Having just graduated from Queen’s University Belfast I needed a break from the books. I have been coming to Kaprun with my family for the last 8 years and after my first couple of family holidays I knew that I wanted to be a ski Instructor. I met ‘Evil’ Paul (don’t worry, you’ll meet him) through some friends of mine that live here and actually own one of the accommodation choices for the course (Dorfchalets). The Anwärter course was exactly what I wanted; A guaranteed job for the rest of the season as well as German theory lectures and a sport science workshop.
I signed up to do the course while in Kaprun on holiday over Christmas last year. Before I knew it I had completed my finals and graduated. The time flew by and after working over the summer I was about to leave for what was, looking back, one of the best experiences that I could have wished for.
I flew to London to spend a few days with family before heading to Stansted on the 1stNovember for an excruciatingly early flight. Having met Holly and Kate, 2 other people on the course, at check-in we started to look for other people that may be on the course. Telltale signs were ski jacket, boots, and travelling alone. Quickly we met around 10 others while waiting for our flight and another few during the flight. If anyone has any worries about meeting new people, don’t. You would have to put more effort into not meeting people than you do when you do meet new people. Everyone was in the same boat and by the time we had landed in Salzburg there were around 20 of us who were all getting to know each other.
The first couple of days of the course were German focused. We had 2 6 hour days (roughly) of German theory lectures. Considering that the 10 day exam at the end of all of this would be in German and that we would be working in a German-speaking country, these lectures were vital. Before the course you are sent a vast amount of German audio files to start learning before you arrive. Honestly, spend half an hour each evening looking over this stuff because if you arrive for the start of the course with this basic knowledge it makes the whole thing a lot easier. By the end of these 2 days we had studied most of the development of skiing teaching plans. It was amazing how after 2 days we had actually studied quite a lot. The great thing about these introductory days was that it encouraged those who were a little shy to really come out of their shells. After all, you’re going to be a ski instructor. Rather than just sitting and listening to lectures the day involved splitting into groups (each having a teacher) to practice. You would spend half an hour or so learning and then spending an hour role-playing before moving onto the next. These role-plays were great! In groups of 10(ish) you would have the chance to be the ski instructor while the others were your pupils. Another great thing to help with the learning was when some of the guys would do one of the exercises wrong. This happens a lot, A LOT, during the season and so it forces you to think on your feet and have to correct people when they do it wrong. Aside from obviously learning German during these introductory 2 days, it encouraged those who more more shy than others to really come out of their shell. Who cares if you look stupid? You’re going to be a ski instructor – the best job in the world!
During these 2 days in the evening, the course was split into 2 groups to go to Intersport to purchase ski equipment. This happens in the evening when the shop is closed because you get more discount than the locals and so this is done behind closed doors. You’ll hear this time and time again from ‘evil’ Paul but it really is important that you don’t buy ski equipment at home or online. The advise and knowledge that the SIA guys share with you is the best you’ll ever get. Interpsport in Kaprun has one of the best boot fitters in the world who has worked with World Cup teams and so you’re getting a really professional service. I went all-out and got skis, boots and poles (obviously) as well as a helmet, goggles and some other bits and pieces. You might as well take advantage of the huge discount and, as you’ll be told by your trainers, the number one rule of being a ski instructor is looking good! Put it this way; for the full price of my skis I got the skis, Fischer vacuum boots, poles and POC helmet and goggles for around the full price of the skis. That proves how much you’re saving by waiting to purchase in-resort.
We met the night before the first day of training to be told how it works. We were split into groups of around 6 and given a trainer who we met that night to discuss some things. You would have that trainer for the first week and then a different trainer every week after that. This means that you get 5 different trainers each with their own ways of teaching meaning that you learn a huge amount. These are some of the best instructors in Austria and so they do know what they’re talking about.
The first week was focused on your own skiing and working on different things from short turns to race carving and some off-piste skiing. After the first week we began the training program. You go right back to basics. Like, all the way back. You learn how to teach an absolute beginner who has never been of skis before, some of whom have never seen snow before! From Einführung you go to Schuss, to Pflug, to Kurven, to Kanten and Rutschen and then to Carven Grundstufe. These are all concepts you learn when you arrive but they are the essentials for skiing. There is so much more to skiing than you actually think, such as body position and the movements required, but you have professional trainers with expert feedback, including video analysis of your skiing, and so you learn at an accelerated, though still manageable, speed.
By the end of the course and when you reflect and everything you’ve done you realize that you know have a huge bank of knowledge about skiing. You really have to embrace the German and over the course of the training you get the chance to simulate the teaching exam you will have to do to get as much practice as possible. The SIA course offers everything you need and more; German lectures, sports science workshops, the training required for the exam as well as the development of your own skiing. Before you know it you’ll have passed your exam and be working for a ski school in Austria. I work for Rote Teufel in Kitzbühel teaching kids and it’s been the best 6 months of my life. When you have 8 kids from the age of 4 skiing behind you and you’re all singing, shouting and even dancing it makes you realise you really do have the best job in the world. Who cares if you’re making train noises or making as much noise as possible, because not everyone gets to do this job.
I’ll leave you with 3 rules:
- Make sure you look good. When it snows, stand with your back to the snow so it blows in the face of your guests. When it’s sunny, have them stand facing the shade while you work on your tan.
- ALWAYS carry gummy bears for the kids. On the hill this is the only currency that has value.
- Smile and enjoy every second of it.