10 Reasons to Hit the Slopes on a Gap Year

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Vicky Philpott

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Written by: Francesca Trafford

A Great Idea for a Short Gap Year

When you mention the words ‘gap year’, most people think of Thailand, Cambodia, South America… tales of trekking through jungles and venturing on safari. But that’s just a small example of what’s on offer for a year out.

Forget about the sand and sea, and take a look around the snow and slopes. Spending some time in the mountains, whether it’s for the whole season or just a few weeks can open up new experiences and an enormous amount of opportunities for you when you get back to the real world.

Here are my top 10 reasons to take the plunge and qualify as a ski/snowboard instructor, and have an insane time along the way.

1. For the life skills

Skiing on your gap year

Getting back to the basics here; taking a gap year is an incredible opportunity to develop key life skills. Not only will you come back with buckets of confidence, you’ll learn how to think and act independently, gain actual experience in team work, and learn how to deal with pretty much anything that life can throw at you. Whether you already have a passion for powder bashing or you’re just curious as to what it would feel like to speed down a mountain attached to two planks, spending some time working in the ski industry can really help you get ahead in the working world.

2. To show off to future employers

Although gaining qualifications might seem like a bit of a chore, with winter sports, especially skiing and snowboarding, by becoming an instructor you gain these qualifications without even realising that you’re doing so. Travelling around India on a moped may sound fun, but apart from an in-depth knowledge of what will and will not give you ‘Delhi Belly’, there are very few transferable skills that will have any relevance to a potential employer. Instructor qualifications are very often internationally recognised and give solid proof that you have actually achieved something that required doing more than sunbathing!

3. It looks great on your CV

So many experiences claim to do this, but ski seasons actually do. Again it’s proof that when you made the decision to take a year off, you weren’t just idling away your time. Working in a ski resort, wherever it is, is a tough (but also incredibly fun) job whichever way you look at it. You’re in a foreign country where more often than not you may not speak the native language, and you are working almost 7 days a week with pretty solid hours. If you can stick it out (sometimes people can’t, it’s an honest fact) then you know you’ve worked hard and that you’ve picked up some invaluable skills along the way.

4. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced

You’ll meet countless people from loads of backgrounds. Unlike your school days, you’ll be mixing with people of all ages and nationalities, and often you’ll find that after living with them for 5 months, you’ll be friends for life! By totally immersing yourself in a new environment, you’re bound to experience a different outlook on everything, and it’s this fresh perspective that will set you apart from others when you’re looking for a job after university.

5. You can earn some cash

Learning to be a ski instructor

Unlike volunteering, working as an instructor will give you the opportunity to save a bit of cash to help you out when you start university; with fees increasing, every little helps takes on a new meaning! Living by your own means will also give you valuable life skills and when you do start university, you’ll be infinitely more prepared in the art of looking after yourself.

6. To have a trade

When you get back from your season on the slopes, a qualification like ski or snowboarding instructing can open up direct opportunities for employment back in the UK, and you can work for any artificial slopes. Not only will you be earning valuable extra income, but it will hands-down beat any catering job, and you’ll be keeping your skiing and boarding skills up to scratch whilst you’re away from the mountain too.

7. Learn a new language

You’re in a foreign country for 5 months, what better time to learn a new language? This is especially useful for those thinking of doing a year abroad while at university; by getting in with the locals and speaking the language as much as possible, you’ll be surprised at just how much you can pick up in such a short time, and if you’re planning on studying abroad, it will give you a great heads up. Often the ‘natives’, as it were, actually really appreciate it when you make the effort to speak their language, so it’s much easier to learn than you think.

8. To have a break

Hitting the slopes on your gap year is a great chance to give yourself a bit of a breather from traditional academia. All too often it can be a bit overwhelming jumping straight into a degree after school. A gap year is a great opportunity for you to clear your head and maybe even get an idea of what sort of industry you want to go into. You’ll arrive at university with a clear head, ready to get stuck into whatever degree you’ve chosen.

9. For the independence

By moving to a different country before university, you’re gaining fantastic independence skills. Again, university can be a bit daunting, especially if you have little or no experience at staying away from home. You’ll have such a great community around you when you’re on the mountain that you’ll be having so much fun you won’t notice that suddenly you’ve mastered the washing machine and how to cook! As an instructor, you’ll also experience (maybe for the first time), what it feels like to have someone depend on you, which will give you a huge sense of achievement, because well, it is!

10. You won’t regret it

It will be the one thing in life that you will never regret or forget. However tough the work is, none of it will seem important when you’re out with your friends or spending some quality time on the slopes. There really isn’t another experience like it in the world; from the friends you meet, the skills you’ll gain, and your ability as a skier or border, these are things that can only be accomplished by choosing to spend part of your gap year out on the slopes.

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