There is no doubt that teaching skiing and snowboarding is a wonderful profession, brimming with adventure.
However, to match the extremity of the sport, teaching has its extreme highs and lows. One minute you’re taking stunning landscape selfies to post on Instagram, feeling smugger than Albert Einstein at a pub quiz. The next you’re a human slipping hazard, awkwardly positioned underneath a hand drier trying to get warm as your saturated uniform drips a reservoir onto the floor. But the weather is least of an instructor’s worries.
Allow me to impart to you the worst of my personal nightmares on the slopes.
My therapist says it will help to stop the night terrors…
An injury on a lesson is not an uncommon thing but that is not to say that it makes it any less difficult to deal with; unless the person you’re teaching deserves the pain. An injury can, in fact, be a blessing in disguise.
During my high school years, I went on a school ski trip to Austria which involved a gruelling fourteen-hour journey by coach. The cool kids, at the back of the bus (naturally), took it upon themselves to make sure nobody caught a wink of sleep by repeatedly shouting “hilarious” catchphrases at the top of their lungs for the entire journey.
I, at the time, was very much front seat material; aka, a teacher’s pet and prone to travel sickness. I didn’t feel self-assured enough to tell them all to shut up without throwing up or having a panic attack from the confrontation. Instead, I stuck my fingers in my ears and took solitude in imagining them breaking an arm whilst skiing as payback for depriving me of fourteen hours-worth of sleep.
The next day one of the main culprits fell and broke his leg. The sedatives made the journey back blissfully quiet. After I stole them, I passed out straight away. Not even his screaming woke me up.
I have had limited injuries on my snowboard lessons. Hold your applause.
I do, however, have a particularly unfortunate incident involving a very likeable child, which makes me feel more guilty about what happened than I usually would (not anymore though, it was ages ago now)
We were skiing down a green run and came to a slightly steeper part, the girl stopped and told me she was nervous about what lay ahead. After getting down to her eye level and telling her in my sincerest of voices that she would be fine and this was nothing to worry about, I watched her rapidly pick up speed, panic, fall and use her face as a braking mechanism.
I raced down the slope after her, looking for pieces of skin or perhaps an ear in the snow as I went. Luckily they were still attached to her face. After I’d duct-taped them back on.
Teaching friends, a partner or family always seems like a great idea at the time. It’ll be so much fun, you can make a day of it and it will be totally free! Then you can all go and laugh in slow motion together at après after a satisfying day of achievement.
In reality, what usually happens is that both the teacher and the learner get incredibly frustrated with one another and vow that there is no one on Earth that you hate more than each other. Teaching friends will make you realise that you have no friends, teaching family will make you realise that you would rather be an orphan and teaching your partner is a fast-track ticket to divorce. I speak from experience as I now live alone with forty-two cats.
Spending six hours with a stranger on a private lesson can be taxing at the best of times. When your client also has the conversational skills of a tranquillised sloth, by the time the lesson has finished I find myself feeling like Robin Williams in Jumanji when he’s just got out of the game exclaiming “what year is it?”
In these cases I usually try and pace my standard conversational topics; what do you do for a living? Where are you from? Do you have any family? What other hobbies do you like to do? How long ago was it that you had the lobotomy? And so on and so forth.
However, pacing these questions can be an issue when they are returned with one-word answers and I soon find that I have maxed out my conversation starters within the first seven minutes of the lesson.
What follows is 5 hours and 52 painfully dull minutes of awkward silences broken only by the odd “well done” or “let’s try that again” or my involuntary snoring.
Lunch becomes a painful ordeal of listening to knives and forks screech on plates. When the situation reaches a point where it would lose to watching paint dry in a “which is most interesting” contest, I take myself to the toilet and sit in a cubicle. Preferring rather for people to think I have aggressive diarrhoea than to endure any more unbearable silences.
The final and ultimate worst nightmare of mine as an instructor, worse even than losing a child on a lesson, is not being bought lunch by your client after tactfully “forgetting” your wallet.
Ski and snowboard instructing is a dream job but it can often leave you with the dilemma of deciding which is more of a necessity for the week; food or toilet paper. Money can often be tight so it is always a treat when a client buys you lunch. However, this should never be an assumption. I myself have made the mistake of presuming lunch would be provided and ended up sat, watching my guest eat as I salivated into my glass of tap water, wondering if eating toilet paper would upset my digestive system.
Thankfully I have never had to resort to eating toilet paper, but the children in ski school whose lunch I steal tell me it’s only hospitalised them a couple of times.