Here’s a great story from NONSTOPer Jay Gethen about his journey to becoming a snowboard instructor in several resorts around Canada.
It all started back in the 07/08 season when I took the NONSTOP Banff 11 week instructor course. I had been snowboarding for 4 years at the time, I’d learnt at Tamworth Snowdome and rode every week for 2 years before I even stepped foot on a mountain. When I arrived in Banff it was only the third time I’d ever snowboarded on real snow and actual mountains!
Ever since I started snowboarding I wanted to become an instructor. Unlike many of the others on the course, I wasn’t just on a gap year between college and university, I was hoping to start my instructing career. I had left school, spent a year at college and then went to work for a year to save the money for my instructor course. I managed to save enough so that I could go out at the very start of the season and stay to the end, getting as much riding in as possible.
I spent a lot of time deciding to go down the route of becoming CASI certified snowboard instructor. I had heard good things about Canadian mountains and decided it was the place for me. By the end of a great 11 weeks I managed to come out with my CASI Level 2 and my Park and Carving certifications. I was really stoked to get my level 2 that first season; I really had to push myself for it but it was well worth the extra effort!
Come the end of the season I headed back to the UK to work for the summer, save for next winter and apply for jobs. I found having my level 2 helped a great deal with getting a job. I got a few offers and took a job at Silver Star. It was a lot smaller than Banff but is an awesome resort, with great people, a great snow school and awesome terrain. Whether your looking for a park to shred or some steeps, it had everything.
Working my first season as an instructor was everything I had hoped for. As you’d expect you don’t earn all that much, so money was tight, but that minor detail is far outweighed with all the time you get on snow for yourself and the awesome buzz you get when you teach a kid to do there first sideslip, turn, jump or rail. I was lucky enough that during my first season I got to teach a fair amount of higher end lessons, quite a few of them being park, which is one of my favourite things to teach and ride.
During my first season I had every intention of looking forwards to my level 3, not expecting to pass it, but to take the course and maybe do the exam. The difference between level 2 and 3 seemed so very big that season and in all honesty I hadn’t put in the time and effort required to pass it. That said I took the exams and passed part of it. As I’d expected, I had no problem passing my park riding part, but failed on most everything else. That pretty much wrapped up my first season teaching, it had been a great and I was happy to have passed some of my level 3 and was focused on finishing it the next season, so I went back to the UK to work again.
After that I had a year out of snowboarding while I saved some more money. Come the winter after my year out, I sent my applications out again and was lucky enough to get a job at Mt Washington Alpine Resort on Vancouver Island. I travelled out to Vancouver Island with my room mate from my season at Silver Star, who also happened to have done a NONSTOP snowboard instructor course in Fernie the season before I was in Banff. Mt Washington was quite small compared to what I was used to but it was an awesome mountain with some ridiculous snow. We had 18 metres over the season, more snow than any other resort in the world that season (something I’ll probably never get to say again! ). Even from early December, I lived on the mountain in a cabin and most of the time could hardly believe what i had seen. From the end of November to the start of January I don’t remember seeing the sky more than once or twice due to the insane amount of snow falling! By the second week in December our second story windows were getting covered because of the snow banks building up around our cabin.
Mt Washington was an awesome resort to work for, there was always plenty of work and they have some great staff at the snow school. There are quite a few instructors who have been there for years and you can see why it would be hard to leave. They were really good at instructor training, which I was very thankful for. I was a lot more focused on my level 3 this season and, as such, went on every training session I could and got to run some as well as part of my preparation for my level 3 exams. I got good feedback from my trainers throughout the season and had plenty of chances to talk over teaching theory as well as riding theory and technique, which really helped getting things into my head for my exams.
I went into my exams feeling a lot more confident than I had done the season before, knowing myself my teaching and knowledge was a lot better. Nights spent writing lesson plans and revising my pedagogy had definitely helped with that. By the end of my exams I couldn’t have been happier, having passed all the remaining segments of my level 3 and even passing my pedagogy with above standard, which I was stoked on! After I passed my level 3, I got more and more chances to run training sessions, which was awesome and was a great feeling helping people train for there own exams, like I’d been helped with mine!
It had been tough getting my level 3 for sure but well worth the time and money it took to get here. There are still plenty of things to aim for next though, the main focus for the next few seasons is starting my evaluator training. After that I’ll keep on heading straight for my level 4, hoping to pass it with the freestyle segment, as I can’t think of anything better than a great spring day in the park when there’s no powder to play on! Hopefully at some point I’ll get involved in training on a gap programme somewhere, as I couldn’t think of a better place to end up.
I have applied for a number of resorts I’m interested in working for next year, mainly some of the Banff resorts. Having been around a bit, it seems time to return to Banff where it all started, to further my training knowing there’s plenty of great people out there that can help! All in all it’s been an amazing journey so far and I’m still only at the beginning. I look forward to seeing what snowboarding has in store for me but one thing I’m sure of is that I’m in it for the long haul. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything but this!