From factory worker to snowboard instructor
Here's the latest of our series of blogs from past NONSTOP clients who have gone on to work as instructors around the world. After falling in love with snowboarding, five years ago Paul gave up his factory job to pursue his dreams...
Well, snowboarding was something that I always wanted to do but just seemed too inaccessible. That was until I was lucky enough to meet a guy at work, who turned out to be a snowboarder and sold me his old board (a Burton Charger). I was really pleased to get my own board but had no idea how to ride the thing!
I've always known that we had a dry slope nearby, but I’d never seen snowboarding on there, but after looking into it, I found out I could get lessons there. I was straight on it and got three or four booked up, and got to the stage where I could ride from top to bottom in one piece, without too many knocks and bruises! It wasn’t pretty, mostly side slipping, but so what - to me I was snowboarding.
I saved up for the winter and took a holiday to Bulgaria for a week. Conditions were terrible, with a big lack of snow and totally over crowed slopes. Being pretty-much self taught, I picked myself up slam after slam on ice. Despite how hard it was, though, I still had an awesome time and, come next winter, I was off to France for a week. Conditions there were fantastic, with huge mountains, miles of piste, loads of snow and nice sunny days. Still my technique was awful and I sustained my first real injury - broken ribs on the first day! Riding for the rest of the week was painful but I was having such a great time I didn't want to go home.
The next winter came, after what seemed like a life time. I spent a long time looking through all my snowboard mags, making a wish list of all the places I wanted to go, and all the kit I wanted to buy. I was off to France again. This time I was getting better, riding at a reasonable pace, and was in love with the feeling of the freedom that snowboarding gives you. We had even more snow that year and I had my first experience of powder and off piste riding. I left that holiday with a totally new look on snowboarding - it was no longer just a hobby, something to do when winter came, this was something I wanted to do full time every day - it become part of my life.
After a few weeks back in my rather dull factory job, I knew I had to make some big changes. One or two weeks in the mountains just wasn't enough. I had a full time job and a mortgage and the idea of leaving that kind of security seemed crazy, just for a few months in the snow. What would I do when it was time to come home?
I started to think about the possibilities of having a career in snowboarding, and that is when I found NONSTOP. What they could offer answered my dilemma; I could do my season and come back with some career changing qualifications. So I rented out my flat, said goodbye to my old job and I jetted off to Fernie.
Upon arriving in Fernie, I was amazed at how much snow there was. It was quite late at night and Ididn't really get the chance to see anything. The next day we had a quick meet and greet and were shown around town by our instructors. Fernie was just how it looked on the website, I couldn't wait to get to know the place properly. After our tour we had a few hours till our proper welcome and evening meal, so we had the choice of staying to have a look around town or rushing back to our pad to don our kit and hit the hill. It didn't take much persuading to get me on the hill! I was so excited to experience the legendary powder. We only had a few hours, so decided to just stick to the elk chair and lapped the run a few times. Not being used to riding deep snow on the piste I was falling all over the place, my bad technique letting me down again, but that was all to change over the next few months.
On the first day of training we were put in groups to match us with people of similar ability and experience. Our group was instructed by Ryan for the first few weeks. At first it was all about getting to know the hill, having fun and hucking ourselves off everything we could find. Once we were all settled in, we concentrated more on improving our riding, with loads of new tips and techniques to deal with. It's hard at first to take your riding right back to square one and iron out all your old habits. You start thinking that you’re actually getting worse! When you’re riding for four days a week with expert instruction, it doesn't take long be for you progress and really start enjoying pushing your limits - learning new things every day.
It's not all about your riding though, the whole point for me was to become a snowboard instructor. That's where the other half of the course came into play, with days spent running mock lessons. Getting used to being in front of a group of people and trying to teach them something is quite nerve racking at first, even though they’re your friends that you spend all day with. It's just all about having the confidence in what you’re teaching though, and you’re in no better hands than with the NONSTOP team. What they don't know, isn’t worth knowing. The NONSTOP programme strikes a good balance between work and play. Even though you do a lot of work getting your riding improved and learning how to become instructors, you have a lot of time just to have fun and enjoy yourself. The most fun I had would have to be the cat-boarding - that was so amazing! Fresh lines, deep pow, blue bird day – it couldn't get better!
The down side to having so much fun doing a season in Fernie, is that the months seem like weeks and the weeks feel like days! So it's not long be for it's time to take your C.A.S.I level 1. I will all ways remember my exam – I had no problems with my riding but when it came to the teaching side, I had a major, what jay called "brain fart", and struggled at first. I pulled it together though and it was all good in the end. I passed the level 1 and went on to get my race coach too, which I was happy about, yippee!
The end of our time with NONSTOP was fast approached and it was time for me to think about using my new qualification and look for work next season. Rupert put me in contact with a woman who was head of staffing at Sunday River resort. She had hired people from NONSTOP before and was keen to hire more, so she offered me a job for the coming the winter.
After getting my visa and flights sorted, I was heading out to the U.S of A to start my new job as asnowboard instructor. I arrived in resort shortly before opening day and I went through all the formalities of starting a new job, with introductions, briefings and getting to know who you’re working with. It turned out that the people I would be working with were a really cool bunch and so friendly. I still keep in touch with a lot of them now.
Our head of ski school was really supportive of her staff and made sure everyone was totally comfortable and ready to take lessons before they were let loose on the hill with a group of guests. The one thing that you don't get prepared for is just how busy it can get in a resort. It doesn't take long before you develop the eyes in the back of head your skill. Negotiating your lesson of little rippers through a mass of people in the base area and up a crowded lift is not for the faint of heart. You just hope they all paid attention and are all waiting for you at the pickup point at the top, haha!
My confidence soon grew and I could start having a lot of fun with my lessons; finding out whatapproach works for certain problems people was having. Thinking of new fun things to get my lessons to do during the time I had with them was definitely the best part of the job. My time at Sunday River gave me a wealth of experience in teaching, from kids to adults, and even getting a little client base for my private lessons too. That's the way to a better wage at the end of the week. I enjoyed the teaching side of things but loved the whole life style - I knew I’d made the right choice.
Now nearly five years on and I'm still living that lifestyle. Still teaching, still having so much fun. Only now I’m right back where it all started at my local dry slope, teaching six days a week, meeting new friends and introducing new people to the sport all the time. This is something i would definitely recommend to someone who loves snowboarding or someone who just wants a totally unique career. Thank you NONSTOP!
A very happy instructor. Paul.
If you'd like to follow in the footsteps of Paul, check out our range of snowboard instructor courses here, or our ski instructor courses here