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# Instructor

Which Nonstop ski instructor course is for you?

We weigh up each of our flagship season-long ski instructor courses in Fernie, Banff and L2A. (12 min read)

Doing a ski or snowboard instructor course is an epic way to spend a season, level up your riding, and land qualifications that can take you around the world. But choosing which one to join, although a great dilemma to have, can be tricky.

 

We run three courses across Canada and France, with options in FernieBanff and Les 2 Alpes. Every rider is different but between our courses, we’ve a season for every vibe and style on and off the hill. From the terrain you’ll ride to the powder, après scene and activities on offer, we weigh up all the big features.

 

Scroll, skim, or bounce around, but read the verdicts for a quick snapshot.

 

 


 

Terrain

 

The terrain you ride influences your style and progression potential. Terrain is king so here’s the slope lowdown.

 

Fernie 5/5

In short, steep and deep. Known for its playful and gnarly slopes, Fernie is a hardcore mountain with cult status among freeriders. You’ve got the biggest vertical in the Rockies and more than 2,500 acres of adventurous terrain across five natural bowls. Many of Fernie’s 142 named trails are ungroomed, with 75 rated as black or double black. There are steeps, chutes, open pistes and powder fields, plus gullies, cliff drops and perfectly spaced forests for tree riding. From the Saddles, a notorious series of chutes, to thigh-burning powder laps on Snake Ridge, there’s plenty to get your adrenaline pumping, and intermediate runs through every bowl for cruisy turns.

 

Banff 4.5/5

Exclusive to Nonstop, youll ski all three of Banffs resorts Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Mt Norquay. Between them, theres just about any type of terrain you could dream up, from immaculate pistes to death-defying steeps, with over 8,000 acres of slopes. Sunshine Village boasts an open mountain and one of the best resort-accessed backcountry zones in Canada, the Delirium Dive. With powder bowls and a World Cup downhill route, Lake Louise is varied with big freeride potential on the backside and intermediate runs from every chair. The expert terrain has a heap of gnarly features that includes rocky bowls, cliff drops and cornice-capped chutes. Norquay is the local gem and great for fast laps, bumps and moguls.

 

Les 2 Alpes  4/5

Les 2 Alpes is a relatively mellow resort at first glance, with open faces and cruisy pistes, but theres freeride scope, bumps and good off-trail options when you know where to look. Known for the largest skiable glacier in Europe and its 220km of slopes, demanding terrain is limited within L2A, but nearby climbing village La Grave offers some of Europes best off-piste skiing under the stewardship of a guide, with couloirs and steeps around every rock face.

 

Verdict: Each resort has its own style, but all boast varied slopes and terrain. If you want big freeride potential with steep, deep and maximum challenge, Fernie is for you. If you want to bounce between three varied resorts, Banff has options for any kind of riding. And if you love clocking up fast groomer laps and sometimes dipping into the off-piste, L2A is epic.

Fernie's famous forests and some of the best weaving tree-riding in Canada

Fernie's famous forests and some of the best weaving tree-riding in Canada

Powder

 

Bounding through waist-deep powder is one of the best feelings you can enjoy as a skier or snowboarder. If pow popping is on your agenda, heres the need-to-know.

 

Fernie 5/5

With up to 10 metres of pillow-soft snow falling each season, Fernie is one of the best places in the world to ride powder. Located within the famous Powder Highway zone, the snow is light, fluffy and deep, and it makes riding the steeps surprisingly accessible. With hardly any crowds, scoring freshies is easy too. It’s no fluke; a combination of local weather systems, the horse-shoe shape of the bowls and Pacific fronts are to thank for Fernie’s frequent dumps and feather-light flakes. A nod to the local spirit, there’s even a ‘20cm powder rule’, which dictates that when it snows more than 20cm, work’s off, shops close and everyone shreds for the morning.

 

Banff 4/5

Each of Banffs three resorts boast different characteristics when it comes to snowfall. Of the three, Sunshine Village enjoys the biggest dumps thanks to its location and high elevation, with up to 9 metres spread out over long season from November to May. The snow is soft and silky, and the faceshots are top dollar. Lake Louise enjoys a more modest 4m snowfall with the powdery backside a go-to, while Norquay gets around 3m.

