My experience - becoming a ski instructor in Niseko
Emilys first three weeks with EA in Japan
To my friends and family, leaving your daily routine and committing to 5 months and becoming a ski instructor sounded like a very random and crazy idea. Personally, I couldn't see what they were on about… UNTIL the day before my departure. After all the preparation (visas, luggage, medical prescriptions, extra food, etc.) I wondered, was it really a good idea to go to a new country with a completely different language? As soon as I'd landed, I realised, of course it was!
Although it’s quite a big step if you think about it as a whole, it’s a lot less stressful than it seems, trust me! Especially with things such as being able to book the flights through STA, not only because of the discount you receive with EA Ski & Snowboard, but because you are on the same flights as everyone else doing the course. Once you arrive, EA organises a bus for your transfer to the temporary lodging as well as some introductory information to the area you are in.
The first few days gives you time to explore and meet everyone doing your course. Twenty-two people in 1 house can be a bit too cosy at times, but you are guaranteed to get to know everyone quite quickly. Be prepared to live off convenience stores for the first couple of days, and bring cash with you so you have time to figure out where all the international ATMs are. Japan is a cash driven country.
One of the things that surprised me the most about Niseko was the amount of snow… it's only November and there’s enough powder to snorkel in already. Compared to skiing in Europe… it was nothing like it! I had never seen a place like this before. To be honest you couldn't really see that much to begin with because it didn't stop snowing. Once the storm cleared though, I could see an enormous active volcano right outside my window. I later found out that this mountain is called Mt. Yotei - the Mt. Fuji of Hokkaido, a view I will never get tired of.
We were divided into 3 different groups at the start of training with each group being given an experienced coach to teach them. I found the training gradual and helpful, essential before our 5-day exam. I didn't realise how much of an amateur I was until I started this training. It’s like anything, the more you learn about skiing, the more you realise how little you know.
By the time the training ended, everyone felt prepared for the exam. We celebrated finishing up our training with an organised Karaoke night. Karaoke in Japan consists of private rooms, fully equipped with a great karaoke system and couches. In most Japanese Karaoke places, you order food and drink using a phone on the wall which connects to reception so all you need to worry about that night is what song to sing. It's something you just have to experience in the birthplace of Karaoke, Japan.
Then, the exam began. This was essential for the rest of the season as it is the key to acquiring that little piece of paper that certifies that you know what you're talking about and doing when it comes to leading a ski improvement lesson for a ski school. I’m not going to lie, the exam is tiring (mentally and physically), a bit repetitive and not exactly my idea of fun. My advice would be to try your best, listen to what the examiner is telling you and demonstrate your improvement. They analyse your personal skiing progression as well as your teaching skills but you're training will have prepared you for both of these aspects of the exam.
After all the hard work, it pays off with another organised celebration with everyone from the EA crew. It was also a nice way to say goodbye as people start moving into their new ski school accommodation.
All in all, I felt that EA was a good introductory method to skiing/snowboarding life as your first winter season. If you want to join others like me next season in Niseko, Japan - See if you qualify here!