Nat took part in our 11 week instructor course in Fernie last year before heading to university. She hopes to return at some point after uni to enjoy another incredible season, here’s how the last one went…
During sixth form I started thinking about taking a gap year and one of the things I wanted to achieve was to gain some ski instructors qualifications. I started skiing at the age of five in France so in my year out I want to go further afield. Canada seemed like a great option and I initially thought of going to Whistler, but after attending a talk from Nonstop I was persuaded to go to Fernie, and I am so glad I did! I had such an awesome time. I originally thought I would do the 3 week course with the intention of finding instructor work afterwards; however I changed my mind and completed the 11 week course, which was amazing. The 11 weeks went so quickly, so I can’t imagine how quickly it would have felt only doing the 3 weeks. Doing the longer course allowed me to gain more ski instructor qualifications, as well as spending more time with my new friends. I now have some great memories and we still all keep in contact and reminisce.
During my season I stayed at the Red Tree Lodge, which was such good fun. It was a great place to live, there were many of us there, so it was easy to make friends and there was always something going on. We had everything we needed – our meals were there and the bus up to the hill left from right outside. The course attracts a mixed age group of people, which is great as you get to share all sorts of stories with everyone and just have a blast together. Fernie is not a massive town, so you never really feel lost at any point and you manage to settle in pretty quickly.
I went out a week early, which I think is a great thing to do. It allows you to get your bearings and meet some of the people on your course before you start lessons with them. I bought my skis out there and already had a pair of boots. I discovered my boots were way too big for me so ended up having to get another pair out there. The people who fitted the equipment were very helpful.
The snow fall was insane, it just kept coming and the terrain was really varied. We had lesson all-day from Monday to Thursday with a break for lunch. Groups had at most 8 people, allowing you to get to know the people you skied with really well, as well as the instructors. We had a different instructor each week, which was great as each of them taught slightly differently. Wednesday afternoons were a chance for you to ski with other people and you had the option to either do racing or freestyle. I did the racing and got my level 1 race coach qualification. All the instructors were super friendly and great fun, and looked out for you both on and off the slope! There was an optional workshop once a week, I think I went to nearly all of them and they were really interesting. There was an additional option to do an avalanche course, which I think was valuable and interesting. There was a chance to ski other resorts sometimes as well. We all had a day trip to Kimberley for a little change in scenery. We also had the chance to visit Whitefish, Montana in America for a weekend, which was a fun little adventure and we got to ski different terrain. We also enjoyed some fancy dress skiing on “Hot Dog Day” where we were all clothed in 80’s gear which had been auctioned off to us for charity. We also had a very entertaining fancy dress synchronised skiing completion.
As well as the awesome skiing in Fernie there were other fun activities to take part in with your friends. You could buy credits and spend them on the activities of your choice. I took part in the winter camping which was such a cool experience. We set out in the afternoon and went just beyond the boundary and then dug a snow hole where we spent the night. It was a bit of a challenge but good fun. Other activities included snowmobiling, street hockey and sledging. We also supported the “Fernie Ghostriders”the local ice hockey team and enjoyed going to the games each week. There was a trip to Callagary, it was cool go to a city in Canada as well. We explored the town then went to a major league game of ice hockey.
Nonstop was such a great experience, definitely a highlight of my gap year. I had so much fun and literally laughed all day every day. Everyone I met was so friendly from the organisers of the course to the people on the course. Since then I have gone to uni, some of my friends went back out to Fernie this season and I got their updates via Facebook and have been slightly jealous. I very much look forward to returning after uni. However I have been lucky enough to go skiing with my uni. And then I got to go skiing again at Easter and used my ski qualifications as I worked as an instructor in Italy with Interski (See the Interki Instructor blog).