From splitboarding to pow days, George had a crazy amount of fun on his Nonstop snowboard instructor course in Fernie, and has since travelled and worked all over the world in the mountains of Canada, Australia, Japan and China. Here are ten highlights from his adventures.
Name: George Long-Howell
Course: 11 week snowboard instructor course
Location: Fernie, Canada
Qualifications: CASI level 2
Worked in: Hakuba, Japan / Fernie, Canada / Mt. Hotham, Australia / Thaiwoo, China
1. UNREAL POWDER RIDING
Nonstop’s instructors strike a perfect balance between exploring the mountain and training for CASI qualifications. Fernie holds a legendary status for its champagne powder and, when it dumped, we got to ride until there was no powder left. During the program I experienced some of my deepest ever powder days – and I’ve done a season in Japan, so that’s saying something.
2. FIRST SPLITBOARDING EXPERIENCE
The day I went splitboarding with Nonstop was incredible. A snowboard that divides in half, a splitboard enables you to travel up the mountain by attaching grippy ‘skins’ to the base. Going off into Fernie’s sidecountry and discovering new parts of the mountain was amazing. I almost enjoyed the ascent more than the descent.
3. A crazy day of cat boarding
Ask anyone who’s done a Nonstop course, and I bet they’ll mention the cat boarding. A bit like heli boarding, you get to ride untouched powder every run – except that your transport to the top of the mountain is a snow cat rather than a helicopter. You get to cut fresh tracks on pillow-soft powder, and as soon as you get to the bottom you see the cat arriving, ready to take you up to a new spot. With ten friends by your side, it’s a day of shred you’ll never forget.
4. LEARNING TO PENGUIN SLIDE
Unbelievably, one of my favourite days on the course was a day it rained. Going up the hill was gloomy in the drizzle but, as we were getting ready for our morning session, the instructors told us we’d be learning to penguin slide. From the top of the first chair, it was then a mad race to the bottom, sliding downhill on our bellies. What could have been a miserable day turned into one of my best memories – and we actually learnt something too.
5. PASSING MY CASI LEVEL 1 & 2
Nonstop’s coaches are some of the best I’ve ever met and, alongside all the fun and games, they know exactly how to get you trained up and ready to pass your CASI exams. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still have to work hard and put in the effort, but you can have a lot of fun at the same time. Everyone on my course nailed their CASI level 1 and 2, and we were set to conquer the industry.
6. Working at the Ski & Snowboard Show
A few months after returning from my course, I helped Nonstop out on their stand at the London Ski & Snowboard Show, to chat with people about my experiences in Canada and offer any advice where I could. One of the first people I spoke to was a recruiter who asked me to send over any Nonstop-trained instructors in the market for a job. I totally forgot to tell her I was indeed a newbie instructor in search of work. So the next day I visited the stand myself and before I knew it I had an been offered my first instructor position in Japan. The dream was alive.
7. TRAVELLING THE WORLD
Since my Nonstop days, I’ve lived, worked and snowboarded in some of the most incredible places in the world, including Canada, Japan and Australia. The CASI qualifications you can achieve are internationally recognised, so you can apply almost anywhere. As an instructor, you get to travel, experience new cultures, and see the mountains change from green to white and back again. Even though you’re working throughout winter, there’s always time to explore during the shoulder seasons.
8. Facing my fears
I was quite nervous when I first started learning to teach, and that feeling ramped up before taking my first ever snowboard lesson in Japan. But when the time arrived all my Nonstop training came back to me and everything went smoothly. After your first lesson you become completely relaxed with meeting new people and getting them riding. Nonstop’s coaching equips you with a toolbox of teaching methods, tactics and drills, so you’ll be ready for anything that comes your way.
9. Getting paid to snowboard
Being paid to do what you love is a dream come true. Pay for snowboard instructors varies with every job you get and, generally speaking, the more qualifications you have, the higher your pay. There are also various bonus schemes to boost your earnings, plus the tips and perks. If a client offers to buy you a beer or lunch then take it; you get to understand that person better, build a bond and, through this, you can teach them more effectively.
10. Giving people their first experience on snow
I’ll never forget the time I taught a large Hawaiian man who had never seen snow before. He rode big waves back home, so knew a thing or two about being on a board, but never in the white stuff. I wasn’t sure how it would go but after an hour he was lapping the beginner slope. He didn’t have the best technique but he was loving it, taking big crashes and getting back up. What a hero.
My Nonstop course was unreal, and just look how many incredible experiences it could lead to. If you’re thinking about joining, then get on and do it. Don’t mess about with the whole ‘should I, shouldn’t I’ thing like I did for two years. As soon as I signed up I knew it was the right decision – my only regret is not doing it earlier.
We look forward to speaking with you.