Have you ever thought of becoming a ski instructor so you could work at resorts around the world? That’s what Blake Williams did – and he’s still living the life!
Before becoming a ski instructor, Williams worked in accountancy. Here’s his story.
Before you went abroad, what job did you do?
Accountancy – I left 6th form and got offered jobs by the world’s big 4 accounting firms however they all required me to move to London to commence work. I felt I wasn’t ready for this and luckily I was offered a job in my home town by the 7th largest accounting firm in the world as they had an office in Chester.
Why did you decide to take a course in Ski Instructing?
After I finished my accounting qualification I realised it was all a little boring for me. I thought it was an appropriate place to stop that line of work as now I had a qualification in it I could always go back if I wanted. But now I needed to do something that I found exciting and challenging so I decided I was going to become a ski instructor. I had skied before and loved it and I thought that I could get really good if I had some time. I’ve played sport to a high standard all my life so the fitness was never going to be a problem, so put my money where my mouth was, handed in my notice at work and ventured upon my new career path, destined to be more exciting!
What course/qualification did you take?
I did some research into courses and ended up choosing the Mountain Lodge Course, located in Courchevel.
Le Praz, Courchevel, France
How did you find out about the course?
Bit of a tedious link, but a friend of my mum’s best friend recommended a guy called Dave Beattie, and she told me that he taught skiing. So I phoned Dave up and as it happened he was just setting up a gap year course called Mountain Lodge with another instructor called Dave Morris. Now these names didn’t really mean much to me at the time, all I knew was that they were great skiers and I was going to learn from them. It turned out that they were both BASI trainers (examined potential instructors to the highest level of exams.) I didn’t even know what BASI was at this point (British Association of Snowsport Instructors) so I had to do some research online as to what I was getting into, I did research into a few other course providers that offered different qualifications such as Canadian or New Zealand but I soon found that the course I had stumbled across dwarfed all the others! Through chatting with Dave Beattie and Dave Morris I felt that they offered what I needed. If I had of spent days of research on the internet looking into every single instructor programme I would have ended up with Mountain Lodge, I was really lucky to find them so quickly through the help of my mum’s best friend’s friend.Dave Beattie and Dave Morris were easy to chat to and didn’t sell me any lies, the course was exactly as it was advertised if not better. Compared with other people that were training to be instructors with other companies we had the best accommodation, the best instruction all at the best price.
Unbelievable how our course wasn’t busier, but then again it was only the first year it was being launched.
What was the cost and duration?
The cost was £6k for 10 weeks. This included food, accommodation and instruction. I took a loan to pay this and then whilst I was out in resort I learnt a little extra money helping people with airport transfers. After the course I couldn’t leave, I loved the village and the life too much; I’d pretty much decided this is what I’m going to do as a career. So after short jaunt over to Italy to do my first week’s teaching, I stayed on the floor of a friends place for the remaining month of the season. I really started to get to know people better during this month and I felt I became a local of the village knowing almost everyone around.
What was your day to day routine?
During the course, I would wake up around 8ish. The person I shared a room with Rupert (a lawyer from New York, several years my senior) he often found it difficult to get out of bed. So once I was ready to go downstairs I would set an alarm to go off in 3 minutes on my phone. I’d then hide the phone somewhere in the bedroom and then chuckle to myself when I heard him stomping around the room and cursing that he couldn’t find the phone to shut it up, anyway by this time he’d be so irate he would be awake, problem solved and then all of us in the house would leave to go for our lessons.
Depending upon what day we were on we’d either have morning or afternoon lessons, either way we’d normally be on one of the first lifts up. There would always be a few of us skiing together, doing more and more challenging runs, off-piste chutes, jumps anything to get the adrenaline running!
Après ski often involved some drinking and partying, but I’d try not to do this too much because I felt that I was kind of wasting money paid on the course because I can never ski well with a hangover, infact I can’t do anything with a hangover!
Would you recommend this type of course?
Yes, most definitely. But I would say be careful of which people you choose to do the course with. Some are a lot better than others and many just use price perception to make you believe their course is of high quality. On our course we had trainers(the best of the best) training us, fantastic accommodation and we had a wonderful chef cooking for us, many of the other people I have met would gripe about not getting enough training, the food was rubbish or accommodation was tiny or dirty, that was never the case on my course.
Do you need to be qualified beforehand?
