Since we launched in 2002 we have been causing quite a stir, but don't take our word for it - read what the experts have to say.
The Independent's Top 5 Gap Year Organisations
We are honoured to be included in The Independent's Top Five Gap Year Organisations, as the "Best For Ski Seasons". Read the full report here.
The Daily Telegraph 2012 Gap Year Ideas
"The slopes of western Canada host Nonstop’s ski and snowboard instructor courses. There are also a limited number of season-long internships that combine a three-week course in Fernie, British Columbia, working towards a CASI Level 1 qualification, with enrolment for work at Fernie Alpine Resort’s Winter Sports School."
Mintel - UK Snowsports Industry Report May 2012
We have been recognised in this highly respected industry report under "Who’s Innovating?"
"For hardcore, off-piste enthusiasts, British company Nonstop offers a Master the Mountain intensive six-week course in Western Canada, focusing on improving off-piste skiing and snowboarding skills. The course climaxes with four days of ‘splitboarding’ – using a split snowboard as a pair of large skis to hike up untouched and otherwise unreachable mountain faces, before slotting the halves together at the top in order to snowboard down."
Whitelines Snowboard Magazine - Powder School
In 2011 Whitelines Snowboard Magazine joined the fanale of our our 6 week "MTM" Off Piste Camp in Fernie and had an amazing time touring to some epic powder stashes. Read their amazing article here.
The Guardian - Splitboarding in Canada
In 2011 the Guardian wrote a great article about splitboarding in Canada with our "MTM" Off Piste Camp. Read the full article here.
Whitelines Snowboard Magazine - Zero to Hero
A couple of years ago Whitelines joined our three week course in Fernie and wrote an awesome article about becoming a snowboard instructor. Read the full article here.
Read some more full articles:
Pathfinder International - 2011
Ex-Military Case Study
I joined the RAF in June 1987, originally as a Mechanical Transport Driver however, in 1990 I was given the opportunity to remuster in to the Physical Education Branch as a Physical Training Instructor. By 2002 I was fortunate enough to be a dual qualified specialist in both Adventure Training and Parachute Jumping Instruction.
I’ve had the pleasure to organize, instruct and lead over 100 expeditions. Activities on these expeditions ranged from mountaineering, kayak/canoeing, climbing, skydiving, mountain biking to skiing and ski-touring all over the world.
On deciding to leave the military I knew I wanted to still be involved with the outdoors but more importantly I knew where, Canada. So with this in mind I set about organizing my resettlement training. After very little time I found what I was looking for, an 11 week Ski Instructor training course. There are many companies out there offering this kind of service, however, I chose NONSTOP Ski & Snowboard. Not only did it offer incredible value for money but what really cemented
my choice was on talking with the staff. They were all tremendously helpful, with a “can do” attitude. Although they offered various areas within Canada to attend the course, from Whistler to Fernie etc, I chose Red Mountain in Rossland BC to complete my training. I was not disappointed; I
received excellent instruction throughout my stay, gaining my level 1 and 2 Canadian Ski Instructors tickets.
Since completing the Ski Instructors course in 2010, I also gained my Canadian Avalanche Association level 1 Operators ticket. This coupled with my qualifications from the NONSTOP program, has enabled me to gain employment as not only a Ski Instructor but as a Tail Guide for a Cat Skiing company and teaching Avalanche Safety Training courses. As for the future, I’m committed to gaining
greater experience, furthering my qualifications and enjoying work within this environment. My overall aim is to continue to be a proactive, productive and valued member of the outdoor industry.
Daily Mail Ski & Snowboard Magazine - 2010
2 week Snow Safari
In at the steep end
On a voyage of discovery around four of Canada's lesser-known and more challenging resorts, days of coaching make it easier to rise to the challenge of glorious steeps, deeps and trees.
Red Mountain, British Columbia. Percentage of black runs 45, many littered with trees and in the current snow drought, also heaving with big bumps. I start down Booty’s Run, a double black diamond that’s an uphill schuss away from the main piste network, heart in mouth. The entrance is a rollover into a narrowish gully of spaced trees and giant, hard-packed moguls. The advice of our instructor Jonathan whirls through my head as I try to maintain the flow – retract the legs up the bump, extend on the way down, remember the pole plant, point the skis down the bump to keep contact with it, use its platform to slow down. Bump after bump, tree after tree slips by, I’m impressed with how the pointers have focused my mind, pumped by how much I’m enjoying myself. After the trees the run opens out, gets slightly less steep, but there’s still a rock band to negotiate, and a seemingly never-ending sea of moguls. A few pauses for breath, and to look and marvel at what we’ve negotiated, and the run is done – our group of six pops out on to a green run, breathing hard, comparing notes, then bombing down to the Motherlode chair eager for the next test.
It’s day eight of a two-week Nonstop Safari holiday to the British Columbia resorts of Kicking Horse, Revelstoke, Red Mountain and Fernie. The company started out in 2002 offering gap-year instructor courses for skiers and snowboarders, but keeps developing its programme with a varied menu of improvement camps such as this, which includes seven days of coaching. There are seven skiers and three snowboarders on the tour, which is billed by Nonstop as suiting “intrepid explorers” – fairly fit, confident all-rounders who’ll benefit from instruction aimed at tackling bad habits, particularly on tough terrain, and want to be pushed.
According to NONSTOP’s figures, 65 per cent of people going on its improvement camps are between 21 and 39. That’s right on target for this crew, several of whom have come on their own. Everyone in the group is mad about snowsports – most of them take more than one ski or board trip a season. Micky and Ed have come straight from a holiday in Whistler, for example, while Frankie is returning to Canada later in the season for a family holiday. Colin and Dom met on Nonstop’s six-week Master the Mountain course the previous year.
For all, a lot of the attraction of the trip is the chance to visit these reputedly hardcore but off the beaten track resorts in one fell swoop. The drives between resorts are beautiful, lush forests and small towns flash by, we follow winding rivers, or cross lakes by ferry, but this trip is definitely about the slopes not sightseeing. Only one day of the trip is lost to the road – between Red Mountain and Fernie – on other travel days we arrive at the next resort by lunchtime and can hit the slopes. Photographer Jon and I hook up with the Nonstoppers for Revelstoke and Red, after the group had been to Kicking Horse and before the final leg in Fernie. The structure of the course is intended to be flexible enough for a group with varied desires. As we find out, some people might be most interested in being guided around the slopes, fitting in as much hardcore gnarliness as humanly possible, while others are more focused on improving their technique. Perhaps not everyone will want to hike for their turns, or have the same level of expertise or fitness.
The final decisions about who does what and when are taken on the hoof – which could be a recipe for disaster, or at the very least a lot of faffing. Step forward our French-Canadian tour leader Jean-François, known as JF, who quadruples as driver, snowboard coach, timetabler and occasional breakfast chef. Add social secretary to the list and it’s amazing he ever has time to sleep. While JF coaches the three snowboarders at all resorts, we skiers learn with a different local instructor in each place. When you only spend a couple of days in each resort, the local knowledge is invaluable.
In Red, our instructor Jonathan’s inside track means we avoid icy rubble that looks like soft snow from the chair and instead practise our skills on immaculate groomers in the morning, find soft snow among trees in the early afternoon and don’t head down those Booty’s bumps until the sun has softened them enough to make sure the run is a buzz. In Revelstoke, instructor Julie knows exactly which runs to take us to, building the challenges as she assesses if we’re ready to hit the jackpot of fresh lines, she finally lets us loose on in Greely Bowl. All the while she arms us with technique tactics for making the most of the powder – and for dealing with the tricky bits that inevitably crop up between stashes, like a narrow, bumpy gully through trees. Both instructors quickly get to grips with what we need, and adapt to make the most of our time.
In Revelstoke Julie decides to split us into two groups – she’d originally planned for us all to spend a morning on technique followed by guiding to the tough stuff. Splitting up allows the powderhounds to get guiding and tips from her in the morning, while those wanting emphasis on instruction get her full attention in the afternoon. In Red, Jonathan keeps us together, but gives each person different tips, occasionally splitting us up for a run, with him accompanying one or other group.
