Just finished uni and want to go travelling, escape to mountains, do something productive and top-up your bank account, all at the same time?
Dan did just that with our ski instructor internship in Fernie. Here’s how he went from student life in Bristol to paid ski instructor in the Canadian Rockies in one gnarly winter.
Course: ski instructor internship
Location: Fernie, Canada
Qualifications: CSIA level 1
Worked in: Fernie, Canada
The year out plan
I went straight from my A-levels to a physics degree at the University of Bristol. I hadn’t taken a gap year but I’d always wanted to do a ski season, as I’d heard about the amazing experiences my friends had enjoyed. I wanted to complete my degree first but I promised myself that I’d do a ski season before I got too involved in a career. Sure enough, when my three years at Bristol were up, I started making plans.
Several people had recommended doing an instructor course with Nonstop so, after my final exams, I signed myself onto their ski instructor internship in Fernie – that way, I could train and work as an instructor all in the same season. To fund my trip, I got a job in a warehouse and worked full time until two days before my flight to Canada.
The first part of the internship was a 3 week training program gearing up to the CSIA level 1 qualification. Every day started with a delicious cooked breakfast before taking a short bus ride up to Fernie Alpine Resort, which is about five minutes from the town.
There was a dozen of us on the course and we were split into two groups, based on our skiing experience. Coaching began at 10am each day, which gave us time for a couple of warm-up runs.
Our instructors were incredible skiers and had us progressing from day one.
I couldn’t believe how much I learned each day – it was intense but not overwhelming. Our instructors were incredible skiers and had us progressing from day one. Come last lap and we’d be ready to grab a beer at the Griz bar, before soaking ours muscles in the hot tub.
Aside from the training, we had a lot of fun too. The day we went cat skiing was memorable. Think perfectly fresh powder between backcountry trees with a gang of close friends, all day. Just a single run would have been enough, but we had nine of them.
After two weeks of training, it was crunch time. And I’ll never forget the day we got our exam results – it was a complete success as everyone of us passed. The students were ready to become the teachers.
STRAIGHT INTO A JOB
Upon receiving certified status, it was straight into work the next week. This was the start of my working winter, and I was getting paid to ski.
My first lesson was nerve-wracking but it didn’t take long to ease into things. As a rookie level 1 instructor, most of my lessons were with kids, which served up frustration and entertainment in equal doses. Teaching kids is like being paid to play on your skis, and you can’t fault that. By the end of most lessons, I’d be grinning as much as them.
Going on ‘session’ is part of being an instructor and provides a means to continue pushing yourself to help develop you as a skier.
We’d normally work four days a week, so we had plenty of time to freeride and explore Fernie’s gnarly terrain. On top of that, we could take advantage of the training sessions run by senior instructors. Going on ‘session’ is part of being an instructor and provides a means to continue pushing yourself to help develop you as a skier.
Living and skiing in Fernie
Fernie is by far the friendliest place I've ever lived, and by the end of the season I knew people all over town. But it was the mountain that initially drew me to this place.
The climate in Fernie is conducive for its famed powder dumps – it’s never too cold, unlike other Canadian resorts where it can drop below -20°C, providing ideal conditions for light, fluffy snow. And the terrain, well that’s is just the cherry on top, from in-bounds pow pillows to backcountry bliss.
It was like being back at university, but our days were spent knee-deep in powder rather than head-buried in books.
During the winter I lived in a shared house with others on the program, close to all the action. It was like being back at university, but our days were spent knee-deep in powder rather than head-buried in books.
The social life was off the scale. Whether you wanted to chill out, après or dance, you could find it. From local ice hockey matches to live music and seasonaire nights, every time you went out you’d be surrounded by friends. And the weekly alcohol-infused bingo at The Northern is probably the most fun routine night out I think I’ll ever experience,
One season to another
If you want to become a ski instructor and spend an amazing winter in Fernie, then stop thinking and do it. Don’t put it off until it becomes one of those things you always wish you’d done.
Life after that first winter turned into a summer in Canada with my girlfriend – who I met on the flight out here – followed by a second ski season.
If you’re taking a gap year, you’ll have a great time abroad whatever you do but a Nonstop course has to be one of the best experiences out there, and packing your training and work into one season is a great way to kick-start a life in the mountains.
For me, life after that first winter turned into a summer in Canada with my girlfriend – who I met on the flight out here – followed by a second ski season. If you want my advice, get yourself booked onto a Nonstop course and you’ll never look back.
We look forward to speaking with you.