My Ski Season Experience
By Natasha Patel
Waving my parents goodbye at Gatwick Airport in early November 2012 I was fairly unsure what to expect from the instructor course, and ski season, I was about to begin. I was on a flight which a lot of other people from the course, and pretty soon I was landing in Salzburg! At the airport we worked out which 4 girls would be in our flat. We were in Sonnenheim, with 20 or so guys, a bit of a change when I was straight out of a girls school! It was great though, I became really close with the girls, and the everyone there was a laugh, we had a lot of fun in that house! There are so many in-jokes and good times I had just being with such awesome people, before I even think about the skiing!
I had skied a lot with my family, and to be perfectly honest I thought I was pretty good at skiing. Until the first day anyway. At which point I realised that this thing called technique, was actually quite important... The first week of the training we focussed on our own skiing, getting rid of the (many) bad habits and getting a good position. I can remember my first trainer skiing past the next week and commenting on how much I had improved which was nice when at the time it was dawning on me how much I needed to change still! We changed trainers each week, which worked well as it meant we had a new perspective all the time. The next three weeks were spent learning lesson plans, as well as continuing to improve our positions. The lesson plans weren’t the most fun, but all the practice meant we knew exactly what was going on when the exam started, which was a big help.
We had weekends off from skiing, considering how un-ski-fit some of us were this was really nice! Fridays nights out in Kaprun were some of the best nights of the season for me, the entire bar was always filled with Ski Instructor Academy people, so you were surrounded by familiar faces. I have so many stories from those nights! We had free access to the Tauern Spa in the evenings and weekends, they had 5 swimming pools, one which played music UNDERWATER! Need I say any more? A few Sundays from the course we had German classes next door, going to the Spa was the nicest thing after attempting to talk skiing in German all day!
The day we left Kaprun was fairly hectic, I was so sad to be leaving people I had become such good friends with, and had some epic times with, but at the same time I was incredibly excited to get to Kitzbühel, where the majority of my season would be.
Kitzbühel is one of the most beautiful towns I have ever been to, it was such a nice place to live for 4 months. The house we were staying in was less beautiful, let’s just say looking now at student houses, I think they all look really nice in comparison! But I actually got used to it really quickly, and by the end I loved it in a funny sort of way, there were always other instructors about so I was never lonely. I was sharing with one girl I had also shared with in Kaprun which was really nice, and then another girl who had done the Ski Instructor Academy course 2 years previously so was on her 3rdseason. We took the exam itself in nearby St Johann in Tirol, so it meant I ended up skiing 3 areas over the season, which is pretty good going I reckon! The course had definitely helped us with the exam, I was in a group with an English guy who had come straight to the exam, and he was totally confused as to what was going on for the first few days, while the rest of us were already up to speed from what we’d learnt in Kaprun. It was such a relief to hear my name read out on the list of people who had passed!
Working itself was slightly daunting at first, I ended up being asked to work on the second of 3 days set aside for new instructors to do training to get to know the area, so I wasn’t really psyched up for teaching my first lesson, but they needed an instructor so it looked like I would have to be! Once I had got over the initial worry, it all worked out , my first guest was a beginner, so I was able to go straight in with the first lesson we had learnt, and I soon got more into the lesson. Most of the season I was teaching children in private lessons, I really enjoyed working with them, I was quite lucky in that I speak French, so got given a few kids purely because of their language, so I got to teach some intermediates who could do red runs, which was pretty fun for me. I definitely gained confidence and skills as I taught more.
We had training twice a week as well, which I personally loved. Yes, we had to be at the lift for 8am, but we were the first people to ski down the Streif piste, the lift having been opened up specifically for us, and we got paid to improve our own skiing! Normally in groups of 10 or so we would be trained, probably 50% of the time on the techniques we were teaching the guests, and 50% on our own skiing, practicing short turns for example. Plus the view on the mountain at that time in the morning is fairly impressive! A couple of days we even had training in the day time when we didn’t have work, they were such good days, I always want to improve how I ski.