In the snowboarding group, JF generally starts each day teaching a particular skill. But in between targeting carving, or short turns to control speed on the steeps, or using the legs for shock absorption, there’s a lot of focus on enjoying the mountain – finding powder stashes in Revelstoke, spending an afternoon in the park at Red. He also joins the whole group freeriding on the first afternoon in Red, showing us around and teaching by example, spinning around on the piste, popping off stuff, bombing along super fast, riding switch.
Local knowledge isn’t confined to the slopes – JF plots the driving route between resorts, shepherds the group to different restaurants each night, and often bars too. In Revelstoke it’s the Last Drop, which is hosting its regular open mic night, and the house band keeps many of the Nonstop team rocking until past midnight, despite an early start to drive up to the mountain next morning.
It’s a free day, and it’s great to have time out from coaching sometimes – putting into practice what we’ve already learnt, giving our heads, which are jam-packed full of tips, some time to catch up, and skiers and snowboarders the chance to ride together. A compact group sharing bus, meals and lessons soon gets to know each other, each with roles to play to keep the show on the road. On steep, challenging runs, Mike reminds us of hazards to avoid and, being one of the strongest skiers in the group, often volunteers to bring up the rear in case of incidents; Katherine, Claire and Colin prove to be organisational and kitchen wizards when we’re self-catering in Red Mountain (which makes a great change after several days of eating out); Frankie DJs on the bus, his choice of tunes getting occasional stick; Micky is expert at getting the party started, with a wealth of pub games and dangerous drinks in her repertoire. On days off from coaching you’ve got a ready-made gang to ride with.
On our Revelstoke free day, a group of us make the most of the hike-to-bowls and the steep, top to bottom black runs. We hike 20 minutes vertical from the top of the Stoke chair, still inside the resort boundary, to the highest point of 2225m, where we stop a few minutes to take photos, enjoy the view and gulp water before easing off a cornice into a sheltered bowl that holds soft powder. It makes for a string of euphoric turns before I fall – as the group would no doubt remind me. Back on my skis, we discover cliffs hidden among the trees off the Vertigo black run and all go different ways to avoid them, sliding, turning, calling each other’s names to make sure we all meet safely at the bottom. I’m fully aware that all the technique tips have given me confidence to tackle what could be nerve-wracking terrain. And that my new-found Nonstop family will be there to help should I get stuck.
Did you know?
North American resorts have a boundary, within which the whole area is patrolled and avalanche safe, so you can go off piste without a guide or the need for a transceiver. To maximise a short time in a resort though, it pays to have someone to show you around.
Snowcat skiing and snowboarding is very common in Canada – day trips are on offer in both Fernie and Revelstoke. A day is available as an optional extra on the Nonstop Safari.
There are local breweries in many North American resorts – in Revelstoke beers such as High Country Kolsch or Tall Timber Ale are brewed in small batches by the Mt Begbie Brewing Co.
The recipe for a Grenade, courtesy of NONSTOPers Micky and Ed. One shot glass each of tequila and Jägermeister, plus a can of Red Bull in a pint glass. Balance the shot glasses in the top of the pint glass then pull out the tequila and down it. The Jäger shot drops into the Red Bull, and you knock back the resulting Jägerbomb.
Eating out as a group can be easy in Canada because restaurant staff often know which seat place ordered what and so can easily split the bill.
Most accommodation in North America has access to a hot tub – great for relaxing after a hard day on the slopes.
Daily Mail Ski & Snowboard Magazine - 2009
Train to be an Instructor
“Two things we ask. Don’t leave without letting us know. And we pee over there,” announces head of Canadian operations for NONSTOP, Dave Richards. He likes to keep the backcountry neat and tidy – and also intends to keep a dozen young Brits alive tonight. He and his charges are to sleep on top of a mountain, buried in snow, deep within British Columbia’s Lizard Range – all in the name of adventure.
It’s part of NONSTOP’s mountain skills training – just one facet of its 11-week instructor training programme for skiers and snowboarders. From their meeting point at the top of Fernie’s ski area, the group have carried bulky survival packs crammed with sleeping bags, torches, shovels and food, then hiked with skis or boards just beyond the official in-bounds terrain. At a clearing in the forest, they shovel, pack, probe, stomp and jump – digging two metres down and tunnelling a further two metres into the dense British Columbian snowpack.
Learning to build potentially life-saving snow caves is hard work. And the prospect of spending an entire night outdoors in the dead of winter takes a good dose of positive thinking. “I’ve done a lot of summer camping in England,” says Mike Barnes of Bournemouth. “This just might be warmer and drier.”
Tonight Mike will be spooning with fellow teenagers Joe Southcott form Essex and Imogen Watkins from East Grinstead, who’s brought her teddy bear along for comfort – or possibly a source of warmth in the face of an uncertain future. All three cave-mates are nearing the end of their 11-week instructor course, NONSTOP’s most popular offering.
The start of the course works towards CSIA Level One – the most basic Canadian Ski Instructor’s Alliance qualification – which allows holders to teach beginners to early intermediates and is well recognised in Canada and North America. Level Two, offered at an additional cost in the second half of the course, enables them to teach at higher levels and venture beyond North America to work.
Signing up for a catered course such as this is an increasingly popular version of seasonairing. Bo hassle, no unknowns – a guaranteed season of accommodation, food, lift pass, coaching, plus a handful of diverting asides like catskiing and boarding, snow-cave building adventures and avalanche courses. Just add snow.
The 11-week instructor course includes 25 hours of on- and off-snow coaching per week, which aims to improve participants’ skiing or boarding skills as well as teach them how to instruct others. Lessons are in groups of six to eight, four days a week, for a hefty five hours per day. The fifth day brings the chance for free time on the mountain, or a one-on-one coaching session, additional courses or weekend trips, like guided backcountry touring.
NONSTOP is one of the largest companies offering instructor and self-improvement courses, training more than 800 people in Fernie, Whistler, Red Mountain and Banff since 2003. Most of its clients are from the UK, with around 10 per cent from Australia and another 10 per cent from mainland Europe. About 40 per cent of clients are 18 to 19, 25 per cent 20 to 30, 25 per cent 30 to 40, and 10 per cent over 40.
And they’re offered pretty swanky digs. The Lodge, NONSTOP’s own recently renovated Fernie accommodation, is quite possibly BC’s fanciest roadside motel. Think boarding school meets Changing Rooms. Around one of its chic wooden tables, a group of mates relax with a few beers after dinner.
“I’d give this a nine and a half out of ten,” says Timmy Maxwell from Sydney, Australia. Cradling his Kokanee lager, surrounded by a cheerful gaggle of pretty girls and friendly mates, and a record snow season in Fernie that totalled 11.18m – what could possibly be the half point missing from this teenager’s life?
“The girls in Fernie,” he offers wistfully. “There aren’t many.” That, and the realities of getting recognition for their effort. While its relatively easy to find work in Canada and North America with CSIA Level One and Two, getting officially recognised in the Alps is notoriously more difficult – reach Level Three, however, and you have free rein to work just about anywhere.
“Austria, Switzerland and France are basically the only countries that don’t recognise this certification,” Timmy says, referring to the CSIA Level Two exam, which some of the group are attempting the following week. He hopes to work in Australia where, unlike the Alps, CSIA Level Twos are on the official radar. However, NONSTOP claim that people with Levels One and Two can still gain employment in the Alps with the help of a lot of initiative, talent and charm.
Not everyone on this course wants to become an instructor – some just want to ski or board like one. There’s an avenue for them too – after taking the Level One exam they can focus on personal technique by taking the All Mountain Pro (AMP) route. This offers an organised programmed with standards and goals based on personal skill development – not on passing the CSIA test.
