A good gap year option

Both Max and James' parents had a hand in steering them towards the SnowSkool instructor course. Providing accommodation, catering and with dedicated reps on hand to support and facilitate, the course felt like a good bridging gap for a first foray into flying the nest.

Max and James both felt it was a great experience straight out of school. They believe they would never have met so many different people from so many different backgrounds with a common passion without their SnowSkool journey. Enjoying the life that has unfolded since the day they began the course, Max and James both continue to defer their university places.

Why the SnowSkool Banff course?

Max grew up skiing from the age of 3 years old. He skiied all over europe and participated in some racing too. Max said he experienced a pivotal moment when he was 13 years old and had a particularly inspiring instructor in La Plagne – Francesco.  He felt a revelatory flash - ‘This is a bit of me’ - and committed to becoming an instructor himself from that moment on. 

Max’s dad had given him the SnowSkool booklet when he was about 14 years old. Still on his bookshelves when the time came to book that long dreamed about ski instructor course at 18, Max had a closer look.

Having skiied all over europe he wanted a new experience. He'd never been to Canada and the course in Sunshine Village, Banff appealed to Max. With a duration of 13 weeks it was also the longest one on offer, which was a big sway for Max who wanted to get the most skiing and training in possible. And that was that, tick, tick, SnowSkool Banff it was to be.

On the other side of the world, James had also grown up skiing with his family from a young age. Less specifically focused on becoming an instructor, James just loved skiing. Looking for an adventure pre uni he thought a ski instructor course might be fun, and was open minded about where it might take him.

James had already skied Big White, Sunshine Village,Banff and Lake Louise, and was keen on Banff because of it’s lively town life. With a mate working there as a liftie this completed his set of  tick boxes for choosing to go back to Sunshine Village for an instructor course.

And so, Max and James, both venturing out on their first experiences away from home, converged, along with their shared passion.

Great trainers, great mates and great place

James said he really enjoyed the training on the instructor course. He’d never skied every day for so long before and loved it. Plus ‘there were lots of level 4 trainers. We are still in contact with them. They helped with references for jobs in Perisher post SnowSkool.’

Max and James agreed there were ‘lots of good people on the course all easy to get along with’ which made it a great first experience away from home.

The SnowSkool reps also helped the group to gel, looking out for students, organising social events and – a highlight for Max and James - giving them opportunities to visit two other resorts a few hours drive away - Revelstoke and Kicking Horse

The boys were happy with their central accommodation, which was perfect for socialising and quick access to meeting points and the slopes. They enjoyed being in the large group of students and formed formed a particularly tightknit friendship group with four others, all now still in touch and working in the snow industry just over a year from finishing the course.

Of Banff, James reflected ‘if you want a mix of beauty and skiing every day, Banff has it all’. The SnowSkool instructor course usually has around fifty students mainly in their late teens and early twenties with accommodation, catering and reps making it a great ‘gap year’ option.


From students to employees

After the course and with CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructor Alliance) Level 2 qualifications under their belts, Max, James and their friend Dylan headed to Perisher in Australia to work as lifties. Their back to back winter seasons had begun. While they worked on the lifts they also skied every day – for joy of course, and to keep up their skills. Continuing to focus on the goal of getting instructor work the boys looked to Japan as their next step.

Their commitment paid off and their applications were successful! Max was offered a sponsorship visa by the the ski school in Hakuba and James was able to secure a holiday working visa as an Australian.

So, after a bit of post ski season travelling up the east coast of Australia it was off to Evergreen in Hakuba Valley Japan from Dec 2023 to March 2024. James said it was lots of fun teaching children and he also loves one to one instructing because of the more technical aspects involved. He said working with families was fun and rewarding too. 

Max worked more with 7 to 14 year olds which he loved because the gung ho fun factor of this age group. He also enjoyed teaching adults and their appreciation of what he terms a ‘straight talking instructor’.

It was so interesting to hear Max and James talk about the different varieties of instructing they got up to. Never a dull moment.


Continuing skills development

On top of instructing the boys were also offered lots of ongoing training in the mornings before teaching and on their days off. They are both working towards their Level 3 qualifications. James was keen to advise  any prospective SnowSkoolers to go for the CSIA Level 2 Qualification in order to give yourself the best first instructing opportunities afterwards. Learning and development after that is generally ongoing from resort to resort.

What next?

At this point Max and James have skied for fifteen months on the trot. And they do not intend to stop there.

After a bit of travel in Japan Max and James are back in Australia doing farm and office work before heading off the Perisher in June for their next season. They both have offers of instructor work, but Max is also talking to none other than UK alpine racer, World Cup holder and former olympic skier Chemmy Alcott, about possible assistant coach work in the snowdomes and dryslopes in UK, and glaciers in Europe over the summer. 

This might mean parting ways for the first time in a year and a quarter, but whatever happens Max and James say they are committed to a doing a northern hemisphere winter season 2024-25 together in Canada, followed by the southern hemisphere winter 2025 in Perisher again.

SnowSkool opens doors 

Hearing about how SnowSkool provided not just new skills the boys could take around the world but the life long friendship they have made from the opposite ends of the world was inspiring. There is no doubt that the SnowSkool instructor course opened doors and pathways the boys are more than happy to have taken. 

With thanks to Max and James for telling me about their journey as well as best wishes for their exciting plans looking ahead. We’ll look forward to updates anon! 

If you are interested in doing a ski or snowboard instructor course during your gap year. You know where we are. 

Contact us to talk through your options. 

Follow Max Jolliffe on Instagram here

Follow James Lindemann on Instagram here

Writer: Kate Swainson Price 

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