A whole gap year might be a bit long to ski and snowboard, but there are loads of opportunities all over the world to take a short gap or spend part of a larger trip on the ski slopes, either just for fun or working as a ski instructor or snowboard instructor and getting paid.
In this section we’ll give an overview on taking time out on the slopes, including information on working as an instructor, the best ski and snowboard locations and the kinds of winter sports you can enjoy.
What to do on the slopes
Work as an instructor
A perfect way to combine your love of winter sports with earning money is to become a ski or snowboard instructor. Opportunities abound in all the world’s major ski resorts during ski season and can last anywhere from a month to half a year.
The pay is generally quite good, accommodation is provided and you’ll get to spend all day out on the slopes teaching others and having fun yourself in the process, not to mention making a load of new mates! If you’re thinking about a career in sports or teaching – or both – working as a ski or snowboard instructor could provide the perfect springboard.
Skiing or snowboarding?
Anyone who has ever been skiing or snowboarding will attest to how awesome each of them are. There’s a supposed animosity between skiers and snowboarders but frankly that’s just not true; there might be a friendly rivalry but that’s about as far as it goes. And there’s nothing stopping you from giving equal attention to both if you spend a short gap on the slopes!
For the vast majority of people skiing is initially easier to pick up than snowboarding, simply because the body is in a more natural position. When skiing your legs are generally parallel and you’re facing forward, whereas snowboarders must get to grips with the sideways approach. In terms of injuries, you’re more likely to hurt your lower body when skiing and your upper body when snowboarding, though you’d have to be very unlucky to do serious damage to either.
Dog sledding is pretty much what it says on the tin: a sled pulled by a pack of dogs, usually huskies. It has a long and noble history and is one of the oldest known forms of snow transport.
There are loads of options to get involved with dog sledding on your gap year, whether you’re going on an excursion for fun, or actually volunteering at the dog ranch itself.
This is a bit like jet skiing, only on the snow. It is so much fun and you could well become addicted to the speed and thrill within approximately 3 minutes. Just watch out for those trees.
With its freezing winter temperatures and fluctuation of mountains, Canada was made for winter sports. This has certainly not been lost on the Canadians, who have created some truly epic resorts, the most famous of which is Whistler Blackcomb in the province of British Columbia, arguably the best in the world.
The USA has some amazing ski resorts, notably in the state of Colorado, which boasts Aspen Mountain, famous for its black diamond terrain, and Vail, the largest single mountain ski resort in the country. Other top resorts include Park City in Utah and Jackson Hole in Wyoming.
A bit vague, we realise, but so many countries in Europe have so many awesome ski resorts it would be unfair to mention just one. France (try Chamonix), Switzerland (try Engelberg), Austria (try St Anton), Italy (try Cervinia) and Finland (try Levi) are the best, but there are also options in Andorra, Croatia and Romania.
Japan is easily the best country in Asia for skiing and it’s a relatively straightforward country for UK nationals to obtain working holiday visas for. Niseko, located in the northern island of Hokkaido, is probably the best ski resort in Japan for its all-round terrain and for being very English-friendly.
The wildly varied terrain of New Zealand lends itself to pretty much any outdoor sport you care to mention, and skiing and snowboarding are no exception. The best resorts are located on the more mountainous South Island and include Treble Cone, Mt Hutt and Craigieburn.