You may have heard of, or come across, “gap courses” when researching ski instructor courses. Ever since the rise of the Gap Year phenomenon, taking a ‘year out’ between the end of school and the start of university, or often following university, ski instructor course providers weren’t slow in catching up to the trend. These are courses where a number of qualifications and training are bundled together for a fixed price and a fixed period of time in an intensive block, usually at the lower end of the course level (Levels 1 & 2 are most common).
There are a number of different providers out there offering different qualifications, times of year, lengths of courses, locations, and of course – price. These courses have evolved far beyond the traditional gap year market and often attract people on career breaks, looking for a change in career or early retirees looking for something different. But the main allure is that they’re packaged up in a neat little bundle where you don’t have to think about a lot of the logistics and box-ticking yourself. Due to the intensity of the training and exams, you’ll need to ensure that your skiing is at the course provider’s desired level because there isn’t usually time scheduled in for retakes and additional training if you are well below the standard required.
You can use our guide to the NZSIA, CSIA, BASI, PSIA and ASPI qualifications to work out which system you think you want to work through. Once you’ve decided on your system of choice, you’ll need to research gap course providers that use that system, the most common ones are BASI, NZSIA and CSIA.
When and for how long?
The time of year and length of your course may be an important factor in your decision-making depending on what your reasons for qualifying and desires for your instructing career are. If you are time-limited and have just the one year (gap year) that you want to make the most of and qualify and teach, then you will need to consider what you can fit in. For example, if you finish school/University in the early summer then you could head to the southern hemisphere and train and qualify in the NZSIA system until the Autumn, teach in Europe or north America in the winter, and then teach again in New Zealand the following summer before you head to you next challenge (University/other career), but means you need to pass all of your exams in New Zealand before the end of the season for it to work (minimum Level 2 usually required for Europe/north America). This ensures that you fit in maximum skiing time in the time you have available if you are using time between academic years.
Another option is to stick with the northern hemisphere to start with and train/qualify in the pre-season period in the autumn in a glacial area. And then you have the rest of the winter to work and potentially the following summer in the southern hemisphere. This fits the maximum skiing into a 1 year period, but again, for it to work you’d need to pass all of your exams and other requirements in the set period.
Length of course
In some respects, this depends on the time of year, how many qualifications you want to achieve and what sort of experience you’re expecting. Some intensive courses will offer you the chance to achieve you level 1 and 2 in 6-8 weeks, some offer 11 weeks with additional courses, excursions and experiences included. Some will offer bespoke lengths of time depending on what you need in order to achieve your goals.
The price will relate to all of the options above. Typically, the longer the course and the more exams you do, the more you’ll pay, pretty simple. However, you also need to factor in all of the extras that you might get from one course provider and not others – accommodation, exam fees, transport (if you have to take exams in other locations), food, discounted ski equipment, first aid courses, membership to your professional body, cost to get there in the first place (travelling from the northern to southern hemisphere locations won’t come cheap), lift passes… You’ll need to factor all of these costs in and whether they do or don’t provide them. Some will also throw in some additional excursions and experiences including dog sledding, tubing etc. so keep a look-out for these if they interest you.
There are lots of gap course providers out there, but here are a few tips for starters:
Snoworks – pre-season BASI 1 & 2 based in Tignes, soon to offer summer course in Hintertux in the Austrian system
Interski – January-March BASI 1 & 2 in Pila, Italy.
New Generation – January-March BASI 1 & 2, 3 locations in Europe available
Altitude – BASI Level 1 & 2 November-February or January-March, Verbier
Peak Leaders – 4-11 week courses available in Europe, Canada and Argentina, CSIA, BASI and ÖOSV offered.
Ice – 4-10 week programmes offered for BASI 1 and BASI 1 &2, Val D’Isère.
Ski le gap – pre-season and January-March options, range of qualifications in CSIA available.
Nonstop Snow – a variety of lengths and qualifications available in Canada, New Zealand and France, offering CSIA, BASI and French system qualifications.
Snowskool – range of lengths and qualifications in Europe, Canada and New Zealand,
All Tracks – range of courses in the CSIA system in Whistler, Canada
With so much choice out there, make sure you do your research and choose one that suits your requirements.