Targeted coaching is provided by pros like Kathy Murray, a Canadian Level Three ski instructor and Level Four telemark examiner. After many years of coaching on the extreme faces of La Grave and Chamonix in France, she moved to Fernie to set up her own steep and deep camp and now teaches NONSTOP clients. “If you want to become a good skier in a short space of time, this is the spot,” claims Kathy. “I would say I was a good intermediated when I arrived,” says 49-year-old Colin McMullan, a business analyst from Torquay who managed to organise business affairs so he could spend time in Canada for the AMP version of the course. “Now I’m capable of skiing the whole mountain.”
Colin has been skiing for around 10 years and this is the first time he’s done a season. “This course seemed to have more older people and it’s promoted for those wanting to take a career break,” he says.
But it might be more than just a break for Nick McKenna – a college teacher in his 50s from Edgware. “I might not have a job when I get back,” he says with a smile. But after the winter he, Colin and the youngsters have had, there’s a whole ski industry out there to solve that problem.
Ski & Board Magazine - 2009
Fun in Fernie? It's Nonstop
THE MOOD IS WILD on a sub-zero March morning in Fernie, adrenalin pumping in response to sun filtered through trees onto fresh powder. The AMP group, now in its 10th week on the mountain, paws the snow in its eagerness to rip it up. AMP stands for All Mountain Pro, though Pioneer or even Amphetamine might be more appropriate, because the commitment to exploring every lost stash, however gnarly, is tangible. We blast off in a stampede, six guys, one Finnish-Australian girl and me. Will I be able to hang in there to check out testosterone levels on the hill? I have serious doubts.
AMP, introduced in 2006, is an increasingly popular component in the Nonstop Ski and Snowboard instructor programmes in Western Canada. The family company, run by 29-year-old Rupert Taylor, started in 2002 on a mission to bring more of the British to British Columbia, and teach them how to ski or board at levels they’d never achieve on annual holidays in the Alps. Instead of asking ‘how good could I have been?’, why not get out there and find out?
Nonstop’s core course lasts 11 weeks, with everyone taking CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance) Level I at the end of the first five. Pass rate? A heart-warming 100%. At that point, aspirations divide, with the majority opting for Level II, a realistic qualification for anyone who wants to work as an instructor later on. The rest – 12 out of 50 in 2008 - divide into groups for the thrills and spills of the wonderfully self-indulgent AMP extravaganza. Instead of learning to teach the perfect snow plough, they have a licence to plunder the steep and deep with a guide, five hours a day, five days a week.
In the 1990s, the pioneering three-month winter programmes were targeted at gap-year students, perceived as wealthy and time rich, and many answered the call, either before or after their degree courses. Sensibly recognising that older people often have more money, Nonstop extended the brief to include anyone with £7000 or £8000 to spend. Fitness is the only upper limit, with the oldest student to date signing up at 67. In my AMP group, Colin, in his late 40s, is a self-employed business analyst, while Alan, in his mid 20s, has a job as a civil engineer – and a ski-friendly boss who was happy to give him a three month sabbatical to pursue his dream. Alan’s next problem is that he’s so addicted, he wants another one for the first three months of 2009. The others are in the student catchment area, among them Sam, en route to a science course at Bristol University, and Niall, on a post-degree gap year before taking up his first job.
The AMP certificate is unique to Nonstop. There is a written exam and a very structured two-day evaluation. Students have to show mastery of linked carving, drop ins, short and varied radius turns, bump and glade runs, and controlled air time, always with the emphasis on smooth, continuous performance in all snow conditions. As I followed my guys round the double-diamond side of the mountain, side-stepping over tyres into Corner Pocket, exploding into Currie Powder, and eyeballing Sky Dive, the signature bump run that dominates the resort, I enjoyed the thrills and waited for the spills. They were a long time coming – the first of them was mine.
The second element in the certification is the All Mountain Activist points system: students get marks for taking part in the life of the community and the region. They organise or compete in local events, shadow resort staff through their working days, tour the backcountry, camp out in DIY igloos, and visit other resorts. Students who pass both elements get a certificate that has no professional standing. ‘We think it looks good on a CV’, said Rupert, sincere in his belief that its diversity should appeal to future employers.
Back in the real world, the Level II candidates were putting the final gloss on their teaching techniques. With the exam so close, this was serious business; too serious, really, for me to watch them at it, so I asked 18-year-old Matt Flinders how he was getting on. ‘Pretty nervous’, he said after the first day’s assessment, but he looked so relaxed it was hard to believe him.
A rich gap-year student? No way. When he left Loughborough Grammar in 2007, he discussed his plans with his mother, and checked out courses on the Internet. “We decided this was the best value” he said. “I’d done 35 weeks skiing on family and school trips to the Alps, so I wanted quality powder. And I knew Fernie was renowned for that. I worked my ass off for five months in my girlfriend’s dad’s business – he’s a pensions administrator in Leicester – to raise the money. And it’s been brilliant.”
A Sydneysider, Timmy Maxwell, his new best friend, nodded enthusiastically. ‘These are the first good Brits I’ve ever met, and the course is great too” he said. “I’d give it nine and a half out of ten’. The lost half? ‘Not enough girls’. He laughed. He was sitting next to two from his school, so he wasn’t exactly short of female company, and the Nonstop odds of three men to one woman are more favourable than they are in many winter sports scenarios.
Rupert Taylor first heard of Fernie on his Ski Le Gap snowboard course in Quebec in 1997. Four years later, with his degree in archaeology and ancient history from Nottingham in the bag, he signed up as a Fernie instructor – and fell in love with “a small tight-knit community and a silly amount of snow”. His father, Patrick, an executive in a range of radio station start-ups that includes Classic FM, was enthusiastic about a joint family snowsports business, but insisted that it should be in Whistler.
“I persuaded him to come here to Fernie with my mum and my sisters, and they had the same reaction I’d had, so that worked out fine,” said Rupert. “A year later, when I was running the new company out of my bedroom in London, I was less happy when my only booking for the next season cancelled in August.” But by 2003, the show was on the road, with 40 students confirmed for the inaugural 11-week course. They stayed at the first Nonstop home base, the Old Grocery Store, and ate breakfast cooked by Rupert’s sister, Melissa Nonstop students can also stay in houses in the neighbourhood, an option with more appeal for those beyond college age. At 48, Nick McKenna, a lecturer in travel and tourism at Stanmore College, preferred to pay a single supplement of £1100 and stay in a four room house rather than risk close quarters and boarding-school style high jinks at the Lodge. He discovered Nonstop at the 2006 London Ski Show and took leave of absence to do his Level II in 2008. As he’s single and his daughter is in a job after getting her degree, he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of using his qualification to teach in Canada, though the visa regulations are more complicated for over 35s. Even if he doesn’t, he has no regrets. ‘The skiing is unbelievable” he says. “I’ve been here for 10 weeks, but I’m still finding variations I’ve never seen’. From a man who normally skis Zermatt or Val d’Isère, that accolade is as good as it gets.
Daily Mail Ski and Snowboard - 2008
Snow Skills Safari
Gap year and improvement course specialist NONSTOP ski and snowboard has a new string to its bow – a two-week Canadian road trip taking in Fernie, Red Mountain, Kicking Horse and Whitewater.
In a move that the company says is unique to the UK, the trip incorporates seven days of coaching tailored to your needs using local instructors. They also have the knowledge to guide you to the resort’s best bits, and the right to jump any lift queues you might come across. A NONSTOP rep is on hand to help you make the most of each resort scene as well as drive you between them by minibus – one welcome stop is at eh relaxing hot springs located between Whitewater and Kicking Horse.
Skiers and boarders who’ve done at least four weeks of riding are welcome on both trips, travelling and staying together, but split into their own kind on the mountain. The trips run 10 to 24 January and 7 to 21 February, and prices start from £2295 including b&b, instruction, a day of snowcat skiing or boarding at Red Mountain, life passes, flights from Heathrow to Calgary and transfers.
The Daily Telegraph - 2008
For a powder fix, head off along the Highway
If I was supposed to be on safari, what was I doing 8.033 feet above sea level, in temperatures well below zero, skis strapped to my feet and my heart pounding as I stared down the sheer face of “CPR Ridge”?
