Life in Canada after leaving the RAF

Andy Garnham took an active resettlement course with Peak Leaders in Banff,  Canada, training to become a ski instructor. Here is his story..

I served for just over 20 years in the RAF as a logistics officer.  During my time in the RAF, I was fortunate enough to have 3 years as a liaison officer with the Italians, based near Milan and an hour or so from a ski resort in theAostaValley….

Can you outline why you considered taking a 3-month ski instructor training course in Canada for your resettlement?

My wife had lived in Canada before I met her.  We had always planned to move to Canadawhen I retired from the RAF, but the immigration offer came earlier than we expected.  We had about 8 months to organise retirement, pack up in theUK, find jobs and somewhere to live in Canada. Fortunately, we’d already done a lot of recce work and knew we wanted to live inSun Peaks, British Columbia and we had looked at the job market in Kamloops, the nearest city.

I’d skied for over 20 years and was hooked.  Our plan forCanadawas to live and work in a ski area.  We found Sun Peaks almost by accident at the London Ski Show.  A lady called Nancy Greene told us Sun Peaks was a 4 Season resort and the perfect place to live.  She should know, as she lived in Sun Peaks and was a former Olympic Champion.

A ski instructor course in Banff fitted perfectly and gave me 3 months in Canada to do job hunting and complete the immigration processes.  At least that’s what I told my wife!  Three months skiing for someone who’s always wanted to be a ski bum, was too good an opportunity to turn down.

And why did you choose Peak Leaders in Banff in particular?

Peak Leaders was registered for Enhanced Learning Credits, so I could use these to cover some of the course costs.  They also had an excellent reputation and understood the processes associated with resettlement from the armed forces.

You’ve finished the course successfully, could you outline the qualifications you got, the experiences you had, and maybe some of the highlights of your time in Banff?

The final week of the course was the CSIA Level 2 ski instructor assessment, which I passed.  The training leading up to the assessment was outstanding and all delivered through the ski school atSunshineVillage.

It was interesting being a 45 year old on a course largely drawn from pre or post university gap year .  They were very inclusive and great fun to be with.  I never felt left out.  The highlight had to be a day at Kicking Horse – you get the measure of the place from the sign at the top of the gondola that simply says “Warning Cliff.”  No fence, no out of bounds.  Ski it if you can!

You have moved out to Canada full-time now, could you tell us your plans for the future?

We’ve just bought a house in SunPeaks– it’s not quite ski-in ski-out, we have to walk about 50 metres.  It’s a great ski area, with loads of glade skiing and whole areas that are just left natural.  I had my first day on the slopes the Sunday after we finished the course and last Saturday we woke up to 40cm of fresh powder.  Suffice to say I fell out of bed and onto my skis.

My wife and I both work inKamloops, about 40 minutes away – I got a post as an analyst with the British Columbia Lottery, based on my experience in the RAF. I still commute to work, but 40 minutes down the valley dodging the wildlife, beats the 7.35am from Wandsworth toWaterloo.  Next season I plan to ski instruct part-time and make the most of my resettlement qualification.

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