One of my highlights from the season was New Year’s Day, when the whole ski school walked up to the top of the training piste, and then skiied down with candles past a giant 2013 made out of candles. Being part of one of the candle-lit descents was definitely one to cross off the bucket list. We were then in prime position to watch instructors from our ski school jump over the fire they’d set up, and the best firework display I have ever seen in the sky, above the 2013 the snowboarders had lit earlier. It was an incredible thing to be a part of.
Days off in Kitzbühel were a lot of fun, skiing with the other instructors from the house. I would like to say that most of the time when we were free skiing we were practicing, but to be honest we were mainly skiing simply to have fun. We would try maybe one or two runs of practicing though, and going out skiing with instructors who are more experienced or better than you does improve your skiing I think.
Kitzbühel hosts one of the World Cup ski races, so one weekend in January the whole resort filled up with people, and as instructors we got free entry! I’d never really watched any sport on the TV, but the atmosphere there that weekend was pretty exciting, recognising the sections of the race as they went down and thinking, that’s where we train etc was pretty cool. Personally I preferred the slalom to the downhill as you could see the whole course, but just being in the crowd was an experience, Red Bull sent parachutists down and our Kinderland was filled with hot air balloons!
I had already done a little bit of snowboarding, though going up to the magic carpets when the others were learning was good fun, a nice sunny day watching them all fall over! I bought a snowboard during the season, and one of my best days was when one of the boarders from the house gave me a lesson (cake is a very good bribe I’ve found) Then in the afternoon we went off piste with another couple of boarders, and met up with more skiiers. There was so much deep snow around and although I tumbled down most of it at first, by the end I was staying up for longer, and it felt awesome!
Leaving Kitzbühel was possibly the hardest day I had during my season. Had I been going home I genuinely do not think I would have coped! I had simply had such an amazing time, and learnt so much, that admitting it was over was horrible. But I was not going home! I was back to Kaprun, or more Taxenbach, a little village on the other side of Zell am See where I would be staying while I did the Landes 1 course, the second part to my 2 in 1 course with Ski Instructor Academy.
I guess I was expecting a similar set up to the Anwärter course, however in fact my experience of LS1 was very different. In the Anwärter we were there to have fun, and as much of it possible. On the LS1 there was a lot more focus, we were there to improve our skiing, to get this next exam. Those 3 weeks were pretty much eat, sleep, ski, repeat. It was awesome! I don’t think I have ever pushed myself so hard physically as I did trying to work towards that exam. My skiing improved so much over such a short space of time, I was just enjoying putting the effort in, and feeling my skiing improve.
We did one-ski, skiing which was just amusing. And moguls are actually fun when you start to get to know the technique a little bit better (Best not to do them when your legs are knackered though...) I have actually asked myself if the second course was worth the injury I got, and every single time I have realised that I would not go back and trade in any part of my season, even if it meant I would not have been injured. I managed to somehow have some ridiculous accident 4 days before the end of the exam, I was unlucky to land on my binding. Going, “Ouch, that hurt! Now where are my skis?” continuing down the moguls after was probably not the wisest things I’ve ever done! But it’s healed, and I’m going to return to the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier in April, and I will hopefully be leaving with the LS1. And no purple leg this time!
I would definitely recommend a ski season with SIA Austria to anyone. I had never been to Austria before the season, and when I first looked most of the courses I found were in Canada, but they were really expensive I would have been too young to apply for a work visa. It actually turned out to be so much better for me being in Austria, not only was the course much better value, but it’s still possible for me to go back to the same Ski School, where they know me already, and I know the mountain, and work in my Uni holidays which is awesome for me, I was so sad to leave Kitzbühel at the end of the season, but I have already been back and worked 2.5 weeks! My season instructing was one of the best times I have ever had, and probably ever will have. I met some really cool people, and was able to look around a mountain top thinking, yeah, just a casual bit of after work exercise really!
If you would like to follow in the footsteps of Natasha and have one of the most amazing experiences of your life, then why not try a season as ski instructor in Austria? Whether you would like a GAP year or a career change, Ski Instructor Academy can make your dreams come true.