I was in Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, in the Canadian province of British Columbia, nearing the end of a two-week “snow safari” with nine new friends and our guide, Carlo. Together, we had spent a fortnight travelling the so-called Powder Highway, hunting out BC’s celebrated “Champagne powder”. Kicking Horse was our final resort, and I was wondering whether CPR Ridge might prove to be my undoing.
Fortunately, the past two weeks of skiing had strengthened my resolve as well as my thighs and, with my guide and team shouting encouragement, I tackled the ridge with gusto, if not style. As the rest of the team skied down, I got my breath back relieved that my descent had not required any cardiopulmonary resuscitation - although contrary to belief, in this case “CPR” stands for the Canadian Pacific Railway, which runs along the valley below Kicking Horse.
Watching the other skiers, I realised that our snow safari had been a voyage in many senses. Since those first hesitant introductions at the airport, we had skied together every day, driven across cast swathes of spectacular countryside, faced and overcome challenges in our skiing and eaten breakfast together wearing nothing but thermal underwear and ski socks.
We were a mixed bunch. There was Keith and Lucy from Scotland, with some 50 years collective skiing under their belts; Jan and Monika, a former ballerina, from Slovakia; Kim and Sarah, who met on a ski and snowboard improvement course last winter; and Dylan, Steve, and Ben. We were a jumble of ages, backgrounds and professions, some of us skiers, some snowboarders, some had never skied in North America, others never In Europe – but we were united by a passion for the mountains.
And then there was Carol, whose enthusiasm, energy and jokes quickly created a relaxed, light-hearted atmosphere that masked the hard graft required to make our safari seem effortless. Over the course of our adventure, Carlo served variously as mountain guide, cook, driver, concierge, tour guide, barman, personal shopper and nurse.
Although Carlo was not native to British Columbia, his knowledge of the province was encyclopedic. Upon arrival in Calgary, he told us about the Kootenay Rocky Mountains in south-eastern BC and the Powder Highway that links eight world-class ski resorts. These receive more snow – and lighter, fluffier snow – than virtually anywhere else in the world.
The Powder Highway is also home to 90 per cent of the world’s heli- and cat-skiing, although it is by no means necessary to spend big money on helicopters or snowcats to get a “big mountain” experience. Resorts such as Kicking Horse, Fernie and Revelstoke boast regular dumps of fresh powder, vertical descents of more than 5,000ft, and thousands of acres of challenging backcountry terrain.
Furthermore, the resorts are blissfully uncrowded, and you can expect to have at least an acre of terrain to yourself on most days.
British Columbia is four times the size of Great Britain and encompasses a remarkable variety of landscapes. During our safari, we traversed spectacular mountain passes, followed oxygen-rich turquoise rivers along seemingly endless valleys, and crossed a steely blue lake, catching glimpses of snow-capped peaks swirling in clouds high above us. The natural beauty of British Columbia makes travelling between resorts on the Powder Highway a pleasure – particularly when you don’t have to drive yourself.
That said,, this particular safari, launched this winter by the British-based company NONSTOP Ski and Snowboard, might not appeal to more free-spirited road-trip devotees, given its set itinerary and the fact that they would be accompanied by a group of strangers. And committed powder hounds would argue that you should follow the snow, rather than a predetermined schedule.
However, the NONSTOP trip has several distinct advantages over a self-drive ski safari, of which ease, value for money and local knowledge are key.
And the appeal of travelling according to the whims of the weather can be short-lived, particularly when you are negotiating large distances across mountainous terrain hampered by ski equipment. Driving in Canada is on a scale most Britons are unaccustomed to, and have a driver – particularly one who provides pillows for night-time drives – is a major bonus.
Our safari struck a balance between skiing and travel. Over the two weeks we racked up 10 days of skiing in four resorts (Fernie, Red Mountain, Whitewater and Kicking Horse) with seven days of instruction, plus an optional day of cat-skiing and an afternoon relaxing in natural hot springs to break the longest journey.
Thanks to the quietly multitasking Carlo, we quickly became accustomed to a virtually VIP lifestyle: we were delivered to the doorstep of comfortable hotels and lodges in each new destination, and led obligingly to great restaurants and popular bars. During a pivotal evening of group bonding, after several hours soaking in an outdoor hot tub, Carlo even delivered beers and pizza right into our shrivelled, prune-like hands to roars of approval. Ski passes simply materialised in the mornings, ski instructors seemed to know who we were before we did – all we had to do was remember how to ski. And my skiing improved noticeably over the course of the trip, a common side effect of the safari. Rupert Taylor, managing director of NONSTOP ski and Snowboard, explains: “This two-week road trip will see you ability improve dramatically as you receive instruction from top local instructors at each of the resorts. The diversity of terrain that you experience ensures you will test your skills to a new level and leave being able to tackle slopes you would previously have left aside.”
But there is a serious downside to these snow safaris. Now that I’ve tasted BC’s powder, skied some of its vast backcountry and immaculately groomed trails, and grown accustomed to the efficiently run, friendly and crowd-free resorts, skiing in Europe will never seem the same again.
Gabriella Le Breton
Fall-Line Skiing - 2008
Do an Instructor Course
This month we got a letter form Lance Woodbridge. Very nice, you say. Well, it’s a good letter to get because he’s a satisfied instructor course customer and we think course are A Good Thing. You don’t have to go the whole nine yards (or 11 weeks) but let this evaporated the New Year blues…
“I’m 24, and last year did the NONSTOP 11-week ski instructor course in Fernie, BC. I was working in sales for an IT company and wanted to do something more! It’s totally changed my life: after reading your instructor course article I was inspired to tell you about it.
Even though I’ve been skiing since I was four, I was still anxious to find out what level we’d be expected to ski at and how I’d compare with others on the course. But it was fine, the team assess your skiing very thoroughly and makes sure that everyone is in a group that, while challenging you, makes you feel comfortable and confident.
It was frustrating at the beginning, as I had to unlearn my own bad habits, but it was so worth it – at the end I got my CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructor’s Alliance) qualification, and particularly great was getting the level two. I was super stoked – it’s an open ticket to instruct throughout the rest of the world.
Best of all, when I got back to the UK in April, I got a phone call from one of the NONSTOP team asking if I’d like to work in Cardona Alpine Resort, New Zealand. So I went for it, got the last place out of 250 jobs for the 2007 season and picked up the “rookie of the year” award.
My ultimate goal is to instruct throughout the year and travel the world as a ski instructor – it’s just amazing to be able to earn a living doing what I enjoy.”
The Daily Telegraph - 2008
Peaks of Perfection - Nick Dalton
There’s a rush of excitement that comes with Whistler; it starts on the drive from Vancouver; the mountains on one side and the fjord-like waterfront vistas on the other. It continues with the chance to ski across the biggest ski area in North America. And it goes on at night in the busy resort of luxe hotels, gourmet restaurants and lively bars.
Whistler gets bigger and better each year, and as host to much of the 2010 Winter Olympics, there are all sorts of new terrains and facilities already opening up. The record-breaking Peak 2 Peak gondola opens on December 12, connecting the upper reaches of Whistler’s twin mountains. The gondola will travel along the world’s longest span of unsupported cable (1.88 miles), dangling a world record 1,427ft above the valley floor.
But Whistler is just one of the many jewels in British Columbia’s crown. If you’re seeking an exciting new challenge there are some great ski experiences and new resorts to choose from.
A Snow Safari with NONSTOP Ski and Snowboard for example takes you on an exhilarating tour around BC’s “powder triangle”. The first stop is Fernie, with its challenging off-piste Kicking Horse, a new and still growing centre for experts. Then it’s on to Red Mountain, rated one of the world’s best for steep slopes, and Whitewater where the slopes may be quiet but they are far from easygoing.
You stay (and party) in Fernie, Rossland, Nelson and wish new Kicking Horse, as well as lounge in the waters of Radium Hot Springs. The trip, for intermediates and above, includes guiding, some coaching, a day’s snowcat skiing and lift passes, with a fast-track facility, so no moment is wasted.