 

Les 2 Alpes 3/5

L2As high altitude ensures good snow coverage across the mountain. The resort isnt known for its powder with around 3 metres of snowfall but, like any mountain in the Alps, when the powder Gods are on your side, the days can be epic and theres plenty of vertical for long powder laps. Youll get a few dumps over the season, but nothing like in the Great White North of Canada.

 

Verdict: Its not rocket science. Along with Japan, Canada is one of the ski worlds holy grails when it comes to powder. Both Fernie and Banff are great choices, but Fernie takes a comfortable win for powder-hounds.

One of those deep days in Fernie, demoed by Nonstop coach Tom

One of those deep days in Fernie, demoed by Nonstop coach Tom

Freestyle

 

Are you a park-rat or fancy boosting your jibbing skills? Heres our take on the freestyle scenes.

 

Fernie 4/5

Fernies freestyle culture is rooted in all-mountain freeride and powder jibbing. Theres a park with rails, boxes and canons to hone your slides, but no kickers. The freestyle scene is all about playfulness, natural jibs, cliffs, rollers, pillows and cat-tracks, dotted all over the hill. If you want to pop, butter and catch air, youll learn where features are by keeping your eyes peeled for local rippers. Pro riders like Lines Dylan Siggers have crafted their style on Fernies slopes. Check him out on IG for an idea @dylansiggers.

 

Banff 5/5

Along with Whistler, Banff is one of Canada’s freestyle hubs. Each of Banff’s three resorts boast at least one terrain park with features of all shapes and sizes, from XL kickers to beginner boxes. Sunshine Village and Lake Louise go toe-to-toe in shaping their set-ups, with Sunshine’s 12-acre Great Divide Terrain Park home to 50-or-so features. Testament to the scene, Sunshine also plays host to unique freestyle events like Holy Bowly. Scroll their park IG @shredssv to see what goes on.

 

Les 2 Alpes 5/5

L2A has one of the hottest freestyle set-ups in Europe. The park is mega, known as Freestyle Land, with features of all sizes. There are lines for every level of rider, from baby kickers to large jumps and XL hits. Youll find boxes, rails, hips, rollers, butter pads and more through the terrain park, located at 2,400m. Add in the regular bluebird days enjoyed by L2A and the park vibes pop, with frequent freestyle sessions, events and music. Check their park Insta for a flavour @2alpessnowpark.

 

Verdict: For freestyle, its a photo-finish between Banff and Les 2 Alpes. Both have a buzzing freestyle culture and great park set-ups, but with Banff you have three resorts, multiple parks and so even more features to butter between. And if youre inspired big-mountain freestyle like on the Freeride World Tour, Fernie is your one.

Nonstop Banff coach Brian in Sunshine Village

Nonstop Banff coach Brian in Sunshine Village

Après

 

When it comes it après, were talking about being mountainside in your ski boots, dancing to DJ sets, Euro pop and ABBA.

 

Fernie 3.5/5

Canada isnt known for its on-mountain après but theres a healthy scene in Fernie. Theres a bar at the base called the Griz where riders hang out after a day on the hill. Regular days are mellow with social beer jugs, while weekends get more rowdy with live bands and DJs for special events.

 

Banff 3/5

Whatever resort you ride, youve always got to catch the bus back to Banff. The nightlife is great in the main village, but the resort après is chilled. There are a few bars at Sunshine Village and Lake Louise where you can enjoy some end-of-day beers and soak up the sun in spring, but the scene is more about the evening in Banff.

 

Les 2 Alpes 5/5

For seasonaire life, the vibe is buzzing and the après is big. L2A is a party resort, renowned for its mountain-top, DJ-fuelled après at the Pano Bar. When it finishes here, everyone (sketchily) slides down to the base and congregates at Umbrella Bar to keep the party pumping. After that, there are more than 30+ bars in town. There are regular events on through the season and special appearances for big parties.

 

Verdict: If you love to après-ski and dare dance on the tables, Les 2 Alpes is top dog. Its one of the best après destinations in the Alps.

Vibey on the sundeck at Fernie's Griz bar

Vibey on the sundeck at Fernie's Griz bar

Nightlife

 

Are you a dance until dawn type or do you prefer a few social drinks before catching first lift the next day. Heres our take on the nightlife.

 

Fernie 4/5

The nightlife in Fernie is eclectic, and can be chilled or wild depending on the night. Theres everything from big nights fuelled by live music at The Northern, to jam sessions at local pub Brickhouse and delicious mixes at cocktail bar Fernie Distillers. Theres no nightclub as such, but the options are fun and, for seasonaires, house parties are common.

