If you find yourself itching for more turns as soon as you’re winding your way home from the mountains, you might want to figure out a way you never have to leave. That’s exactly what former Nonstopper Brad Leicester did. From ski racing and a season with Nonstop, to chasing snow between his home mountain in Australia and the resort where it all began in Canada, Brad’s path to a career on snow he describes as ‘like no other out there’ has been fast. Here we catch up with him, on and off snow, to find out how instructor life is going.
Nonstop: When did you start skiing?
Brad: It was my parents who first got me into skiing. With two older siblings who had already started, I was always destined to get going on the slopes early. 1999 was my first year on snow, out of Thredbo in Australia. I was 3 years old.
Did you always plan on becoming a ski instructor?
I didn’t, actually. I grew up ski racing for 9 years, early starts, gym work, and didn’t think I wanted to work in the industry. And I didn’t want to mix work with something I enjoyed so much.
It was only when I stopped racing competitively, and skied for only a few weeks each season, that I found myself never wanting to leave the snow every time I started the 4-hour drive back home. From that moment, I made plans to get into the industry as quickly as I could.
The people I met, the memories I made, and the overall experience are all things I will never forget.
You joined our course in Fernie, Canada in 2019. How was your season?
Unreal. To have the opportunity to come to a resort like Fernie and ski solidly from January through to April, was such an amazing experience. Some of the best coaching I’ve ever had! The people I met, the memories I made, and the overall experience are all things I will never forget.
If you’re thinking about doing a season with Nonstop, or becoming an instructor, just do it! You’ll fall in love with Fernie.
Did coming from a racing background help with your instructor training?
It helped for sure, but came with its challenges, too. To go from training to be the quickest I can be, to having to rework and adjust my technique, was something that had me working hard. My racing background gave me solid skills and more knowledge into the language being used by our trainers, but aside from that I made sure to just absorb all the information I could to add to what I had already learned through racing.
You headed Thredbo Alpine Resort in Australia for your rookie season. How was that?
It was awesome, to go straight from Nonstop to a rookie season at my home mountain. Working at the resort where I grew up skiing and that had given me so much over the years was surreal. It was a clear sign to me that I had made the right choice in starting my career as an instructor. As first seasons go, I was super busy with all types of lessons. That’s not necessarily normal for a rookie season, but it was great to be thrown in at the deep end to find out what instructing was all about.
How did you get the job there?
Throughout the season in Fernie during my Nonstop course, I was lucky enough to meet and network with many instructors who had previously worked at Thredbo. Through that I was able to get in touch with the right people and put an application in. I sought out advice from the head of Fernie’s ski school to help build and design a CV that would help me stand out.
What was your biggest takeaway from that rookie season?
Whatever comes your way, take it head on and run with it. Don’t worry about your level of experience, or whether you think you should be teaching at a higher level. I told myself that whatever lesson I was given I had to go above and beyond for those guests to deliver the best lesson possible. So just work hard and the rewards will come.
It was a clear sign to me that I had made the right choice in starting my career as an instructor.
You returned to Fernie to teach for the northern winter. What drew you back?
To be honest, it was the ski hill and the people. To be back in Canada working at the hill where I gained my qualifications, is something that I feel very fortunate about. Coming back to familiar faces and working alongside our former coaches – Fernie was no longer an unknown, but rather like coming home.
What are the big differences between working in Canada and Australia, apart from the obvious?
Australia is very fast paced. Super busy all the time so you really have to learn how to take care of yourself, both body and mind. Fernie is a little more laid back and chilled, which provides a good change from the Australian season, so I probably get more time to get out and ski for myself.
What’s it like doing back-to-back seasons?
It’s a big commitment, you really must understand what you’re getting yourself into. Packing up your life and flying across the globe every few months. Not only is it a 14-hour flight between countries, but the amount of pre-planning you need to do to make sure you succeed is something that can sometimes get overlooked, from accommodation to transport and just general logistics.
But it’s obviously awesome, skiing for the best part of the year! Plus, if you return to the same places, it’s like having two homes.
Is being an instructor what you expected?
Better!! I never imagined I’d meet the people I have, nor have exposure to so much training for personal development, both in Fernie and Thredbo. At first, I thought as a rookie I’d be teaching primarily beginner skiers, but both resorts ensure to mix it up to give us variety and get the best out of us.
You just landed your CSIA Level 3 in Fernie. Congrats! How did that feel?
Thanks! Words cannot describe how I was feeling after passing. The exam was a stressful few days and it was such a nerve-racking moment waiting for my result. To pass was an absolute dream come true. Everything Nonstop provided me with had really helped me get to that point. It didn’t really sink in until the next day. I was just on cloud nine!
But now begins the training for the Level 4.
How did you train for your Level 3?
I began training for my 3 at the start of the Australian season, working not only on skiing fundamentals but on how to assess and develop skiers, as well as working in the gym to strengthen my joints and movements for efficient skiing. When I returned to Fernie, I’d go out daily on morning session and absorb as much as I could from various instructors. I’d also journal everything I was working on day-to-day, and review those when I skied.
What do you love most about this lifestyle?
It’s got to be the people I get to meet – and I’ve met so many great people since doing seasons. Also, the opportunities to watch people succeed at the sport that I love so much, it’s super rewarding. To see people visibly happier with how they ski, and for them to come back to me is a massive confidence boost.
It can’t be all rosy. Are there any challenges?
Most of the challenges are more practical, stuff like sorting out accommodation each winter when you don’t know anyone. It certainly helps to be proactive, begin searching early for accommodation, and network as much as you can with other people.
Juggling finances can also be tricky sometimes, managing pay in two currencies and two bank accounts. But you’ve just got to be sensible. If I manage my money well throughout the winter, by the time the next season rolls round I’m in a good position and can support myself if, for some reason, I wasn’t able to work for a couple of months – which means travel!
My plans are to chase winter, going back and forth between Australia and Canada for the next few years. Then work towards my Level 4 and start progressing as a race coach.
Do you do anything in the shoulder seasons?
I also work in a ski shop, so throughout the shoulder season I help with a change-over from ski to bike, and vice versa. Mountain biking and road biking are pursuits I will be starting this coming season.
What tips would you have for someone on becoming an instructor?
From a training perspective, listen to what your coaches have to say. Nonstop’s coaches are some of the best instructors I’ve ever had and extremely knowledgeable in everything they do.
In terms of jobs, get looking early and apply to numerous resorts – don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Make your CV simple and clean, but ensure you get across the information you want, and how you’d be a good match for the snow school. If it doesn’t work out, learn from it and go again.
Then when you make it as an instructor and start working in a ski school, do everything you can to show you’re eager to progress and take on any lesson thrown your way.
And have fun – this job is like no other out there!
What are your plans for the future?
Currently my plans are to chase winter, going back and forth between Australia and Canada for the next few years. Then work towards my Level 4 and start progressing as a race coach. Hopefully I get the opportunity work for Nonstop in the future, to give back to the brand that really got me to where I am today. Ultimately, my end goal is to be head of a ski school or head trainer at a resort.
We look forward to speaking with you.