The 5 Best Snowboard Camps
5. Powder & Trees, Fernie
This Canadian resort has epic snowfalls, so is perfect for improving powder riding, tree runs and park skills on this intense camp. There's group analysis over beers each night. 0845 365 1525, www.nonstopsnowboard.com.
4. Park Fun, Avoriaz
Chalet snowboards's relaxed camps focus on playing in the pipe, park and powder in Morzine-Avoriaz, France. www.step-on.co.uk.
3. Freeride, Chamonix
"Not for the faint hearted" reads the blurb for this advanced backcountry course. Lots of powder and steep descents will enlighten you as to why experts love this French resort. www.mcnabsnowsports.com.
2. Girls only, Laxx
Sponsored by the surf label Roxy, Girlie camps provide pro female riders to teach different ability groups of girls - from beginners to experts - in this top Swiss resort. www.girliecamps.com.
1. Kids' camp, Les Deux Alpes
A week's course in France in April for 10-17 year olds, with SnoTribe. It's a supervised residential course so kids come alone, or just do the lessons during the day and stay elsewhere. www.tourparty.com.
ivillage.co.uk - 2005
Moving Abroad: Making Mountains out of Mogul-Hills
Julie and Stephen Gort dreamed of doing something different with their lives. Their passion for skiing and the Canadian mountains finally pushed them to quit their well-paid jobs in the UK in search of a better way of life.
Until February 2002 I was employed as a sales managed for a small asset management company. I was well paid, but had the pressure and stress of working to targets and deadlines. My husband Stephen worked as an investment adviser, and we lived in a nice part of Bristol in a large, terraced Victorian house. We had no children regularly ate out with friends and enjoyed good holidays abroad. However the culture of long hours and stress at work was taking its toll. We had always talked about 'taking time out', but doesn't everyone?
During late 2001 Stephen became increasingly disillusioned with his job and we decided he would resign and take some time to decide where to go next. Around this time we saw a opportunity to action 'our plan'. We decided to put our house on the market, and if it sold then I would resign from my job and we would set off travelling. We had two offers, at asking price, for the house within a week of putting it on the market. It seemed like fate.
After spending a couple of months travelling in France and then Madagascar, we turned our thoughts to the winter and where to ski. It was then that we stumbled across a new company called NONSTOP Ski, offering ski training in Canada for the winter. Stephen became really keen on the idea whereas I felt anxious about the formal ski training but somehow I was talked into the idea, and we set off.
The ski training was fantastic, but it was extremely hard work both physically and mentally. To out elation we both passed our level 2 Canadian ski instructors certificate.
With our new qualification in hand, we enquired at the wintersports school and shadowed some ski lessons. We were hooked on the idea of a career in skiing and eventually managed to secure positions at the winter sports school for the following season.
After spending the summer working back in the UK on short-term contracts to boost our income, we returned to Canada and waited for work. Then as Christmas approached, the ski-hill went crazy and we worked nine days in a row, non-stop all day. We had fallen in love with our new life, and before very long were convinced that one season wouldn't be enough. How could I give up my new office in the mountains?
We began thinking of business ideas and whilst sitting in the hot tub (its' not all hard work), came up with the idea of offering accommodation combined with ski instruction. We found a house we liked, with stunning views and lots of space and thanks to the help of family and friends secured a Canadian mortgage. Within four weeks the house was ours, and our business was born!
I remember my friends saying how lucky we were, but it's not about luck, but sheer determination and a desire to do something different. I don't miss my old home or the job I used to do because we have managed to create the lifestyle we knew we deserved. And I now love sharing the mountain, the people and the fabulous ambiance with friends, family and clients, both in the coming season, and those to follow. Our dream became a way of life.
X-Elements Magazine - 2005
A Girl's Snow Addiction
I've got the snow bug and I can't see a way out anytime soon. Looking out the window right now, I can see pine trees all loaded with snow and, behind them, big white ridges beckoning…Gotta ignore them for a little while, though, and concentrate on telling you why I'm here.
When I finished uni last year, I didn't even think about doing the whole London job-application nightmare. I was going to travel and enjoy myself, because you're only young once. Luckily, my boyfriend's on the same vibe; Jae teaches wakeboarding, I teach sailing; why not learn to teach snowboarding?
The plan, then was to spend a winter season in the mountains and become qualified snowboard instructors. Seems simple, but when you start shopping around, the options are endless and it can get pretty confusing. If you commit to 5 or 6 months in one place, you want to be sure it's right for you, and you won't get bored of the runs, the people of the atmosphere.
A first search on Google gave us a list of companies offering instructor courses. After some scrutiny, we found one of them really stood out from the crowd. NONSTOP Ski first grabbed our attention with their cool website. It's fun, well-designed and easy to get around. We liked the fact they're a small family-run company. But two things really sold it to us. One, it was the cheapest – a crucial point for debt-ridden students – while somehow including a whole lot of extras. Trips to other resorts, cat-skiing, hockey games, survival courses; stuff other companies didn't offer. And two, Fernie the resort itself. It's the only place to spend a season – you only have to look up the stats. 29 ft annual snowfall. Steep, quiet hill, varied terrain, friendly, non-commercial, and, uh did I mention 29 foot annual snowfall?!!
After booking n the course we had a fair wait till we got to Fernie. University Finals for me, then a gruelling 6 months with Jae teaching water sports in Greece (ah the pain!), and finally, two whole months in the London smoke, counting down the days. We eventually landed in Calgary on 19th January with around 60 others. Now, here's where I have to control myself. I could go on for hours about Fernie and the whole NONSTOP Ski season. I don't want to make you drool all over this page, though, or book the next flight in (we don't want it to get too crowded, do we). So I'll just focus on the things that made my season, and why I'm now back in Fernie, sat at my kitchen table, writing this article, looking forward to the next powder day and riding my socks off (still penniless and debt ridden but happier than I would be anywhere else).
First off, the riding and coaching. Just the actual snowboarding in itself was amazing. The terrain at our disposal was the best I could ever hope for. In those 11 weeks I rode waist deep powder through trees on double blacks, shredded pow in B.C. backcountry cat-skiing, helped build kickers we'd hit for hours on end on bluebird days, had fun hurting myself on the big hits and rails in the park. Sometimes I'd look back at a run and do a bit of a double-take – “hand on, I came here with one week's riding under my belt, how the **** did I just get down that?!!”
Wakeboarding obviously gave me a head start, but the real reason I got good so fast is that we had, without a doubt, the four best instructors on the hill. Those guys were the bomb; Glenn with his so solid t-pot stance, Jay with his old school tricks (rocket air anyone?) and fully cranked knees, Ryan with his distinctive style and hard as nails carving. And last but not least, Aubrey, who's riding looks effortless and natural, and who kept me laughing the whole 11 weeks with his stories and witty chat. I miss him this season as he's in Red Mountain, but they were all such characters. They clearly loved Fernie, loved their job and loved riding, and that rubbed off on all of us on the course.
The programme consisted of 4 hours instruction on the snow a day Monday to Friday. Sessions weren't compulsory but I missed very few by choice (couple of hangovers and a knee injury the only real culprits). They broke our riding down and re-built it better and stronger. We were drilled with exercises that burnt your thighs, I was taken down steep runs that I would never have dreamed I could have turned down and we rode just for fun a lot too, with the advantage of the boys' highly guarded local knowledge of powder stashes and hidden delights. A highlight for me was the actual level 1 course exam. It runs over 3 days and while my nerves were shot to pieces with lessons to teach and feeling like every turn you made was being scrutinised, I really enjoyed it. I was always enjoying being tested anyway but it was so fun, everyone was bigging each other up every run they did and I would just like to say that we couldn't have been better prepared (a 100% pass rate out of all of us backs that up!). I was super happy when I got my results and the après ski that night was one to remember.
Another thing I liked about NONSTOP Ski format was that you're given an authentic 'season experience', rather than feeling like a tourist abroad. You're set up in independent houses in town. You shovel your drive, you do your shopping, you're part of the local community and you never cross anyone in the street without a 'hey, how's it going'. Jae and I shared a really cool house with 7 others. There was a wood-burning stove in the basement, where we spent many a night watching movies and chilling. We even built a kicker in our garden and sessioned that with beers and music. I remember Glenn and Aubrey hopping over the fence and joining in once or twice. Fernie is such a friendly place it doesn't take long to feel at home.
