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Life as a snowboard instructor - what’s it really like?


Working as a snowboard instructor is surely about as far from the 9-5 routine as a job gets. But what is life as a snowboard instructor actually like? Does the envious or negative imagery that the job title conjures-up have any grounding in reality?

Dominic Piper, from Perth in Scotland, take a bow. He has been working as a snowboard instructor at Sunshine Village ski resort in Banff, Canada for the past four seasons. Everyone has an opinion on what he does but how do these views compare to Dom’s own account of what it’s really like?

Firstly, let's look at his job from the outside.

What my friends think I do (thanks to Dom's friend Jamie Dalgleish)

Dom travels out to Canada every December, paying almost as much in excess baggage charges as he paid for his flight ticket, citing as “necessary” the three snowboards, five jackets and twenty-six hats he has packed. As his friends, we are disappointed: not because will miss him but because we have only just managed to help him overcome the bizarre ‘Scanadian’ accent he picks up every season (‘Scanadian’ is a hybrid-accent that’s 60 per cent Scottish, 40 per cent Canadian and 100 per cent ridiculous).

I don't really think about what Dom does during the day, I just imagine him hitting the bars after "work" to hang out with a bunch of dreaded dudes with inventive facial hair and piercings and discuss the day’s events, stunts and girls in language peppered with words like ‘sick’, ‘dope’, and ‘gnarly’. I’m a bit jealous, to be honest.

What my parents think I do (thanks to Dom’s mum, Mrs Piper)

When Dominic announced his career plans, we were a little worried. We hoped for a completely different direction: we thought he would go to uni and study law! But, Dominic's father and I are now proud of what he has achieved. Passing his Level 3 exam two years ago made us realise this was a serious move and it is great to know that he is a high-achiever in his chosen industry. Most importantly, he seems happy.

Knowing my Dominic, I imagine he enjoys teaching groups of children, making that breakthrough and helping them to be able to snowboard down steeper runs. I am even considering taking up snowboarding just to let Dominic teach me!

What society thinks I do (thanks to some people we talked to on the slopes)

“Snowboard instructors probably don't experience much stress, what I wouldn't give to get paid for doing what I love!”

“It must be as close to living the dream as it gets”

“I like my annual week-long holiday on-snow but five months of super-cold winter…no thanks!”

“Too many noodles and kids, and too much couch-surfing!”

So, Dom, what’s it really like?

What I think I do (thanks to Dom Piper)

In spite of the protestations of my friends and family, I work very hard and take my job very seriously. I completely understand that there is a myth surrounding snowboard instructors that we just ride around the mountain all day, hang out in bars and party in the evenings and, in truth, this is probably one reason for me wanting to become a snowboard instructor in the first place.

But, you soon realise that this mentality only gets you so far. If you want to really make a career out of teaching snowboarding and gain advanced qualifications, you have to regard yourself as an athlete and behave accordingly. On-and off-season, I do a lot of work in the gym, working on core strength and flexibility - both essential for injury prevention. And, despite the stereotypes, I do not drink alcohol to excess on a regular basis as all instructors in the Ski & Board School are regarded as ambassadors for the resort and role-models to the rookie instructors.

Another common misconception is that snowboard instructors spend their time couch-surfing and eating noodles! While I don’t earn the money I would have made if I had studied law, the money is more than enough to get by on, especially once you become more qualified, and the tips can be absolutely superb.

Snowboarding is my passion and it makes me very happy to work doing something that I love. Some days you can spend most of your time picking kids up off the snow, wiping their noses and listening to their moans but on others, you can get a group of twenty-somethings who need a guide to ride some off-piste in the backcountry. As with everything in life, you take the rough with the smooth and, actually, I kind of like the rough!

Dom trained with Snowskool on the 12-week training programme in Banff, Canada. For more information on this course and other snowboard instructor courses, and ski instructor courses too, visit www.snowskool.co.uk.