I’m standing on a mountainpeak and looking out over the horizon… “Life’s great!” While I swiftly let my eyes pan around the landscape I see beautiful snowcovered mountaintops in every direction. I feel the snow under my feet and the sun warmly embracing my skin. I devour it all just in time for a breeze to surprise me and wake me up.
I come to the realization that my mountainpeak isn’t Wildgerlosspitze in Austria, Delirium Dive gate in Canada or Mt. Yotei in Japan! Nope, I’m surrounded by the white cliffs of Hvide Sande in Denmark. But all my memories and experiences from the previous years are brought back and I reflect on my time being a ski instructor on 4 continents!
I have, in just 2 years, had more experiences than I ever thought possible. I have lived and worked in the most beautiful Austrian alps, been face to face with a hungry lion, seen snow in South Africa, climbed up the side of an active volcano and skied the driest most magical powder snow in Japan.
My long journey started when I graduated from High School. At this point I had absolutely no idea of what was to become of me! I had, to be honest, never been this scared until now. I was standing here, deeply hungover after a week of celebrating graduation and had almost no plans for my future! I only had the faint idea that I wanted to be an Austrian ski instructor! Now I am standing here 2 years later, looking back at my journey with a big smile on my face.
Can you see yourself in my situation 2 years ago? Or do you have a similar passion for skiing? I love telling about my experiences and will do my best to give you insight to the life of being a ski instructor and having the most amazing environment as your office. Stay tuned…
My family would describe me as a girl with way too much energy. I’m the type of person that’s always looking for new challenges. So when I got offered a spot in the Snowminds team of instuctors, I wasn’t a second in doubt that this was what I wanted to do!
I was sent towards my first ski season in Austria and this came with the best alpine views and Austrian vocabulary that almost made me feel sick. And not mention a lot Weissbier in Zell am Ziller (my alpine home)! As a ski teacher in Pro Zell ski school I quickly fell into the role of being a ski instructor. I learnt how to deal with a strict but sweet boss, meet new people and to be part of a new family! It’s truly difficult to describe the feeling of being a part of a team that is filled with so much love and care for eachother. In Zell am Ziller I truly felt that I had found a new skiing family and home! I know this almost sounds too good to be true, and you might not believe me! But wait till you experience it yourself! Through my job as an inststructor I had the priviledge of getting to know locals; lifties who always had a friendly comment, parking staff who from time to time offered a cold beer and several bartenders. They tested my broken german and taught me how to live in the mountains. For example “nein danke” isn’t appropriate if a local offers you schnappes.
I am often asked as to how the Austrian culture is different, and each time I end up sidetracking to a story about my colleagues or bosses. The Austrian mountain culture is filled with laid back fun people! The destinations are characterized by an ”aber so ist das Leben=that’s the way life is” attitude. It akes you relax and be able to enjoy life, however sometimes more than whats healthy for everyone.
The months flew by in Austria and before I knew it I was back surrounded by white cliffs and gentle waves hitting the Pier. While I stood here, in Hvide Sande, Denmark, I felt the urge to keep travelling. I couldn’t quite feel at ease at home and I felt that I had to explore the world, and myself even! I quickly decided to head towards a new adventure! ASAP! I traveled with Snowminds to Lesotho, South Africa. This was the most surreal experience I could think of! I landed in South Africa and realized I had no idea what exactly the next 6 weeks were going to be filled with! Heres how it went…
Afriski was a surreal resort, it was difficult to avoid not wanting to leave! I realized this already 2 days into my stay, I’d already found friends for life! The mountainresort is a 3000 meters above sea level and one of the two only resorts in South Africa. At the same time, it was located 4 hours away from the nearest city with supermakrets and other shops. So the only people you met were the instructors and staff of the resort and the guests that came and went!
This made the culture completely unique, but can be described very simply. TIA. This is Africa. TIA is used as a reason for almost everything in South Africa. If there’s a power outage, TIA. If the lifts didn’t work while you were teaching, TIA. If your quests are 2 hours late, well… TIA. Even if you’re asked to paint stairs during your lunch break, TIA. The work and life in Africa was miles apart from what I was used to in Austria, but the friendships and community was exactly the same. Before I knew it I had found myself a new home in the African mountains that I didn’t want to let go of!
It scares me how fast time flies when you’re travelling, However Africa didn’t fly past too fast for me to have a real eye opening experience. Durng my 6 weeks I came close to the locals in the area and I also discovered that poverty isn’t just a hoax portrayed by the international media. There’s a lot of it in South Africa.
This realisation came to me on my very first day in Johannesburg South Africa. I’m sitting with Ester and Jacob (my sweet travel buddies) and listening to our driver, Jafka’s story. He tells us how his wife died on their wedding day and that he’s left alone with his two kids. While he’s telling us this he still has a smile on his face which i admire. It shows the strength of the people, a strength that they find even when life is at its toughest point. He showed true character and was extremely welcoming towards us during my entire stay. Every time I think back to this conversation I get a lump in the throat!
With a lot of new experiences, a new TIA attitude and a Afriski family I found myself on a flight from Johannesburg – destination: Copenhagen Airport! There is no doubt that working as an instructor in Lesotho has been fantastic, it has given me friendships, memories and the most wonderful encounters with nature! Meeting as honest and strong characters as Jafka, made me want to give a piece of my heart to Africa as a continent and all the people I met during my trip!
