As applications open for this season's Ski Club Leaders course, Chris Madoc-Jones takes a look back at last year's intense two-week Leaders course in the mountains of Zermatt.

In December 2016, for a second season after relocating from Tignes, the Ski Club Leaders Course returned to the mountains of Zermatt, with 22 aspiring Leaders in tow. The sun shone almost constantly and thanks to Zermatt’s world-class snowmaking, any fears about the conditions were quickly quashed. Yes, it was hard to find fluffy powder, but the new Leaders, under the guidance of the expert training team led by Bruce Goodlad, were still able to find some fresh tracks some three weeks after the last snowfall.

Ski Club Leaders course

Watch the video to find out more about the Ski Club Leaders course

What does the course include?

Skiing (or in one candidate's case, telemarking) is clearly central to the course, with every future Leader able to benefit from sessions of expert instruction and further training throughout the week from the team. All of the future Leaders I spoke to emphasised this, and after ripping around the pistes below the Klein Matterhorn with them the high ski standard was immediately obvious. However, the on-snow side is only the tip of the iceberg on the Leaders Course.

Evening seminars and daytime sessions covered everything from avalanche safety and writing snow reports to leadership skills and the planning of a day’s skiing. So, as a result, the Ski Club’s Leaders are not just well drilled technically and safety-wise, but also on everything to make the Leaders programme as strong, varied and fun as possible.

Following a five-strong group at the start of the second week of the course, the new knowledge was clear to see. The team had meticulously planned a full day on the slopes, but throughout were adapting to ensure the best possible day on the mountain. A fantastic lunch capped off a great day on the mountain for all involved, including myself. The future of the Leaders service seems to be in good hands...

Who takes part?

The 2016 edition of the Leaders Course has been one of the most diverse in many years, with a 40 year spread of ages – the youngest was 22. The range of backgrounds was also impressive, with everything from lawyers to students to doctors. But despite these varied backgrounds and personalities, every evening the group convened in the bar of the hotel to catch up over a beer or two.

Some, like former firefighter Dan, have set themselves new challenges, starting with the Ski Club Leaders Course. He has combined a passion for skiing, with a desire to spend more time on snow and to meet like-minded skiers from all backgrounds. So determined to improve his skiing (which was pretty good to start with!) he’s off to Fernie to become a qualified instructor for three months after the course. 

So what makes it so special?

As an outsider coming in during the second week of the course it was clear to see a real sense of camaraderie and team spirit – but perhaps most importantly, everyone seemed to be having a good time. Whether this was in the hotel bar, on the slopes or riding in the gondola up to the glacier, it was clear to see that real friendships had been made.

Of course, added to this was the exceptional level of instruction, guiding and training, which I was lucky enough to experience first-hand. This no doubt resulted in the overwhelmingly positive feedback from everyone I spoke to from the course. 

Want to learn more?

For more information about the course and if you’re interested in taking part next season, send an email to Owen Chapman or have a look at the Ski Club’s Leader Course page on the website.

Photos: Johnny Cass & Chris Madoc-Jones