 

Banff 5/5

Banff is a party-town with a buzzing nightlife and the ski scene takes it up a level. There are numerous pubs and bars throughout the town hosting different events, like High Rollers for pins, pints and pizza where you can bowl, dance and eat, or Wild Bills for a classic Canadian atmosphere. There’s a nightclub too, Dancing Sasquatch, for the big nights, where you can shimmy and shake until the early hours with epic DJ sets and house music.

 

Les 2 Alpes 5/5

After the slope-side après, L2A keeps the party going. There are more than 30 bars in town each with their own feel and atmosphere. The Polar Bear Pub is popular with Brits with beers and good vibes, or theres Motown Café for daily happy hour. L'Avalanche Club is the open-til-late venue, which offers regular DJ's and parties all season long. Its open until 6am, so you can head straight to the lifts after breakfast, although we strongly advise against this.

 

Verdict: For party animals, its a close toss-up between Banff and Les 2 Alpes, either of where you can groove to your hearts content. Fernie has more of a chilled vibe with options for live music and the odd big night, but you wont miss a powder day.

Town and Culture

 

From authentic Canadian mountain towns to buzzing alpine villages, heres a rundown on the local cultures.

 

Fernie 5/5

Fernie is a funky, welcoming and chilled-out Canadian town with a rich ski heritage and infectious community spirit. The historic downtown has plenty of indie shops, bars, restaurants and coffee stores to hang out, eat, drink and stay social on down days away from the hill. Theres a museum and art exhibitions for a culture-dose, heavenly chocolatiers and local theatre screening the best movies, plus a bouldering wall, gym and swim centre if youre not already knackered from the powder laps. The town has a rich calendar of cultural and social events through the season too, from the annual Griz Days Festival celebrating Fernies mythical powder god with axe-throwing and live music, to the 80s inspired retro-recreating Hot Dog Day.

 

Banff 5/5

Banff is a buzzing town in the heart of the Rockies, located in a national park with beautiful views and stunning vistas. As a tourist hot spot, there’s a lot going on and heaps of shops, bars, restaurants, brunch venues and entertainment. The main street has a bustling feel and lively atmosphere, with a cinema, bowling, an ice rink and thermal hot springs too. There are regular events hosted by the town, from rail jams to film festivals, and you’ll often share the streets with the local wildlife like elk and deer.

 

Les 2 Alpes 4/5

The main village in Les 2 Alpes is friendly and lively at 1,650m, with many shops, bars and restaurants to spend your time off the slopes. Deux Alpes sits along a plateau in the valley, with a buzzing alpine energy that runs through the streets. The resort plays host to heaps of events through the season and there’s plenty to keep you entertained, from week-long music festival Rise in December where you party on top of the world, to freestyle comps and ski and snowboard cross World Cup meets. Check out @rise_festival for the lowdown.

 

 

Verdict: The vibe in each resort is different. For an authentic Canadian experience with a rich ski culture, Fernie is the one. If you want that buzzing alpine feel, Banff. And if you love a classic Euro set-up, L2A is a great choice.

Downtown Fernie

Downtown Fernie

Coaching

 

One of the top features of our courses is the pro coaching you receive. Our ethos is not only to prepare you technically and mentally for success as an instructor, but to make you an all-round, confident and capable rider across the mountain.

 

Fernie 5/5

Our Nonstop coaches in Fernie are the best in the game with oodles of passion and experience. Coaching features everything from technical sessions to peer-on-peer teaching, plus performance clinics and freeride practice. The mountain and terrain have a big influence on style, so you’ll be riding it all: trees, powder fields, bumps and pistes. And when it snows, you’ll be bounding through pow with your coach and crew, boosting your style along the way. Groups are small with a max of 8 riders to a coach, and the atmosphere is social and supportive, with video analysis and workshops too.

 

Banff 5/5

Our Nonstop-SkiBig3 coaches in Banff are the crème de la crème. Only on this program, we train you across all three Banff resorts and switch it up through the week, depending on the objectives and conditions of the day. This will expose you to all kinds of terrain, and your riding will benefit. Like in Fernie, we adopt an all-mountain focus to level-up your skills, so expect to ride steeps, pistes, powder and park. Groups are small and social, with no more than 8 per instructor, with plenty of personal feedback, regular video analysis and peer teaching.

