Becoming an Instructor with WE ARE SNO – Ellie’s story
Working a season as a snowboard instructor is not about the pay check. Most of the jobs you work when abroad are a means to an end. You work 9 months in a café, a hotel or a bar to fund 1 month of glorious travel, maybe 2 if you’re lucky. But, for me, I didn’t want to go travel across the world to get a job that I could do back home.
I found the WE ARE SNO website while on a lunch break in my post-graduate office job. I was working for a year and a half in a customer service call centre in my hometown and badly needed a shake up. But the idea of moving to a new country all on your own can be so daunting. Applying for your visa, finding a job, sorting your travel – equipment lists, travel insurance, flights, and so on and so on. There’s a lot of information to take in and I was already starting to feel overwhelmed. I found that the team at WE ARE SNO were my flashlight through this maze of confusion. Their website doesn’t overwhelm you with information, they let you know if you’re eligible and then connect you with a real person via email. There’s not multiple pages of text and jargon, just an email exchange and quick phone call with one of their course managers. The next thing you know you’re in that office job you hate, thinking about nothing but what it would be like to work outside, in snow, on a mountain.
So I signed up! There’s nothing more motivating than having a shining light at the end of a tunnel when you’re consumed by a dead end job. Preparation for this kind of move can be stressful and complicated, with many moving pieces. WE ARE SNO didn’t necessarily hold my hand through the entire process but they’re there whenever you need them. Amid the frantic visa application Adrian, my personal course manager, replied promptly to as many emails with the subject ‘HELP!!!!!!’ as it took for me to get it right.
Fast-forward many months, days, and hours of waiting for this big move and the nerves have set in. The arrivals lounge of Vancouver Airport suddenly felt like the most intimidating setting, as you prepare to meet fresh faces with no sleep, and smelling like an aeroplane. But those nerves are pushed aside as you start playing cards on the garishly patterned airport carpet with a group of strangers feeling the exact same as you. Meanwhile, Adrian is in the background zooming around, sorting our transport, checking visas and generally soothing jitters.
Now that I’m living in Canada, I’ve realised there are very few jobs that you will gladly get up in the early morning for. When your alarm goes off before 6am you normally don’t jump out of bed. But when you’ve made it to the bus, then the ski hill, and you’ve dragged on your uniform and chugged a scalding coffee you make your way to the lifts. It’s 8:30 by now and the hill is quiet for the only time of the day. The lifts spin but there’s no one on them, as the lifties scrape last night’s fresh snow off the chairs and instructors jump on three-by-three.
There’s nothing better to shake away the early morning cobwebs like first run. The morning chill literally shakes you awake but as you get to the top the sunrise is in full, coloured bloom. You always appreciate the instructors perk of enjoying first run, and how beautiful this place really is.
This community of mountain-minded people becomes your second, eclectically international family very quickly. Adrian organised our initial group events, like meals out and hockey games, curling coaching, frisbee golf and pool tournaments. Since then, we’ve symbolically flown the nest and hike, explore and (most importantly) brunch together with complete autonomy.
From the moment I wired across my first payment to WE ARE SNO I honestly didn’t know what kind of trip this would be for me. The people I’ve met here come from a variety of different backgrounds and for a variety of different reasons. Some want a gap year before they throw themselves back into school, some want a break from their regular job, life or hometown. Many have decided to make snowsports their career and work up the ranks in the snow school.
I’m now halfway through my season at Mt. Washington resort on Vancouver Island in Canada and have been a working instructor for over a month. At the moment, I can’t wait to see this epic scenery in summer. But what to do when there’s no snow? Luckily, when your work place is filled with like-minded adventuring types there’s already too many options. My longer, warmer days might be filled with working on whale watching tours, zip lines, surf camps or wildlife tours. The possibilities are