A season in Switzerland, many dream of doing it, and Claire made that dream come trough on a Snowminds Course in La Tzoumaz! In this blog she tells you more about her experience, and what things stood out during the season!
My name is Claire and I am 24 years old. Last winter I was a ski instructor in the fantastic La Tzoumaz at ski school Ecole Suisse de Ski La Tzoumaz in Switzerland. I completed my Bachelor Hotel Management last January and even before I started my Bachelor study I knew I wanted to become a ski instructor. However, it was a conscious choice on my part to start training as a ski instructor after obtaining my Bachelor’s degree. The reason for this was that I was so excited to become a ski instructor that I was afraid that after my first season I would want to spend even more winters on skis, that I would be less likely to study again.
When I started looking online for a company that offered both training and jobs for ski instructors after finishing my studies, I came across Snowminds. The website with all the videos, photos and stories was decisive for me to book my season through Snowminds. From March 2020 I already knew that I was going to do a season as a ski instructor in Austria and I was so happy and looking forward to it. Unfortunately, Covid-19 threw a spanner in the works, making it uncertain whether the courses and seasons in Austria could continue. I then, in consultation with the Snowminds team, chose to move my training and season to La Tzoumaz, Switzerland. This has really been the best decision I could make! After months of suspense, it was FINALLY time in December, I could leave for Switzerland.
I couldn’t wait to finally wear the red ski suit!! I had been looking forward to this for a long time, my dream would come true!
Left: This was the view from our Chalet, we woke up to this every day.
Right: This was the day after I arrived in La Tzoumaz, Switzerland, and could finally try out my new gear.
Once I arrived in Switzerland, I met the seven other ski instructors in the chalet with whom I would live, train and work with the rest of the season. It was also their first season as a ski instructor and everyone was super excited to start this new adventure. The group consisted of four Dutch girls, two Danish boys, a British boy and a Swedish boy. It was a mixed group and it was very pleasant, you get to know each other very well.
The weekend after Christmas it was finally time, the training sessions in preparation for the BASI (British Association of Snowsport Instructors) level 1 & 2 exams started. The BASI system is a slightly different system than the well-known Anwärter in Austria, but with these diplomas you are at the same level.
Our trainer was a Swiss guy born in La Tzoumaz and he was therefore able to show us the best places to ski. The first few trainings were very tough, especially physically. I am sporty, but being on skis for 5 days in a row from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm was harder than I thought. Still, these were the best days. I noticed how quickly I made progress and how much more fun skiing became. Every day we learned new techniques, exercises, tricks and gained new knowledge. Although I already had a lot of skiing experience, I learned new things during every training and I really enjoyed this! After weeks of training, free skiing and shadow teaching with other teachers, we were ready for the first exam!!
The first exam was 5 days in a row and mainly consisted of ‘giving ski lessons’ to the group and a little technique. We had to prepare a ‘ski lesson’ for each of the 5 days so that the examiner could get a good impression of your knowledge. The first exam was very doable and everyone passed in one go.
FINALLY put on the red ski school suit!!
Because our trainer had prepared us so well for the first exam, we were able to teach after passing the level 1 exam. This was a super exciting moment, it is a big responsibility to teach a group of children between 4 and 7 years old. The first few days I taught on the nursery slope. As a ski instructor on the nursery slope, you teach the children how to put on their skis themselves, how to slide on their skis and how to make a ‘pizza slice’ in order to brake. Some children learn very quickly and can tackle the easiest slopes after a few days. What I liked the most was how quickly some children pick up skiing and the difference between the first and last day of ski lessons. The sooner the kids pick it up, the sooner you can take them to the beginners slope. I will never forget the first children I taught. They were two boys, twins, from America. The first few days they were still practicing on the nurses slope, but at the end of the week I went down the blue slope with them. The boys had never ridden a gondola before so when I told them we were going skiing that day on the ‘big slope’ they were super excited. It was really fun and enjoyable days with the twins and those memories will remain special forever.
Having fun with the two boys, being their instructor was just so much fun!
While we were working as ski instructors, we also trained for the level 2 exam with our trainer. We worked a lot on our own technique, learned new exercises that we could use during working and tips to give the best lessons. We knew that the level of the level 2 exam was a lot higher than level 1. Because we had already taken the level 1 exam, we knew a bit what to expect from the level 2 exam. The level 2 exam consists of 12 days, of which 10 days exams. The exam would again consist of a number of parts, namely; my own short and long turns, preparing and teaching some ‘lessons’ and moguls. To prepare myself as best as possible for the exam, I spoke with a number of other ski instructors from the ski school to get some tips and tricks from them. This really helped me a lot. Everyone in the ski school sympathized with us and wanted to help where they could. In the end, unfortunately, not everyone passed the level 2 exam in my group. There was a resit moment a few weeks later for those who had not passed the exam in the first instance. In the end, everyone has obtained their level 2 certificate. 🙂
Life as a ski instructor/snowboard instructor
The life of a an instructor is fantastic, I can’t describe it any other way! The fact that you can ski every day, that you can turn your passion into work is an incredible feeling. I had to pinch myself every now and then because sometimes I couldn’t believe what I was actually doing. If you ski/snowboard on the slopes or walk somewhere in the outfit of the ski school, people have so much respect for you and you will notice that you really set an example. So you can’t just push in front of someone, be rude to someone or ski/snowboard badly yourself. It is a big responsibility that you carry with you but it gives so much strength, energy and motivation to be able to put on the ski school outfit every day. You will really grow during a season, both personally and professionally.
Left: Some casual skiing before the training starts
Right: Exploring the endless backcountry opportunities
I got to know so many new and nice people during my season, really fantastic! Together with other teachers from the ski school I went out on my days off, often we went skiing together, making tours, but sometimes we also visited another village or city. For example, I made a tour with a number of other ski instructors for a few days and we went skiing in Zermatt, among other things. This was really one of the best destination for skiing, you are surrounded by 13 mountains of 4000 meters high peaks. This of course gave an amazing view while skiing and because the mountains are so high this also creates really long slopes. The most popular mountain you can find in Zermatt is the Matterhorn (this is the mountain you see on the Toblerone packaging).
Unfortunately, a season as a teacher also comes to an end and at some point you will have to say goodbye. At the end of the season we organised a farewell party with all the teachers and exchanged contact details so that we could continue keep in touch after the season.
At the end of the season I was picked up by my parents to go back to the Netherlands. The car ride was no fun because I really did NOT want to go back to the Netherlands because I knew it would take months before I could be in the snow again. The lack of being on skis remained when I returned home to the Netherlands and I am therefore definitely planning to do more seasons, because the life of ski instructors is very addictive!! I would recommend anyone who has a passion for skiing/snowboarding, likes to embark on a new adventure, meet new people and teach others something, to do a season as a ski or snowboard instructor. It will be an experience that will change your life in a positive way.
I hope that my story has given you a better insight into what a season as a ski/snowboard teacher looks like and that you are as motivated and excited as I am to do (another) season. 🙂
Do you want to experience a season in Switzerland for yourself? Then make sure to check out our broad selection of Snowminds courses in Switzerland! Make sure to sign-up in good time, cause there is limited spots available per season.