 

Les 2 Alpes 5/5

In L2A, our BASI specialist coaches will guide you through the season and turbo charge your riding, with both technical instructor training and personal freeride improvement. They know the mountain intimately, and how to get the best out of you. BASI has a strong technical focus and the coaching will reflect this, with performance high on the agenda. Groups are 10 to a coach, and you’ll conquer all-terrain within L2A, from pistes to bumps and steeps, as well as hone your all-important teaching skills.

 

Verdict: Impossible to split. Wherever you choose, youll be guided by an expert team of inspirational and adept coaches, developing both your skills as an instructor, as well as your all-mountain shredding.

Riders getting their tips

Riders getting their tips

Activities

 

What else can you do in resort? Contender for highlight of the season, the added extras on our courses can’t be hyped up enough. Each week we lay on an epic activity or trip as part of our MORE Program, from cat-skiing to powder road trips.

 

Fernie 5/5

Our Fernie course is jam-packed with adventure. Born in BC, cat-skiing or -boarding, where you head into the backcountry with a modified snowcat before floating back down through untouched pow, is always a day to remember. Other activities include a road trip to hardcore ski hill Castle Mountain, ice hockey and skating on a nearby frozen lake, ski touring in the Fernie slackcountry, snowmobiling through powder bowls, and winter survival camping where youll build and sleep in your own igloo.

 

Banff 5/5

Located in a national park, our Banff course has tons of options. Like Fernie, cat-skiing is a big hitter for powder-junkies. Legendary mountain and stop on the Freeride World Tour, we road trip to nearby Kicking Horse for a day of steep and deep. Theres also dog sledding excursions through Banffs sweeping mountains, a bonfire and marshmallows in the wilderness, a NHL ice hockey event to cheer on the Calgary Flames, and team hikes to nearby peaks like Mt Rundle in the spring.

 

Les 2 Alpes 5/5

Ok, so you can literally do just about anything in L2A. For the hardcore skiers in the group, nearby and mythical mountain La Grave is a must, so we organise a guided trip to this backcountry mecca, with no pistes and one lift. Theres also sunset beers and a mountain-top meal at cabin La Troika, parapenting over the Veneon Valley, ski touring to explore surrounding peaks, and snowkiting with a world champion.

 

Verdict: Lets face it, we cant split them when it comes to activities. Each course boasts an epic array of local activities and trips from cat-skiing to parapenting, it just depends on your preferences and bucket list.

Touring through blissful backcountry in British Columbia

Touring through blissful backcountry in British Columbia

People

 

Our courses are highly social and the friends you make will be friends for life, but who comes on each course and how good do you need to be?

 

Fernie 5/5

Our Fernie course is our biggest and most diverse, with 60-odd participants from around the world and ages from 18-35+. This makes for an epic social atmosphere, and the whole crew become great friends. Everyone joins with different reasons, with some riders ready to kick-start a snow-chasing lifestyle as an instructor, while others are on a one-off season to boost their riding and have the best time. With Fernies advanced terrain, its good to have some solid riding experience prior to joining, although most abilities are welcome with our level-based groups.

 

Banff 5/5

Our Banff course is a strong option for skiers and riders on a gap year, with a crew of 60-plus, mostly 18-25. The vibe is young, the seasonaire way of life is buzzing, and the drinking age in Alberta is 18 (vs 19 in BC). Most participants on this course are looking to spend an amazing season levelling up their riding, rather that pursue an instructor career, although this route is there too. Suited to all ability levels from early intermediate and up.

 

Les 2 Alpes 5/5

Like Banff, with a pumping party scene and youthful culture, L2A is great for young-bucks on a year out from work or study. This is our smallest course with around 20 riders, but this creates a close-knit bond and group dynamic. Whether for a one-off gap year or to propel a career in the ski industry, the L2A course sets you up. And with accessible terrain, all ability levels are welcome.

 

Verdict: Designed for all skiers and snowboarders with a love of the mountains and appetite to improve, youll meet like-minded people from around the world no matter the course. Fernie is great for anyone, particularly dedicated skiers or boarders. Banff and L2A are the go-to for post-college gap year riders.

