Written by Anke Buchta. Anke was a member of our 2014/2015 ski instructor training team in the 3 Valleys. Find out what motivated Anke to swap london tubes for chair lifts and get an inside view as to what the course is really like.
Why become a ski instructor?
It all started in Verbier when I booked onto an off-piste course with New Gen in March 2014. I was lucky that all the others that had booked onto the course had to cancel at short notice so I had a one2one for 2 hours on a bluebird day. While the instructor Jamie showed me how to leave perfect traces hopping through the snow like a bunny, we started chatting about life as a ski instructor. It’s been always my dream to spend a season in the snow and I was curious to hear what it takes. That’s when Jamie told me about the NewGen gap course and said I should come to Verbier the year after. I wasn’t quite sure if I was good enough, but he was convinced that if I was open to change and able to get rid of old bad habits I could do it. I was hooked… Back in the office in London I had such bad holiday blues that I occupied myself looking into the details of the course and two weeks later I had booked.
Originally I planned to do the course in Verbier as I had met some of the instructors during my holidays there and knew my way around, but thinking about it for a bit longer I realised that I wanted to be in a bigger resort when skiing for 10 weeks. The timings also worked better for me. So I decided to do the Courchevel course which started at the beginning of the new year. This fitted in well with the time off from work I was able to negotiate and I had heard a lot about the 3 valleys and everyone who’s been there highly recommended it.
Preparations for the course, fear and excitement
I wanted to be as physically prepared as possible by the time the season started, so I decided to train with a personal trainer twice a week for 8 months. We did a lot of strength, cardio and especially balance building exercises that relate to skiing. I can’t imagine how I would have coped without all that training beforehand. It is physically very demanding to ski every day for 10 weeks and very different to going on a skiing holiday.
While I was getting my body ready for the course I went through a lot of stages in my mind. From fear of failing to the exciting outlook of skiing every day. I had a lot of ups and downs before the course actually started. Is it a mistake to leave my job? Am I a good enough skier? Will I be able to change? Will I pass the exams? Will I get on with all the others? What will it be like to live in a chalet for 10 weeks? Will I cope with the age difference? What if I get injured? – in hindsight all reasonable and normal fears, but the New Gen family was with me all the way and nothing was worth worrying over too much. Whenever I had a moment of worry, I picked up the phone and talked to Emma or Guy. They were brilliant in answering all the questions I had before the course.
What was it like to spend a season in the snow?
Well, there is really nothing better for me than to wake up every morning knowing that you can do what you love – skiing! This was especially true on those mornings when I opened the curtains and realised it had snowed over night… A bluebird day! These were the best mornings when everyone in our chalet sat at the breakfast table being excited like a small child to get out and ‘play’ in the snow. And even if the weather was playing up and we couldn’t get up on the mountain, we found a lot of fun activities to busy ourselves. One Sunday we spent all day building a massive igloo on the balcony.
When it comes to training I think that it is a very individual and personal journey. Everyone had such different experience levels. From only a few weeks holidays on skis to full seasons in the snow or even racing backgrounds, everyone had new things to learn and practise. The hardest week was probably mid way through the course, when your body is already a little bit tired, you feel like you have still so much to learn before the level 2 exams and time is flying by. However at some point it clicks and everything comes together just before the exams start.
What really did it for me was when we got to see what it is really like to work in a ski school… 2 weeks of shadowing during school holidays. I had two four year old beginner girls in my first week. We had to be quite inventive to teach them something that’s potentially quite technical, but by the end of the week we went down a green run and the girls used a button lift on the their own. Success! There was nothing more rewarding than hearing the girls happily squeak and giggle as they followed us down the mountain. That’s when I was hooked and knew that this is what I want to do for a living…