This article was originally published in Issue 2 of Ski+board 2016/17, read it in full here.

Ski+board’s Deputy Editor Harriet heads back to ski school for a taste of teaching in Canada.

Teachers rightly bridle at the saying ‘those who can’t do, teach’. A more accurate adage is that if you can’t explain something, then you don’t understand it. So when I enrolled on an instructor programme in Mont Tremblant, in Québec, it was as much to teach myself how to ski better as others.

Gap-year instructor courses often get a bad press for costing a lot and earning students little. But Ski Le Gap is one of the few to offer an intensive course that qualifies you to teach in four weeks.

That’s the theory. But if you qualify mid-season, most jobs at the ski school will have been taken. So I opted for the three-month course, taking the financial hit in exchange for the promise of skiing all day, every day, fully catered accommodation, and extra-curricular activities such as race training trips to Québec City and ice hockey on the rink outside the Ski Le Gap dormitory.

Ski Club Members can access discounts for ski instructor courses! 

There were 70 of us living, skiing and partying together in the what some describe as a Disneyfied resort. I prefer to think of its brightly coloured, fairytale-houses as providing a blend of French charm and Canadian cool.

We were split into groups according to ability and given improver courses before we embarked on the art of teaching. In some of the exercises, I found myself carving on one ski down the slope. Our trainers were some of the highest qualified in Canada. And we had classroom lessons in the physics of skiing, learning the science of angulation and inclination.

It did not take us long to gain the Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance (CSIA) Level 1 qualification – the one offered at the end of the four-week course. Taken over two days, it’s fairly easy. But it only allows you to teach the very youngest children. Level 2 requires better teaching skills and a higher level of skiing, scrutinised over a week from every angle.

The weather, which had been bitterly cold until then, as only Eastern Canada can be, was soggy by the time of the exam, forcing the closure of all but a few slopes. We were sloshing around, attempting to impress the examiners but struggling to focus. Sleet battered down on our uniformed red jackets and beads of rain clung to the edge of our helmets. To discover, hours later, sheltered in the cinema room of our lodge, that I had passed and was now qualified to teach at an intermediate level was not only a relief but a credit to the teachers - and to my own very British ability to endure the terrible weather.

So how did my actual teaching go? I was lucky enough to get on to the slopes - some of my peers were stuck in a crèche area with toddlers for a whole day. I assisted a young female instructor with her class, aged between eight and ten, and found them adorable. That is until she left me with a boy who refused to ski. I skied with him between my legs the whole day, and he held on to my pole, which I rested under my knees.

There is no greater leg work-out than snowploughing for five hours while holding up a child who, at the very mention of skiing, would burst into tears and go as limp as a doll. It ended up being my least favourite day of the programme. I heard rumours of tips, and was holding out for at least a few beers from the parents, but the instructor ended up keeping it all, though she did express her thanks for helping out with one of the trickiest children she’d ever had.

I may not have instructed since then, but Louise, whom I shared a bunk with, is about to travel out to Whistler to teach. And another friend, Cam, never left Canada. I continue to be friends with many of those that I met, despite the fact we are now scattered across the globe. And my skiing has improved exponentially. I am often asked to help friends, family and my partner for tips, though I’ve concluded it’s worth keeping love and instructing separate.

Instead, I feel I’ve learnt so much more from my experience than simply how to manage my mogul technique or treat frostbite. It was the first time I’d been away from home, living in a different country and experiencing a new culture. Unlike our goggle tans, which soon faded, Ski le Gap will forever hold a place in my heart.

More information

The Ski Le Gap Intensive Ski Training course runs from January 8 to February 4 2017 and guarantees a job interview at the local snow school, as well as advice and help on finding employment elsewhere. It costs £3,895. The Ultimate Ski Experience course runs from January 8 to March 18, 2017 and costs £7,985.