When David Ombler took a career break, he hadn’t planned on travelling the world as a snowboard instructor, or on starting his own company.
Who would have thought that his snowboard instructor course and furniture design degree would have led to a global coaching career and the launch of a brand making handmade snowboards in the UK? Here’s how he did it.
Name: David Ombler
Course: 11 week snowboard instructor course
Location: Banff, Canada
Qualifications: CASI level 3
Worked at: SkiBig3, Canada / Mt Hotham, Australia / France
Delayed gap year
When I finished my furniture design course at university, I went straight into the industry to work. But I was conscious that I’d never taken a gap year and, after a few years, I started to get itchy feet.
I’d always wanted to work in a ski resort and considered the European chalet option, but a friend who’d done several seasons suggested doing an instructor training program: “it would be a huge adventure and your riding will improve far more than on a working season”.
When I started to look for courses, the one that stuck out most was the Nonstop program in Banff. It was somewhere I’d always wanted to go and there seemed to be a lot on offer. I’d heard many good things about Banff, the friendly Canadian welcome, and the quality of riding across its three mountain resorts. So I signed up without hesitation.
Beginnings of a new career
I went out to Banff a week before my course started, met up with a few others, and got some riding in. From day one I knew I had made the right decision. I had never experienced snow like it, and the slopes were so quiet compared to Europe.
The instructors pushed our riding to another level as we worked on everything from freeriding to core instructor competencies for our CASI exams. Weekends were our free time, so we’d go up to the mountain and ride with friends. Nonstop also arranged adventures like cat boarding, snowmobiling and trips to other mountain resorts. I was loving every minute.
When I first set out with Nonstop, I did it to improve my own riding but, during that course, I realised that instructing was something I wanted to do. By the time our 11 weeks were up I had achieved my CASI level 2 and was looking for instructor jobs. Working in the snowsports industry was something I had to keep doing.
Canada – Australia - France
From then on, my life became all about being in the mountains. I was set on returning to Banff and, with a two-year working visa, landed a job as a snowboard instructor at SkiBig3 to teach across Banff’s resorts.
Doing Nonstop had helped prepare me for mountain life and teaching snowboarding. It didn’t take me long to discover how rewarding it was to teach people the sport you love, getting paid for it and being able to ride with some of the best instructors in Canada.
I stayed in Banff for the summers and worked with a local carpentry firm. Just as good as the winters, our summers were filled climbing, mountain biking and kayaking. There was always a barbeque or a party to go to – all round, an amazing lifestyle.
After my third season in Banff, the world had gone into recession and it was noticeable on the slopes. There was less work going around, but on the plus side I had more time to train for my level 3, explore other resorts and develop my love for all things snow related. By close of winter I had achieved my CASI level 3 and was more than determined than ever to keep pushing myself.
Next on the radar was Australia. I was offered a job at Mount Hotham and that was the start of a new chapter doing back-to-back season between Australia and the French Alps. I loved what I was doing, but was looking for a new challenge within the snowsports industry.
Birth of a snowboard brand
A friend of mine had mooted the idea trying to make our own snowboards, and the idea rattled around in my head. Working in Australia at the time, I started to conduct research into designing and building snowboards, and began to save money to help fund the idea. Committed to get it off the ground, I wrote a business plan and moved back to the UK.
The main reason for setting up my own business was to keep me in the ski and snowboard industry. I could combine my trade as a furniture designer and maker with my skills as a snowboarder and my passion for the sport.
I wanted to offer something that wasn’t available in the UK; to start a small snowboard brand with custom design options. It would’ve been easy to get boards produced in China but that’s what most other companies were doing. I wanted to be better, and different. And so DOUK Snowboards was born.
Today, we still design, build and engineer every aspect of our boards (and skis) here in the UK, in our own workshop. Our locally sourced timber comes in as raw planks which we mill and shape to produce our own unique wood course. We shape and edge our own bases, print our own graphics and assemble them using custom-made equipment that we built ourselves.
We also clean them up, grind, wax and package the boards ready to be shipped and ridden anywhere in the world. The opening of our workshop featured in an article by Whitelines.
Building a quality and reliable brand, and producing in the UK with full control over every aspect of the design and making of our products is so important to us. We want to contribute to and develop ski and snowboard design at large, and ensure our boards ride like a dream, as that’s what will captivate our customers.
After doing that Nonstop course so many years ago I’m still good friends with the people I met in Banff. Nonstop changed my life and, as a thank you, DOUK Snowboards now offer a 15% discount to all Nonstoppers, past and present.
To claim your 15% DOUK discount, contact us for a code, then head over to the DOUK website.
We look forward to speaking with you.