After a couple of months in Denmark, the trip went back to new mountains – this time the trip went east to the northern Japanese island, Hokkaido! Which – at least in relation to what I had heard should be the wildest of powder meccas! Japan is commonly called the kingdom of the sun, and it was a land filled with mysticism! I was excited and slightly nervous about the adventure that awaited me now!
Japan was a country I never imagined in my wildest imagination as a travel destination! 1) because it was so far away, and 2) because sushi was invented here; and because fish – and especially raw fish – wasn’t one of my favorite dishes. Japan wasn’t exactly in my considerations as an obvious travel destination for me… But after hearing “powdermekka” and “Niseko” in the same sentence, I set aside my prejudices about the country’s cusine and decided that I had to explore and experience the mystique and powder in the east!
I finally came to Japan and got the first taste of Japanese life when we arrived at the airport in Tokyo! WAKE UP CALL! MC Donalds offered a strange form of green tea milkshake, people spoke in a language where I couldn’t use my Danish or broken German to communicate! I became seriously aware that I was so far away from home both geographically and culturally!
But despite the temporary cultural shock, It wasn’t long before we arrived to the touristfilled and incredibly beautiful Niseko! (the ski area where I worked as ski instructor). I learned the necessary Japanese glossary to entertain and then to speak with the local Japanese! Niseko was fantastic and extremely international. It quickly dawned on me why Niseko draws so many tourists and ski buses every year! It’s not too for fun that they call Niseko for Japan’s “powder mecca”! The feeling of being down a mountain side and unable to breathe because there is snow everywhere; in your face, under the helmet, and underneath 3 layers of ski gear; It’s going to be the wildest experience and you feel how it’s almost electric all over your body! It’s simply ICHI BAN! (Japanese: the best)!
I soon noticed that Japan was something completely unique! The country had some social rules completely different then what I had experienced before! And while there were bars and parties every evening in Grand Hirafu, the main city of Niseko’s skiing, I was quickly fascinated by the Japanese form of après ski! The austrian weiss beer at the nearest bar was replaced with a trip to an Onzen (natural hot spring), where we often enjoyed a Sapporo beer in an outdoor pool, while the snow fell down from above! The Friday was spent on a Yoga lesson, where one’s stiff muscles were loosened after hard days work! But without ounding too holy, there were of course evenings that were spent at the local bars with good friends and a good party! But honestly; the japanese form of aprés ski was too fantastic to give up on!
My first year as a skibum ended at the top of the piste with a lit torch during night New Year’s Eve in Hokkaido’s powder mecca to welcome the new year! I thought to myself! “Life is too great!” One year’s memories fluttered by and I couldn’t comprehend how much I had experienced in such a short time!
Not more than 10 months after being on top of Niseko ski resort New Year’s Eve and wishing everyone a happy new year, I found myself in Canada. Now in autumn I was once again ready to start a new winter season in Sunshine Village, Banff National Park. My season in Sunshine Village offered days of -30 degrees, snow storms, powder days and of course sunshine. I met people who opened my eyes for skiing, in ways I would never have imagined. I got friends who challenged me, and sometimes knew me better than I knew myself!
Canada is still my home (thankfully!). And right now I’m looking over Banff Avenue, while seeing how the leaves change color and the mountains recieving their first snowfall. Even though we’re only in September! I have a month left before I head towards Denmark, and while I’m aware that winter is coming, it’s great to come home to tartlets, the North Sea and my lovely family.
- Julie, Snowminds Instructor
However, it must be no secret that there have been tough times – both in Austria, Lesotho, Japan and Canada! There will always be times when you want to pack your suitcase and go home! But in those times, I’ve been privileged enough to have had the best of friends, family and beautiful colleagues who have been there, whether it’s been for a comforting beer, a skype conversation, a gentle push that I needed or even just a nice smile! I’ve also always overcome my doubts when hearing the reassuring marvellous sound of my ski boots clicking into my skis. It helps me realize that I am in my right element, being a child of the mountains, in the midst of a white, infinite snow-covered landscape.
For over a year I’ve only explored what I would consider a small part of the world but I’ve learned a lot about myself! I’ve always been extremely scared, but I’ve always overcome the insecurity that has fought me with even more adventures and exciting new experiences! I’ve slept on the floor in a traditional Japanese “bed” (which is a CRAZY thin mattress) and had Austrian snaps. but the most important lesson I have learned is undoubtedly the following; It’s okay to be scared – because When you’re scared and insecure, it means you’re challenging yourself! There are so many, (myself included) who are afraid to step next to the path already in front of us – within our comfort zone – because we are afraid of failure! But all the skiers know that the best experiences are the ones you get when you dare to take the plunge from a well-groomed piste and dive out to the first tracks in deep untouched powder! This is where the adrenaline is pumping! And this is where you truely feel that you are alive!
Seize the opportunities that only come once!
Julie traveled with Snowminds as a ski instructor. If you want to experience Austria, Canada, Africa or Japan don’t hesitate to contact us. If you want to become a certified instructor see all our courses here: Become a Ski Instructor and send an application yourself!