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Nonstop: Become a ski instructor as part of a gap year

Between school and university Natasha Black took a gap year that spanned three continents. As well as taking a cookery course in Ireland and travelling around New Zealand, she spent a winter season in western Canada training to become a ski instructor. To follow is her story from an unforgettable winter.

Natasha Black enjoyed her successful ski instructor course with NonstopI always knew I wanted to take a gap year, to make new friends, learn new skills, visit various new places and gain as much experience as possible. One of the skills I wanted to develop was my skiing. After looking at various options, I decided that Nonstop seemed the best company to go with. They were really friendly, easy to talk to and offered a good range of courses. Initially I thought I wanted to do my season in Whistler, however after looking into it more, I decided that Fernie was a better option. My original plan was to do their 3 week ski instructor course and then find a job out there afterwards. However I changed my mind and decided to complete the 11 week instructor course, which I am so glad I did. I gained three ski qualifications and made some of the greatest friends. Their courses are not just aimed at gap year students, so there was a good age range of people, which I think makes it much more interesting and everyone got along really well.

When I was out there I stayed in the Red Tree Lodge which is where the majority of people stay. It was very convenient, the bus picked you up there in the mornings and dropped you back, meals were there and it was a great way to meet people.  There were two bus options in the morning, I always went for the early bus but there was a later one that still got you up the hill in time for lessons. We had lessons from Monday to Thursday and on Wednesday afternoons we had the option to do freestyle or racing. I opted for racing and then gained my Level 1 Race Coach qualification. We had a fun couple of days as volunteer instructors where we had a go at teaching kids, which was a change from teaching each other in classes when preparing for the exams. The instructors out there were super friendly and easy to get on with and always up for a laugh.

There was so much snow it was insane! When I arrived I was slightly apprehensive, as I learnt to ski in France and didn't have much experience off-piste, but the tuition was great and it was not a problem. It was also possible to do an avalanche course which was interesting to do. Cat skiing was also available. I didn't do it, but many of my friends did and loved it, so it is something to do in the future hopefully.

Not only did we all have an awesome time in the snow, we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves off the slopes too. There were additional activities, which were a great way to get to know people and spend time doing something fun with your friends. We did winter camping one weekend Natasha looks out of her snow hole on a winter camping expedition in Canada during her ski instructor course with Nonstopwhich was a pretty cool experience. We headed up the mountain in the afternoon, went just beyond the boundary and dug a snow hole where we spent the night. It was definitely not a comfortable sleep but it was a good laugh. We also could participate in other activities such as snowmobiling, street hockey, sledging as well as curling (which was pretty hard). There is also the option to visit different places. I went on one trip to Montana in America so that was cool to be able to ski a different hill. We also went on a trip to Calgary, so it was nice to have a weekend in the city and experience a big ice hockey game and explore. We did support the local ice hockey team the Fernie Ghost Riders once a week which was always good fun. As Fernie is not a massive town, it has a great atmosphere and always feels relaxed. The nightlife is not crazy, but there are nice bars and pubs to enjoy with your friends. I would thoroughly recommend this course if you are considering doing it on your gap year. It really was one of the best things I have ever done! This year I missed spending a season in the mountains, however many of my friends returned to Fernie and managed to pick up work there. I just cannot wait to have the opportunity to return one day!

Curling was much harder than expectedSynchronised skiing helped hone Natasha's skills on the piste during her ski instructor course in Canad with NonstopFor more information about Nonstop, check out:

Gap year ski courses | Gap year snowboard courses


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