I moved to Switzerland to be a ski instructor about three months after I turned 18 - my mum found it pretty hard to say goodbye but luckily for her, my sister had done exactly the same thing a couple of years previously so she'd had some practise! I knew that one day I wanted to go to university but I had no idea what I wanted to study. Something I did know is that I could ski and that I could teach skiing (I'd taken a UK Snowsports Coaching course), so the whole thing seemed like a pretty good idea - and it was. I ended up staying for two seasons, and getting a summer job in between (I tried coming home and working in Tesco - I lasted 6 shifts before I was on a plane back out there).
These are the life lessons I learned:
- Bills: paying bills - it sucks but it's compulsory so you've got to budget them in and pay the damn things or your not going to have anywhere to live, period.
- Spending six hours a day outside and on the snow is AWESOME.
- Spending six hours a day outside and on the snow will really improve your skiing/snowboarding.
- Croque-Monsieurs are better at midnight than they are at midday.
- Goggle tans can be considered cool.
- Teaching people to ski feels amazing, especially when you remember how much you've gotten out of loving the sport, giving that love to other people is a really special thing, and doing it every day makes for a really special gap year.
- And finally, employers LOVE IT. You know all those annoying interview questions like "talk about a time when you've overcome adversity" or "when you faced and solved a problem"? Like life isn't chocablock with overcoming adversity and facing and solving problems - I could site the million times when my husband and I have argued over who's going to change the litter tray as facing and solving a problem (solving = he loses). However, there will be times as a ski instructor when you're teaching a class in terrible conditions; soggy snow and zero visibility, you're in charge of 10 Irish teenagers who keep swearing at each other, one of which has just taken their skis off and sat down on the side of the slope, adamant that they're never, ever going to put them back on again and still you manage to get them all safely down the hill, using linked parallel turns and making them feel really proud of themselves at the end of it all. That's overcoming diversity, facing and solving a problem and a whole heap of other stuff that employers love. Plus they're impressed with the idea of a young person taking themselves off to live away from home for the first time, in a completely different country and undertaking a really interesting job.
In the end I went to university to study English Literature and Creative Writing and the experiences I gained during my two gap years have led to me specialising in snow sports marketing, communications and PR. I work freelance so I get to travel to cover events and races and all the skills I learned while I was a ski instructor have led to a career that I absolutely LOVE. Plus I went to university a whole lot richer than all my fellow students - this ski instructor racket pays pretty well, which is useful when you've only just figured out what bills are!
If you're interested in becoming a Ski Instructor in France, whether for a gap year or career then head to the Oxygene Ski Instructor Academy site for more information.