No not at all, one of the lads and a good friend of mine now Laurence Young had skied for only 3 weeks before going on the course, he was actually turned down by other providers because they said he hadn’t skied enough. Larry is very sport though and willing to try anything! With fantastic tuition he was able to pass his exams convincingly and with his good grounding the course gave him he has progressed to passing his ISIA (international ski instructor association).
What were the 3 best bits?
Friends I made – they are still really great friends, Adam and I (another lad from the course) have been over to meet Larry in Dublin. Throughout the ski season, despite being in different resorts we will still see each other whether it’s in Switzerland, France or Austria there is always someone you know that is around. We all keep in touch regularly by email, phone or Facebook.
Skiing – The opportunity to ski everyday and the tuition provided. I would love going away practising and coming back the next day a better skier. I loved that cycle sometimes you wouldn’t get it right but when you did you just knew you didn’t have to be told yeah that’s right, because you can feel it.
Trying to speak French with the locals, despite my language being mediocre at best. I would pop into the Boulangerie every morning to see Julie for a quick bonjour and espresso, and then I would like to keep others on their toes with a ca va or bonne journee throughout the day. Larry would speak with the locals too, often failing miserably saying good night instead of good morning or saying very well thank you before being asked how he was. Just before we finished the course he revealed he had a French girlfriend for 2 years, she must have spoken very good English, as Larry’s French was jumbled and confusing to both the English and the French.
What were the 3 worst bits?
Having to have rest days, sometimes because you were so tired you had to rest even though you didn’t want to! I didn’t really like rest days too much but they are important to stop you getting injured.
Leaving at the end of the season was tough; leaving the lifestyle and friends behind was always going to be difficult.
Hmmm can’t think of another worst bit.
What was the night/social life like?
Courchevel is a strange resort, there is always something happening you just have to find out where, unlike a lot of other ski resorts, there is no real central point/high street. The resort is split between 5 villages 1850m, 1650m, 1550m, Le Praz and La Tania.
We were based in Le Praz where it went off mainly at weekends, but for weeknights you could get the bus/hitch or walk to La Tania. If you wanted a slightly more glamorous/expensive night you could head up the mountain to 1850 where you may bump into Roman Abromovich, Victoria Beckham or any other famous people that happen to be knocking about in the swanky bars or clubs.
The best night of the year is New Years Eve. Partying at the top of the mountain on the snow…where you’ll witness the greatest firework display you will have ever seen, everyone drinking vin chaud (mulled wine) dancing away to the booming music with laser light shows illuminating the snow on the mountains.
Are there other things to do there? (sports/tourist attractions)
I was lucky in that I’ve played a lot of football in the past and before long I was invited to play football with the local ski instructors, I didn’t have a clue what they were saying to me, but you don’t need to when you’re playing football, you just try and score and not give away possession.
Did you make some new friends?
Yes, I’ve made some of my best friends through skiing. And even in the summer I am working for people I met in the winter.
Did you find paid work afterwards, please explain fully how you found the work and what the salary was like?
I found work in Italy for a company called interski. They paid £200 p/w plus food and accommodation. I have since become more qualified, passing international instructor exams and the Eurotest, which is a giant slalom race against the clock, notoriously difficult to pass! This is the one hurdle that stops most people working in France (the only country that requires this to work in their country) as I’ve now passed that I am working for Courchevel ESF (Ecole du ski Francais). I am also running a ski hire business and my clothing line Swyss. Busy busy!
How do you feel this experience will help with your future career/life?
Well I’m pretty much decided this is my life now…The clothing line I’ve started is tipped to be the next big skiwear brand. We’re sponsoring the English alpine team which is great news.
I’m going to complete more exams and get involved in the race coaching side of skiing.I wouldn’t mind becoming accomplished in the park too…I guess I just want to do everything.
I intend to also develop/renovate houses during summers in the future, this is what I’m doing at the moment, but I’m doing this as a paid job, I would like to be the person buying the houses but I need to save some money for that. So in the future I should hopefully have enough feathers to my bow to support myself. I would like to also at some point start a ski academy to make it more accessible to people without so much money but that’s something which is still really a dream.
Any tips for our readers?
Yes, if you want to become a ski instructor learn with Mountain Lodge, or any other accredited instructor program.
If you would like any advice on how to get into ski teaching or on anything snowsport related feel free to drop me an email at [email protected] and I’ll respond as soon as I can.
Do you know of any related websites or useful sources of information?