Downtown is pretty small, but it's got everything you need. Cinema, pool, gym, good shops, restaurants, bars with live music. The night life's fun but not outrageous. If you want to go crazy, you get your bikini out and attend beach-themed house parties. And NONSTOP Ski like to get you out on missions. I was sorry to miss a trip to Big Mountain, Montana, with a pub crawl back to Fernie by bus. Party on an epic scale, by the sounds of it. I think this year is an overnight stop-off at the hot springs on the way back. A surreal experience; taking off your clothes in minus 15, jumping into smelling boiling water, and then just chilling there between snow-covered rocks…
The 11 weeks I had in Fernie were among the most memorable of my life. I made some great new friends and got stupidly hooked to snowboarding. I'm winging it on my own this winter, but I'd recommend a NONSTOP Ski course to anyone out there doing their first season or anyone who want to improve a double-speed. I wouldn't have been able to concentrate purely on snowboarding and having fun, socialising and experiencing so many new places. Oh yeah, and all good things don't come to an end – I'm now qualified to teach snowboarding anywhere in the world…
The Daily Telegraph - 2005
Read about how Rupert started NONSTOP
Rupert Taylor is in a highly competitive market, running a ski and snowboarding school. "We distinguish ourselves from the others by being a family-run business, which influences the whole culture of the programme."
He set up the company with his cousin Lisa Barnes, now runs it with his sister Melissa, while his father Patrick, formerly financial director of the GWR Group, is on hand with advice and funding.
"The family theme goes right through to the accommodation we provide. We believe that a home atmosphere is better than being in a hotel or hostel, and our residential staff have their families with them. Customers feel that they're being looked after as friends rather than on a package holiday."
When Mr Taylor went to a snowboarding school in Quebec during his gap year he realised that there was room for improvement in the facilities that were offered. After leaving university he returned to Canada as a snowboarding instructor and decided to set up a school of his own.
"I saw there was potential for a similar programme in the Rockies where the mountains are larger, the snow more exciting and the culture is different. My cousin Lisa who had been marketing Fulham Football Club was keen to join forces, and both our dads encouraged us."
Money was raised through a combination of shareholder equity for the £45,000 working capital and bank support that provided £250,000 towards the ATOL bond required for organisers of package holidays. An additional £250,000 was spent on gutting and equipping the old grocery store in the former mining town of Fernie as course accommodation.
Initially they identified their main market as gap-year students, doing presentations at schools and advertising in sixth-form magazines and gap-year supplements in national newspapers.
"But it soon became obvious from website hits and enquiries that there was a market among the older generation. Now 30pc of our clients are gap year and the rest are people taking a career break who want to do a season in the mountains, perhaps gain some qualifications and become really good at snowboarding or skiing.
"Also there are people who want to change their career. The product is the same, it's just the way you present it." Before the first course was launched, Taylor took the decision to spend £3,000 on a stand at the Ski Show. "It was about brand building rather than bringing in the customers, who we get mainly from our website.
"But the exercise was useful, and we've just attended our third show, as well as others in Birmingham and Manchester." There are no private ski schools in North America as each resort has its own. "However, we're the only company who employs our instructors exclusively, so for the length of the programme they don't work for anyone else.
"We're paying a high premium but it means that they're fully immersed in our company culture." NONSTOP Ski offers residential ski and snowboarding programmes in Canada lasting between two weeks and three months, which include a range of mountain skills.
"We've expanded from 40 clients in our first year to 190 this year but, despite the rapid growth, we're determined to maintain a family atmosphere."
X-Elements - 2004
After my first taste of snowboarding in New Zealand a few years ago I’d longed to do a full winter in the mountains and hoped to be able to create a career in the industry so I could carry on doing seasons. I wasn’t too stoked on the idea of washing dishes or serving beer to pissed up holidaymakers so I started looking into working as an instructor. Searching the net I quickly found a course based in the famed powder Mecca of Fernie, British Columbia. The programme trains snowboarders and skiers to instructor level plus offers a whole range of additional snow related qualifications and training. The crew at NONSTOP were super friendly and they organised everything I needed to for a season in the mountains including flights and accommodation, as well as the training and support I needed to become a qualified snowboard instructor.
Canada is blessed with some of the largest snowfalls and best snowboarding terrain in the world. The snow accumulation is significantly deeper than the European Alps and although the mountains do not offer the same vertical drop, the terrain boasts so much more variety from open powder bowls, steep chutes, cruising groomers and importantly lots of awesome tree runs. The Canadian Rockies are dotted with quality ski areas from small local undiscovered gems to the larger more established resorts such as Banff and Lake Louise.
The town of Fernie is a couple of kilometres form the resort and has an awesome community atmosphere where people say hello to strangers, smile, and are generally laid back and happy. It’s not really surprising – they get more snow than almost any other ski area in the world – 29ft a winter – and its not any kind of snow, this is dry fluffy champagne powder, what the locals call white smoke. The snow banks in town can get so high that as you walk down the streets all you can see are the roofs of the typical 2 storey homes. The resort of Fernie consists of five wide-open bowls each offering carried lines to the base. The piste map shows marked trails but in reality its more like off-piste riding with the ability to choose any line through steep tight tree runs, open glades, mellow bowls, wave like gullies and groomed pistes perfect for laying down some carve turns.
The programme concentrates on developing your own riding skills, both on and off the pisted while also teaching you the techniques required to instruct others. We were taught by the area’s most qualified coaches who were not only awesome riders inspiring me to push myself beyond my expectations, but also became good mates during the season. We gained a thorough technical knowledge of snowboarding which although obviously essential for instructing has also benefited my own mistakes with the knowledge of how to correct them. There are various levels in the Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors (CASI) and in week six I was ready to take Level 1 that allows you to teach beginner and novice snowboarders. The exam was three days long and although I was initially nervous it turned out to be a rewarding few days for which I was super prepared. The exam tests both your riding and teaching skills and I successfully passed both parts, gaining the qualification along with the rest of my group. We celebrated hard that night in the Griz bar, Fernie’s most popular après ski pub.
After the Level 1 some riders went for the Level 2 although I decided to work towards the Freestyle Coach qualification. Level 2 builds on the skills we’d already learnt but was a big step up from the Level 1, demanding a higher level of analysis and detection, speed and control riding down steep moguls and laying down pencil-line carve turns on groomed pistes. The freestyle course prepared us for teaching a selection of freestyle manoeuvres from basic straight airs, simple rail slides, to 180’s and 360’s both of kickers and in the pipe.
During the programme we were taught a host of other snow related skills such as winter first aid, snowboard maintenance, avalanche awareness, and survival camping. For the avalanche awareness course we headed out into the backcountry using snowshoes and avi gear. The course director, Dave, taught us safe route selection, snow pack analysis and how to carry out snow stability tests. We also learnt search and rescue techniques including how to find buried avalanche victims using transceivers and probes. The trip also included some quality riding in the untouched virgin powder of the backcountry.
One of the highlights of the season was a weekend spent camping in snow caves in the backcountry. We were taught some of the essential theory to winter camping before trekking into the mountains including different types of snow cave and how to survive the cold. We were lucky to have a warm night – last year they’d apparently camped on the coldest night of the season -20C! Building the snow cave was hard work but it was rewarding to see our home for the night transform from a simple trench into a “comfortable” den with a ledge for sleeping, ice candle holders, and a long tunnel entrance to keep out the wind. Before hitting the sac we built a fire and sat round drinking a local concoction called Mogul Smokers – a heady mix of coffee, chocolate, kahlua and dark rum!
