arnold is based in the Monterosa region of Italy and holds the highest level ski instructor qualification, Level 4, with BASI but also has a degree in mindfulness studies and is a certified NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) practitioner. He’s combined these skills to create his ski course company, Mindful Mountains.
The best thing about his job is: “Adding value to the client’s experience of being in the mountains and coaching them to develop performance and enjoy the experience”. But nothing about the job frustrates him.
Would he recommend ski teaching as a career? John said: “No, not without discussing with them firstly their perceptions of that career, their life purpose, what’s involved in becoming fully qualified (training time, costs and way of life) and what they hope to achieve through that career”. And life as an instructor when working in a foreign country, John’s thoughts are: “Firstly research what the legal and accepted norms are for non-nationals working in that country. Secondly become qualified according to these requirements. Thirdly ensure one has adequate insurance (negligence, mountain evacuation, medical and income protection) and fourthly when in resort build sound relationships with the local businesses particularly the Ski School, mountain Patrol, restaurant and hotel operators”.
Cazz George is an assistant coach for Diamonds Training Centre in Zermatt, Switzerland. They train instructors from Level 1 – Level 4 as well working as a ski instructor for Matterhorn Diamonds in Zermatt.
The best thing about her job is: “That my office is the place everyone else chooses to visit on their holiday.
I really love what I do. There is almost never a day that I don’t want to get up and go to work. Meeting people from all around the world is great and you understand just how big and actually how small it is, and how people can be so incredibly different but are all just people in the end”.
“The difference you can make to someone’s holiday is also something that gets underestimated. Teaching beginners is a fun as they progress so quickly that in one day they go from not even being able to walk in their boots to turning down the mountain”.
She can get frustrated sometimes though: “Friends and family don’t always understand what we do, so you will have to endure plenty of jokes about only working for a few months a year or asking when you are finishing your gap year and ‘getting a real job”.
Would she recommend ski teaching as a career? Cazz said: “Go for it. Life is short and there is always something that can hold you back if you let it, but you really can do whatever you want. Try and speak to someone who has actually done whatever option you are thinking about – shiny websites can be tempting but if there are no downsides at all, they are fibbing.” And life after Brexit: “The whole issue worries me as Brexit was a vote to change, without any plan of how or what to change to. I am hopeful that there is opportunity for there to still be movement of workers throughout Europe. I know the UK would be worse off without it, and with a fair amount of British tourism in the Alps and the snowsports industry there is still going to be a market in the Alps”.
Final thoughts: “Stop reading. Go ski”.
This story was originally published in Snow Enthusiast magazine. Read the full issue free at http://magazine.snow-forecast.com/snow-enthusiast-sf-2018#!page1