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The gap year that led to a Canadian instructing career

A spontaneous gap year put uni on hold for Steph and led to an incredible Canadian adventure in Banff. (4 min read)

What started out as a gap year break became a ten-year career for Steph Oliver. After completing our 11 week ski instructor course in Fernie, she went on to teach at Sunshine Village in Banff and live out her newfound dream.


Steph says that her Nonstop course changed her life, and she’d do it all again ‘in a heartbeat’.




Name: Steph Oliver
Sport: Ski
Nationality: British


Course: 11 week ski instructor course
Location: Fernie, Canada


Qualifications: CSIA level 2
Worked at: Sunshine Village, Banff.


An easy decision


Choosing to take part in Nonstop's ski instructor course was perhaps the easiest but most life-changing decision I have ever made. It was almost done on a whim: a gap year before university sounded great and, before I knew it, I was in the snow-filled world of Fernie.


I couldn't have imagined a better bunch of people to be thrown together with. There were 40 of us, all there for very different reasons: career break, career change, gap year, long honeymoon; but we were all ultimately there because we loved snow sports.


Beforehand, I’d spent a maximum of 10 days on snow when I was 14 and really had no clue what to expect. In fact, I remember my first ski down towards the chairlift, thinking: “Hey, it's like riding a bike, I totally remember how to ski,” completely oblivious to the fact I was snowplowing the whole way down. The instructors definitely had their work cut out.

A new direction in life


Every day was full of fun. The course not only offered instructor training but there was an avalanche course, cat skiing, snowmobiling, a road trip to Whitefish, ski-tuning sessions, hockey matches, a float in the local parade, ice skating, and more.


11 weeks flew by and it wasn't long before I was saying goodbye to everyone. My experience with Nonstop changed the direction of my life and, more than any decision I've ever made, has had the most positive impact on me.


I knew I wasn’t ready to leave this lifestyle and was now committed to using my new skills. I scored at job at Sunshine Village in Banff and went on to work there for six seasons.


A big learning curve


My first season was a huge learning curve. Teaching a lot of children, I had to manage my time and develop fun games and exercises for a range of ages. With up to eight in each group, often with varied ability, I had to ensure all requests were met. This included who they wanted to ski with, which meant keeping friends and siblings together, or in some cases apart. As you gain experience, you get to teach more varied lessons, so life just gets better and better.


I lived in Banff while teaching at Sunshine. Most ski hills offer staff accommodation but I wanted to live in this legendary town. My social life was never dull, as I'd bump into people all over the place. And the more you get to know everyone, the easier life becomes as you can lean on friends for favours.


Making money as a new instructor is tough, so you have to make the most of all your perks like discounts in local bars and restaurants. Once you're established, you can make a decent amount but, if you want to make big money, ski instructing probably isn't the job for you. And it’s not uncommon to work a second job to help finance the quieter months.

A decade of ski adventures


I’ve had so many experiences throughout my years of teaching. I’ve been paid to ski steep and deep powder runs, trained with top level 4 instructors, learned to snowboard, toured in the backcountry, snowshoed, ice skated and even taught celebrities.


Not without the occasional mishap, I’ll always remember the time a kid wedged his head between the seat of the chairlift and its safety bar as he dangled 20ft from the ground. And the time a four-year-old projectile vomited on me during a lesson during my rookie days.


I can't thank Nonstop enough for opening this door. My time teaching was nothing short of incredible. The friends I made became my family and, looking back on those 10 years, it's hard to imagine what else I could have done with my life. If I could, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.



Steph took our 11 week ski instructor course in Fernie and it led to an amazing life in Canada. Discover how you can make it happen with our ski instructors courses / snowboard instructors courses.

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