While I was in Canada I was keen to check out a variety of other ski resorts, having heard that there were plenty of local mountains with classic “steep and deep” conditions but unknown to the hordes of tourists visiting the Val d’Isere’s and Aspens of the world. NONSTOP organised weekend trips to other mountains including Big Mountain in Montana (USA), Red Mountain and Lake Louise. The trip to Red Mountain was four hours due west and opened my eyes to the potential of interior British Columbia. Red gets almost as much powder as Fernie, is seriously steep and you practically get the whole place to yourself! The riding is more challenging than anywhere else I have yet ridden but there are still mellow areas and pistes to cruise down. The area is littered with gullies, banks and big granite slabs that provide cliff drops of all sizes. The local town of Rossland is a gold mining town turned laid-back ski town and has some cool western style stores and bars.
After months of cold temperatures and regular powder dumps, the spring weather at the end of the season was welcomed by everyone and most of the time we spent hiking the park and pipe or surfing through the large puddles of melt water at the base.
Now back in the UK I’m returning next winter to BC for another season but this time instructing in a local snowboard school and after that, who knows, New Zealand? Chile? Australia?
The Daily Echo - 2004
It’s Just Snow Fun
Skiing and snowboarding are great fun, but have you ever wanted to take your skills to a new level? Do you fancy being an instructor rather than a learner, but don’t know how to go about it?
Well, you could always get in touch with you local dry ski slopes to see what they have to offer. But if you want snow guaranteed, an opportunity to travel, and a qualification at the end of it all, then check out NONSTOP.
This is a family-run company, set up in January 2002, which offers 11-week ski or snowboard instructor training courses in Fernie, Canada.
This is ideal for anyone who has ever dreamed of becoming a winter sports instructor, and the course attracts a wide mix of ages, from those looking to take a career break to students enjoying their gap year.
With 20 hours of instruction each week under the expert eye of local professional coaches, course participants are trained to develop their teaching technique in small groups of six to eight people who are all of a similar level.
During the course, attendees can expect to obtain their CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance) or CASI (Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors) Level 1 certification, while the more experienced participants can leave with the Level 2, Freestyle Coach, and Race Coach certifications. This will enable you to teach internationally.
As well as receiving qualifications to teach skiing or snowboarding, NONSTOP also organises regular weekend trips away to other parts of Canada and North America. Evening classes also provide another focus to the training to become an instructor experience.
In addition to the 11-week course, NONSTOP improve their own off-piste technique in the celebrated Fernie powder, providing the kind of focus which a normal ski holiday often lacks.
Here’s someone who’s taken the course:
Hermione Enfield, 20, says: “I’m at Edinburgh University and after a few months I realised I was going to need a job as my bank account was not healthy. Most of my friends have mundane jobs like waitressing or bar work, but I work part-time as a ski instructor at a local dry slope.
“While my mates wash dishes for £5 an hour, I’m teaching kids how to snowplough or timing them on the slalom course for £10 an hour. I qualified as a ski instructor in my gap year when I spent three months in Fernie, Canada with NONSTOP.
“Not only did I have the time of my life, made loads of friends and came away with an internationally-recognised qualification, but my communication skills and confidence sky-rocketed.
“While I was in Fernie I also completed an avalanche and first aid course and also took a basic TEFL course came in useful later on in my gap year.
“I lived in a house with nine others of my age, which was wicked fun, but there were people of all ages on the course, which created a really good atmosphere. There was always loads going on at weekends and evening – from snowmobiling and cat skiing to ice hockey and fancy dress parties.
“I had an incredible three months with NONSTOP and cannot recommend them more highly. And guess what? This summer I’m off to New Zealand to instruct for the season.”
Snowboard UK - 2004
Nonstop Ski Don't Stop
NONSTOP Ski are purveyors of first-rate snowboard and ski instructor courses and have announced that they are expanding into Red Mountain, British Columbia. Due to the success of the Fernie run 11-week ski and snowboard courses, which launched in 2002, NONSTOP Ski are proud to announce that the three-month course will now run in both Red Mountain and Fernie next season.
The 11-week course, on offer in both resorts, trains applicants to become qualified instructors. Running from January through to March, the courses are led by a skilled team of individuals who give the 'seasonaires' five days of coaching a week, where not only will they be taught how to instruct, but they will also make the most of the reputable terrain and deep snow conditions. The coaching will largely concentrate on mastering powder and freeriding techniques but will also provide the opportunity to focus on freestyle and slalom racing.
At the end of the course you take qualifications in the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance (CSIA) or the Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors (CASI), both of which are internationally recognised teaching qualifications, permitting you to instruct all over the world.
The exceptional response to the 11-week shebang has prompted the company to offer three-week courses in Fernie. The three-week course allows more competent skiers/snowboarders to obtain the level 1 instructor qualification in a much shorter time-scale.
To find out more about NONSTOP Ski's courses visit www.nonstopsnow.com or telephone 0845 365 1525
Western Daily Press - 2003
Tom Skis into his Dream Job
Life was becoming a nine-to-five hell for Tom Williams as he toiled away as a university lab assistant. He'd pass the day dreaming about being free on the ski slopes snowboarding.
The Grinding, groundhog day monotony was making him mad and his girlfriend was beginning to see it taking a toll on his temper. The highlight of every year was getting enough money together to head for the snow and indulge his passion. Tom, an extreme sports enthusiast, found himself hemmed in and resented the way his life was going nowhere. He'd rather it was going downhill fast, on a snowboard. As winter approaches many of us will sympathise as we battle against the depression of the long dark nights and lack of excitement. That's why the holiday firms advertise their exotic breaks as the grey days set in.
'I felt stuck in goldfish bowl,' says Tom, 27, from the forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. 'I'd been skateboarding since I was four and that had evolved into snowboarding and skiing. 'I loved the lifestyle and the buzz of the activity, but I didn't know how to turn it into an occupation and earn enough to make a living.'
Then Tom heard about NONSTOP Ski, a company specialising in turning people's passions into a career.
The company runs an 11-week intensive course and a condensed 3-week course, with internationally accepted qualifications that turn students into instructors. The residential courses are held in Fernie, a spectacular Canadian ski resort. 'The course is run by a team of highly-skilled individuals, carefully selected for their related experience, professionalism, coaching prowess and caring attitudes.' explains NONSTOP Ski's spokeswoman Tessa Malloy.
'The group is tasked to develop their mountain knowledge and ski techniques, including avalanche safety and understanding the teaching techniques necessary to instruct at all levels. The short course runs from December 28 to January 17, costs £2,950 and the full courses from January to March for £5,800.
Trainees graduate with either the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance or the Association of Snowboard Instructors.
Tom qualified and now works abroad and also in Britain at snowboard and ski centres in Devon and Cornwall. 'Nearly six thousand pounds might seem a lot of money, but I think it was worth it to get a significant global qualification and change my life completely.' he says. 'I had a great time, but importantly I am now doing a job I love. Which before was just an all-consuming hobby. It's terrific earning money for having fun'.
Guardian Education - 2003
Life’s First Journey – Liz Ford
Richard Irving, 19, was due to start a degree in international politics at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, in September, until he travelled to the Falkland Islands on his gap year last October. But after six months working as a sheep hand and agricultural labourer in Fitzroy, arranged through Gap Activity Projects, and two months exploring South America, Irving, from Stroud in Gloucestershire, has decided to extend his time away from the books for at least another year. And when he does eventually go to university, he hopes to study English.
No one warned him taking time out between his A-levels and university could change his plans quite so dramatically. “When you have time away from school, you start to think about things,” he says. “It raises questions about whether you’re doing the wrong course. I thought I should wait a bit and go to university when I’m ready.”
His friend Duncan Taylor, 19, whom he met in the Falklands, is also reconsidering his options. Taylor, due to begin a business studies degree at Nottingham Trent in September, is now planning to study geography next year – after he’s worked for a conservation project in the Dutch Antilles for three months, that is.
But you don’t need to travel to the other side of the world for a life-changing experience. Jo Ebelewicz, 19, from Norwich, worked in a respite centre for adults with learning and physical difficulties in Islington, north London, for four months with the Community Service Volunteers during her gap year. Although she’s not changed her choice of degree at the University of Kent in Canterbury, she says her experiences have made her reconsider her future career.
