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The career break that led to three different mountain jobs

Turn your vacation into your life. This is Louise's gnarly journey from career break to full-time snowboarder in North America's peaks. (5 min read)

When Louise took a career break, she wanted to improve her snowboarding but hadn’t planned on much else. Her Nonstop course changed everything, and she made a new life in the mountains.


Since then, she’s experienced three different mountain jobs, including snowboard instructing at Squaw Valley, gained new qualifications and ridden at some of North America’s most famous resorts. Here’s how she did it.

A game changer


My life-changing experience began when I decided to do Nonstop’s 11 week instructor course in Banff. I needed a fresh challenge as I’d become bored of my regular job as a fitness instructor. I was looking for a career break and knew a winter season would fit the fill the bill.


After a great deal of investigation it was obvious that training as an instructor would provide adventure and challenge I craved, and a solid structure to progress. I decided on Nonstop because their program offered the most in terms of coaching and optional activities. The Banff course appealed to me as Nonstop was the only company that could train you at the three different mountains in the area – Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and Mount Norquay.


When I headed out to Canada I didn’t really have any intention of becoming an instructor, I just wanted to spend a season in the snow with some like-minded people. I was a novice at the time, having only spent a few days in the snow, so my focus was on improving my riding.


Little did I know how much my life would change.

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All mountain pro


During my time with Nonstop I gained my CASI level 1 qualification during the first half of the course and spent the rest of the season on All Mountain Pro program. As I had no designs on becoming an instructor, the AMP pathway was perfect. I could focus on improving my technique across the mountain, with clear goals at every stage, without the added pressure of exams.


I could focus on improving my technique across the mountain, with clear goals at every stage, without the added pressure of exams.


On the AMP course, our coaches pushed us every day and really challenged our riding abilities – they completely changed the way I looked at a mountain. Each instructor had their own area of expertise so could cater for everyone’s interests, from park to freeriding, performance and racing.


Working in a ski hostel


The following winter, along with my Canadian working visa and some friends I’d made during my Nonstop course, I headed back out to Canada. This time I went to Silverstar Mountain Resort, BC.


I worked and lived in a hostel, which gave me free accommodation and enough time off to ride every day. The resort was smaller than Banff but I enjoyed living on the hill and literally being able to roll out of bed and onto the mountain.


That season was great, and we explored as many resorts as we could during our free time. Big White, Revelstoke and Whistler were all swiped from the bucket-list.


Come spring and I wanted to finish what I started with Nonstop, and go for my CASI level 2. So I headed back to Banff to challenge the level 2 exam. And along with many of the Nonstoppers from that year, I passed.

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Becoming a ski and snowboard technician


Feeling very much at home in Banff I decided to stay in Canada for the rest of the year and found myself a job in a snow and skate shop. After an amazing summer spent hiking and mountain biking the Rockies, I was ready for winter once again. I got a sponsorship offer from the shop and worked there for the winter season.


During that season, I gained my Salomon ski technician certification and started working in the shop’s rentals department. Through product knowledge sessions provided by the brands we sold, I learned a lot about the technology involved in both skis and snowboards.


The shop was owned by Panorama Mountain Resort, so I also had the bonus of having a season pass there. We’d road trip everywhere we could and explored more famous resorts, including Kicking Horse, Castle Mountain and Nonstop’s home, Fernie.


It was a truly epic powder season and, living with a 15-year Banff resident and spending the occasional day with the Nonstop crew, I hit some of the resort’s best secret stashes around.

Instructing at Squaw Valley


After three winters in Canada, I decided to try somewhere completely new and put my instructing skills to use. I got offered an instructing job at Squaw Valley in California, USA – the local hill of snowboard legend Jeremy Jones and the home of gnar. Finally, I would be getting paid to snowboard.


Once the mountains get in your blood it’s hard to go back – your vacation has become my life.


Having been a fitness instructor and personal trainer for seven years, teaching came naturally to me and I found it easy to be passionate about something I loved. Teaching children as young as five can be challenging at times, but is equally rewarding. My level 2 certification allowed me to teach higher abilities too and I often cruised the mountain as if I was freeriding with friends.


From snowboarding my way through North America, to becoming a qualified ski technician and snowboard instructor, my career break turned out to be life-changing. I don’t know where I’ll end up next but I do know for sure it’ll be in the mountains somewhere. Once the mountains get in your blood it’s hard to go back – your vacation has become my life.



Ready to turn your snowboard vacations into a career? Get in touch with Nonstop and become a snowboard instructor or ski instructor this winter.

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