An Instructor’s Eye View

The Low Down on what being an instructor is like

You turn up for a ski or snowboard lesson, you learn, you leave as a better skier or snowboarder than when you came in.

However have you ever wondered about your instructor and how they came to be your instructor? Or maybe you’re a keen skier or rider and you’re toying with the idea of becoming an instructor yourself. Well, we caught up with two of our lovely instructors, Ross and Kate, to get the low down of what being an instructor is really like.

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  1. First of all, what were you doing before you became an instructor?

R: I was a Head Chef then I became the Team Leader in the rental department at Snow Factor.

K: After school, I was a math tutor and then I went travelling in New Zealand

  1. Why did you decide to become an instructor?

R: For a refreshing change, I also wanted to improve my own ski skills. I guess it was the natural step after being a team leader at the rental desk in Sno!zone before it became Snow Factor

K: I’ve always loved skiing and the general outdoors so becoming an instructor was the ultimate job for me and instructor life, in general, seemed like the perfect fit…

  1. What’s the process like of becoming an instructor?

R: Its tough, especially without a strong skiing background. I did the 5-day Level 1 BASI Alpine course. You feel the size of an ant on the first day as you quickly find out you’re no way near as good a skier as you thought, but then you learn and it feels great.

K: It was very fun! I did a 3 month course in New Zealand. I am now level 2 Alpine qualified.  At the start, it’s a slap in the face. Naturally, you don’t think about your own technique, so when you start the course there’s so much to change and learn. It was great as you learn so much about your own ski technique and ability you feel yourself improving throughout the course too.

  1. Do you remember what your first lesson was like being an instructor?

R. It was nervous-racking, I was very nervous. It was a beginner’s lesson in Snow Factor and I was shadowing. I was trying not to stutter even though I definitely was. I was chatting way too much and saying ‘eehhhhh’ a lot but I’ve smoothed all that out now.

K: I was nervous. It was at Nevis Range and it was a level 1 lesson. It was the first time I had to chat with people in a professional setting. You soon get used to it though.

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  1. What’s a typical day instructing like?

R: A full day instructing can be pretty sweaty, which sounds odd seeing how its naturally a very cold activity. At Snow Factor, you come in in the morning and look at your ‘lesson line’ (schedule). This gives you an idea for the age groups and skills levels you’ll be instructing for the day. And if it’s a full day, that’s 6 hours of instructing, so you have to mentally prepare yourself and plan how you’ll divide your energy throughout the lessons. You don’t want to burn out after the first two lessons.
This is especially true if you have lots of kid’s lessons, while they are great fun but there’s a lot of picking up and wiping noses involved too.

K: Often you’ll have a range of lessons in the one day from kids to experienced adults, so you have to prepare yourself in the morning. You prepare yourself differently depending on where you’re instructing; indoors or on a mountain. In many ways its easier on a mountain as there are various runs, you can take your lesson group. What’s good about indoor lessons (i.e at Snow Factor!) is that you get to focus on technique more. The great thing about more technique focused lessons is that when they’ve completed their lesson block, they’ve nailed their skills and are way more prepared for skiing on the mountain.

  1. Who are your favourite groups to teach and why?

R: I think I prefer the adults. You can have banter with them and they generally understand more. They also don’t cry…. too much.

K: I love freestyle coaching. Everyone is so enthusiastic and it’s cool to show people a new side of skiing they may not have thought or even known about.

  1. Sometimes when your students fall during lessons, do you laugh out loud by accident?

R: Yes. It’s normally a good way to put people at ease and take away any embarrassment they might have. I also laugh at myself when I fall over. Yip, that’s right, instructors fall over too!

K: Ditto

  1. Have you ever worked at any resorts abroad?

R: No, I’ve not worked abroad due to family commitments. If I were to work abroad in the future, however, I’d love to work in Ischgl, Austria. I used to go there a lot, it’s a massive resort and lots of fun.

K: I’ve worked in a few resorts: Hakuba, Japan, Nevis Range, Cairngorm and Glen Coe. I’d love to work in some of the Canadian resorts one day, they look beautiful.

  1. Funny instructor stories if you’ve got any?

R: Most of my funny instructor stories come from kids’ lessons, they say the funniest things. One time this wee guy about 4 years old on a lesson had a wedgie. We all know that having a wedgie with a pair of ski pants on isn’t the ideal situation to be in. Anyway, he let me and the rest of the group know by shouting out ‘my bum is eating my pants!’

K: Ha! This one time I was teaching a ski in a day and this guy fell and his ski trousers burst in the bum region AND HE WASN’T WEARING ANY PANTS! So everyone could see his…erm… bits. He went to the changing village to change into a pair of rental trousers and never returned.

  1. Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to become an instructor?

R: Enjoy it! Treat it as getting paid to do what you enjoy and not as a job as that’s what it should be!

K: Work hard – it’s worth it.