“I’m sticking to ancient history for now, but I may change when I get there,” she says. “And if I wanted to consider working with people with learning disabilities, I’ve got experience.”
According to Richard Oliver, chief executive of the Year Out Group, an association of gap year organisations, a break between A-levels and university gives students the space to think through what they want to do with their lives, something they may not have had time for while studying.
“Things really do change, A well structured gap year, putting something back into the community in the UK or going on an expedition, can really make a complete difference. It’s a vital first step to independence.”
Thousands of young people are expected to embark on a gap year adventure over the next 12 months. The choice of where to go and what to do has never been greater. Whether you want to do voluntary work, learn a new skill, or simply buy a ticket and jump on the next plane, there is something to suit your taste ad bank balance.
The important thing to consider before settling on a project, says Oliver, is you future goals. “What I always try to say to students and parents is they really need to think where they want to be in five, seven or 10 years’ time – not necessarily in their jobs, but what they want to achieve – and then work out how they are going to get from where are to there.”
With spiralling university debts, more young people are beginning to look for gap opportunities in the UK. The Gap Year Company, whose website gapyear.com is packed with advice for “gappers”, says nearly 30% of young people say their reason for taking a year out is to save for university; 50% say getting work experience is another factor. Ebelewicz’s placement with CSV gave her the chance to combine both. Her placement gave her something to put on her CV, and she had the rest of the year to earn some money.
Each year, CSV places hundreds of full-time volunteers in social care and community projects in the UK, lasting between four and 12 months. Its student independent living projects, on which volunteers support undergraduates with disabilities at university, give gap-year students a slice of campus life before they begin their studies.
The organisation pays pocket money and offers free accommodation and food. And because volunteers live on site or close to their work, they get the experience of living away from home. Other voluntary opportunities in the UK can be found at volunterring.org, but for students interested in conservation, the National Trust offers three-month placements at its properties, and there are opportunities at the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and the Marine Conservation Society. Students keen on working with children could get involved with the Volunteer Reading Help organisation, which needs people to read with primary school children who find it a challenge.
Oliver believes volunteering in the UK is as beneficial as travelling abroad because it gives young people a better idea of how this country works. “At school, you don’t always see how everything links up. For example, if you work in a care home, you see the NHS at work and how the work of social services links to this.”
For those still keen on an overseas trip, the options keep on growing. Gap Activity Projects, which organises voluntary work in more than 30 countries for some 2,300 volunteers each year, has found a recent surge in demand for more diverse projects. So, along with more traditional teaching and community placements, students can now tag turtles in Trinidad and Tobago, work with the rare red macaw in Costa Rica, or visit archaeological excavations in Brazil.
For skiing enthusiasts NONSTOP Ski offers the chance to earn a professional ski or snowboarding qualification at the Fernie resort in Canada. Students on its three-month or three-week courses work towards an internationally recognised teaching award.
Or you could learn a language at an overseas centre through CESA Languages Abroad, which arranges classes in 13 countries, including Spain, Russia, Ecuador and Japan. Students of any ability can go for as little as two weeks or more than five months.
The cost will obviously vary according to project and location, but the Gap Year Company estimates the cost of six-month trip to be around £3,000. Some organisations offer bursary schemes for those who can prove financial hardship, and it’s worth shopping around for projects that pay a wage. Irving earned more than £400 a month while working in the Falklands. With cheap beer and not much else to spend the rest on h, he could well afford his additional South Atlantic travels. But if the benefits of life experience are not enough, news from the Association of Graduate Recruiters that a gap year will boost your employability when you leave university – whether you undertake voluntary work or backpack around the world – may help.
The key is how you translate your experiences into something that will impress an employer. “Gap years are a very valuable experience, but it’s how you present that back,” says Alison Hodgson, AGR’s finance director. “You can learn life skills from backpacking, but you wouldn’t often hear a graduate reflect back on their experiences that way. There’s a lot of value to be got from travelling, but it’s how students plan to learn from that.”
For £250, say, you can work towards a City & Guilds profile of achievement certificate, care of GapProfile.co.uk, which will give you something to include on you CV. However you plan to spend your gap year, be it trekking in the Australian outback or stacking shelves in supermarket, you can work towards the new qualification through a 10-step online programme. Students set out what they want to achieve during the year and at the end of the programme simply present a portfolio of evidence.
It’s never too late to organise a year out. In fact, more students are putting off applying for a placement, or booking flights, until after their A-level or Higher results. To help you on you way, check out gapyear.com. The choice is yours. You have the world at your feet.
Ski & Board Magazine - 2003
New Ski Instructors Course
NONSTOP Ski offer all sports-loving enthusiasts the chance to participate in the opportunity of a lifetime. Open to gap-year students and UK professionals alike, the newly-formed company has devised a three-month intensive course training applicants of all abilities to become qualified ski or snowboard instructors in the world renowned Canadian resort of Fernie.
The NONSTOP Ski course is run every year from January through March. Challenging, enjoyable and alternative, the intensive 11-week course culminates in each participant taking the qualifications in Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance (CSIA) or the Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors (CASI). Both are internationally-recognised teaching qualifications, permitting them to instruct world-wide.
NONSTOP Ski also offers a three-week short course allowing more competent skiers/snowboarders to obtain the level 1 instructors' qualification in a much shorter timescale. The first course will run Dec 28, 2003 to Jan 17, 2004.
To find out more about NONSTOP Ski's unique courses, visit www.nonstopsnow.com or telephone 0845 365 1525.
The Times - 2002
Gap Year Chance to Tackle the Slopes
Students can enjoy themselves and make a year's break pay by training as ski instructors abroad, says Sally Morris
As thousands of students this week contemplate their A-level results, more of them than ever before will also be planning to embark on their Gap Year before starting university. For some it is a chance to travel, for others a chance to earn some money. Now enterprising companies are offering the chance to do both by training to become ski or snowboard instructors.
For about £5000 students can take an intensive residential course in ski or snowboard instructing that will bring them the qualifications to teach almost anywhere in Europe, Australasia or North and South America.
Lisa Collett, 28, is operations director of NONSTOP Ski, which is opening its first course in Fernie, British Columbia, Canada, next January. She believes the course provides not just marketable ski skills, but also offers valuable lessons in personal development.
'The Gap Year should build character and confidence, give you something to stand out from the crowd, and I know that the communication skills required to become a ski instructor prove a real asset for students when they start at university.' she says. 'One minute you may be teaching a group of five-year olds, the next day a 50-year old lawyer, and you have to be able to deal with any number of situations. Our course lasts three months, from January to March, and is very intensive – this isn't simply a holiday. We ski from 9am until 4pm and we do a weekend survival trip during which students build an igloo to sleep in and make a fire to cook their food.'
The teaching groups are a maximum of 8 per instructor, and the students are provided with self-catering accommodation and breakfast and dinner five nights a week, catering for themselves at weekends.
Despite the intensity and high standard of the course, Lisa will accept beginners although she suggests that they should have at least have experienced dry slopes first to familiarise themselves with the equipment and technique. 'We aim for everyone to reach at least level 1 of the Canadian qualification system, which allows them to teach in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most of Europe.'
Daily Mail Ski & Snowboard Magazine - 2002
Live the Dream
Fancy becoming a ski or snowboard instructor? Two new courses can make it happen, and quicker than you think
Making the grade as an instructor can take years, but if you've got the cash, an intensive, season-long course will make the process quicker – plus you get to spend the entire season on the slopes as you train. There are a few companies offering this chance and new this season is one based in the powder heaven of up and coming Fernie in Canada.
NONSTOP Ski's three month course runs in Fernie from January through March, even transforming beginners into instructors. Skills learn range from tackling powder and slalom racing to avalanche safety and first-aid, as well as techniques to teach all abilities. You should be ready, after 11-weeks. To take the first level of qualifications of the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance or Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors, which permit you to teach all over the world. NONSTOP Ski's course costs £5,800, including accommodation, flights from London to Calgary, breakfast, most evening meals, four hours of instruction five days a week many more opportunities.