Claire: Why I took the first step…

After last week’s post on women and career breaks, we asked Claire, who left her career in London real estate for a Peak Leaders 10-week ski instructor course in Verbier, how she decided to take the first step…

Peak Leaders: What prompted the decision to leave London for Verbier?

Claire: I guess after 12 years of selling property all across London it was finally now or never.

Plus things all aligned to make it a little easier.

Some friends had done the same the year before.

The time was right, if you know what I mean?

Bluebird days are rare in London, but not in Verbier!
Bluebird days are rare in London, but not in Verbier!

PK: Sounds familiar! And why ski instructing?

Claire: Well, I’ve been skiing since the age of two years old – not me but between my dad’s legs you know?

And I’ve always wanted to get better at it, even after three decades.

Wow, that sounds such a long time doesn’t it?

Yes, I’m 32 now, and apart from a 12-year skiing hiatus where I went to the snowboarding darkside, skiing has always been a love of mine.

I thought what better way to get good at skiing than have the opportunity to work in the mountains by taking a ski gap course.

Well, not so much a gap as I never went to university, just straight into selling property, but most definitely a career break … or swap, change, mid-life crisis maybe?

Click on the video above

PK: How did you hear about Peak Leaders?

Claire: Funnily enough, my partner Scotty had jumped on the end of Peak Leaders course the season before.

He had a great time and obviously told me to go for it.

To be sure, as it is quite an investment in time and money, I still did ask around from people we knew here in Verbier.

Everyone I talked with seemed so positive about Peak Leaders, added to which Peak Leaders offered the best price, so it made the choice easy in the end.

PK: Did the booking process go smoothly?

Claire: Yes, definitely.

All my questions were answered promptly.

The office staff kept in great contact on the phone and via email.

To be honest, the process and dealings with the office before the course started made me even more confident that my decision to book with Peak Leaders was the right one.

Claire and her Peak Leader's group
Claire and her Peak Leader’s group

PK: Once the course started, did it live up to your expectations?

Claire: Very much so.

We had a group leader who made sure everyone on the course knew what was happening each day.

I’m little bit older than your average gap year trainee, so I was a little worried I might not “fit in” but the entire group was great fun – some school leavers, some graduates, some older – and there was always a ski or an après drink to be had!

PK: How was the training on the slopes?

Claire: The training that we received was exceptional.

I was lucky enough to have a trainer called Emma [Cairns] who recently became a British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI) “Trainer”.

That means she now runs the ski exams for BASI, but she had nearly 10 years of experience in gap courses already.

Emma Cairns one of BASI's talented new Trainers
Emma Cairns one of BASI’s talented new Trainers

She was outstanding.

Every single day on the hill it was crystal clear what she expected of us in performance terms.

I learnt a great deal on all the aspects of teaching.

Keep things fun.

Make sure to understood the technical elements of skiing.

And above all properly demonstrate technique.

PK: You sailed through the exams then?

Claire: Not exactly, more rowing than sailing, it took quite a bit of effort actually!

For people who may be like me and have been skiing all their life, it’s easy to think the ski exam is a given, but it certainly isn’t.

I learnt this straight away and knew it was going to require a serious effort to pass.

The trainers are there to help you 110% to get the qualification, but ultimately it is up to you to make it happen.

PK: But you passed the BASI Level 1 & Level 2?

Claire: Yes, and I’ve got to say it was a big relief.

I was over the moon!

Yes, passed BASI Level 1 & Level 2!
Yes, passed BASI Level 1 & Level 2!

PK: Did you find work as a ski instructor in Verbier after the course?

Claire: Peak Leaders has some fantastic relationships with the ski schools here in Verbier.

Even before the course had finished, because it runs up to half term when the schools are busy and need more part-time instructors, the group leader had already introduced us to some ski school directors.

I managed to get work straight away!

Literally, I finished the course on Friday and was lining up in my new ski school uniform on the Monday morning.

It was brilliant.

Putting everything we’d just spent 10-weeks learning into practice really felt like an achievement.

PK: How was the real world of ski teaching?

Claire. I’m not going to lie – it was a shock!

My first week of teaching meant a lot of challenges.

It certainly isn’t like the exams where everyone can already do everything you ask.

People really can’t ski!

But don’t get me wrong – I loved every minute of it.

Teaching so soon made me even more certain that my new path as a ski instructor was definitely the right one.

PK: Any last words of encouragement or advice for others in similar circumstances to you?

Claire: For anyone considering doing a ski or snowboard course with Peak Leaders, I would say grab the opportunity with both hands.

It’s only 10-weeks.

You can be qualified, employed and working as a ski instructor in a matter of months.

And then you’ve a new life!

Verbier has even become a summer home
Verbier has even become a summer home

In fact, I’ve already had more than one offer for next season from different ski schools here in Verbier – so it goes to show Peak Leaders really does deliver the start of your journey.

Skiing on a bluebird day in the mountains, getting paid to teach a group of adults or kids, or being free to just relax with your friends or family … if you’ve been living the hectic London life you’ll never regret the move, trust me.