Crew goals

Crew goals

Accommodation and Food

 

Where you rest your head and relax during down time, accommodation is important, plus the food to fuel your season. Heres a rundown.

 

Fernie 5/5

When you join us in Fernie you have two options; stay in the Nonstop Lodge the Red Tree or local houses for an authentic Canadian season. The lodge is the hub for not just our 11-week course, but others we run too. A welcoming and social place to stay when coming to ride with us, everything has been designed to create the best space for you to eat, sleep and relax during your trip. Enjoy queen-sized beds, a bar for swapping stories, plus facilities like our movie room, pool, hot tub and ski tuning station. Youll also enjoy nutritious and delicious breakfasts and dinners freshly prepared by our chefs and served in our restaurant.

 

Banff 4/5

In Banff youll stay at Irwins Mountain Inn, located right on Banff Avenue and 5 mins from the bars and shops. The rooms are spacious, we have a dedicated Nonstop common room, as well as a hot tub and small gym. Theres a friendly atmosphere and the buses to the resorts take off from right outside. Youll fuel and enjoy meals at the adjoining restaurant, with a rotating menu designed with a ski season in mind.

 

Les 2 Alpes 3/5

tbc

 

Verdict: Wherever you go, all our accommodation is good and comfortable, centrally located, with great facilities. For the best vibe though, it has to be the Nonstop Lodge in Fernie. After all, its owned and run by us, with a great social atmosphere, good food and everything from a sauna to games room.

 

Our pool at the Nonstop Lodge

Our pool at the Nonstop Lodge

Qualifications

 

What qualifications can you achieve on course?

 

Fernie / Banff 5/5

On our Fernie and Banff courses youll be training for qualifications within the highly regarded and world-recognised Canadian system, landing your CSIA/CASI Level 1 and 2. The exams for each phase are fun but challenging, where youll continue to learn and be assessed on both your riding and teaching. You can also land additional qualifications, like avalanche safety, race coach and freestyle certifications, and first aid.

 

 

Les 2 Alpes 5/5

In L2A, youll be working towards certifications within the well-respected British system, training for your BASI Level 1 and 2. Compared to the Canadian set-up, the exam blocks are longer, although a similar format with assessed training on riding and teaching. Youll also do avalanche training and first aid as part of the BASI journey.

 

Verdict: Fernie, Banff or L2A, youll land a series of world-recognised qualifications that will provide the structure to boost your riding and the option to work in mountains around the world.

Former Nonstop participant Brad sporting his instructor get-up

Former Nonstop participant Brad sporting his instructor get-up

Employment Prospects

 

If you have your sights set on travelling and working around the world as an instructor, our courses gear you up for success.

 

Fernie 5/5

Our Fernie course trains you for your CSIA/CASI Level 1 and 2 certifications. Internationally recognised with your Level 2, this opens the door to employment at ski hills the world over from Japan to New Zealand, and of course Canada. Exclusive to our Fernie course, we also offer Pro Start, a series of features to bolster your employment prospects. After your Level 1, you can shadow a local instructor each week to learn the tricks of the trade. We also run a Community Days initiative where you can volunteer to teach at a local ski hill. And thanks to our strong track record and relationship, RCR, who operate Fernie and other resorts like Kicking Horse, offer participants guaranteed interviews and hiring priority.

 

Banff 4.5/5

Like in Fernie, youll land your Canadian qualifications with your CSIA/CASI Level 1 and 2. With the Level 2 in your pocket, youll be ready to work throughout Canada and all over the world, in places like Japan, Australia, Switzerland and Andorra. Having trained in Banff and skied all three resorts, you’ll be well-positioned to apply for instructor gigs in any of the SkiBig3 mountains, and demand is usually high.

 

Les 2 Alpes 4.5/5

In L2A youll be working towards your British certs with the BASI Level 1 and 2. Internationally recognised, and highly regarded throughout Europe, there are plenty of opportunities post-course for instructor work almost anywhere in the world. As part of the BASI system, you spend two weeks shadowing real instructors, giving you invaluable experience and plenty of tips for the future.

 

Verdict: All our courses will open the door to a world of employment opportunities, literally. If you have designs on working in Canada, Fernie or Banff is your best route, and if Europe is on your hit-list, then the L2A course is a good option. But for maximum potential, we think our Fernie course stands you in best stead.

Post-course, you could be teaching the next generation

Post-course, you could be teaching the next generation

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