A Ski Season in Queenstown by Mara E. Ozarchevici
This article is written by Mara E. Ozarchevici who completed her ski instructor internship in Queenstown, New Zealand. Mara is now instructing at Mt Seymour in her home city of Vancouver, read on for her personal account of doing a ski instructor course with EA Ski & Snowboard.
They tell you that your life can change at the drop of a hat and more often than not, that change can come without you planning or anticipating it. For three months I watched as my life finally fell into place. That was the change. It came so quickly, so violently that for the longest time I didn’t even notice that I was finally experiencing my life as I have always imagined it. Halfway through my time in Queenstown, as I was sitting around the table with the people I had come to consider family, in the house that I had come to call home, I realized that I hadn’t even noticed myself waltzing right through a door that once was bolted shut. EA can help you open that door and it’s up to you to decide whether you close it, or walk through into a world of opportunity. Every day I let myself fall more in love with my work, with the sport, and with the people that came with it all. It became so clear to me that the life I had before paled in comparison to the one I was leading in New Zealand. I welcomed the change that turned my life inside out, and I didn’t look back.
Now if you’re reading this and considering embarking on a trip like mine, you have to know that your experience may not be as life-changing as mine; or perhaps it could be even more spectacular than I would ever be able to understand. My words cannot and will not do justice to the experience I went through as an intern in Queenstown, but I hope they inspire those like me who seek purpose, a sense of belonging, or even just a damn good time.
We also caught up with Mara during her Ski Instructor Course to talk about finding your feet on the other side of the world and the all-important questions like' what's better tinder or an EA internship'. (continue reading for the full article)
Heading for Queenstown, New Zealand
On June 1st, I left my home in Vancouver, Canada heading to the then-unfamiliar town of Queenstown, New Zealand with pretty much nothing to lose. I quickly realized how little I had to return to at home right upon my arrival, as new friendships formed and I was whisked into a life of drinking, partying, and meeting new people. I was a complete stranger to nearly every person I came across and I could finally present myself and act in the way I had always felt was right for me. There was no pressure to keep up appearances for people who knew me because nobody did, and I could finally be the truest version of myself in the way I had always wanted to. I could finally be me, and the friends I made through EA didn’t seem to mind that I was loud and asked intrusive questions after a few drinks... I thought if people like me, then I could form very close friendships with them; and if they don’t, then I’m just weeding out the weak ones. Every night that I spent venturing into the streets and pubs of Queenstown, I ended up with a different group of people, creating more and more friendships and connections with no end in sight.
I quickly realized that it was time to get serious and do what I travelled all that way for. I had to give up my wildly active nightlife as I was thrown headfirst into training for my Level 2 exam. I also realized that I didn’t mind making that sacrifice. I guess it wasn’t really a sacrifice since I didn’t have to stop going out and having fun. I just lost interest in partying mindlessly as I was reminded of the real reason I agreed to be shipped off halfway around the globe. I was still meeting people and I was still being me, but this time around, I was doing it alongside my passion for skiing and teaching people. To me, there is nothing in this world more valuable than that; and if I’m being honest with myself, I didn’t miss spending every morning with a raging hangover and staying in bed until 4pm before emerging out of my cave after dark for more jager bombs. Once my training started, waking up every morning at 6am sweating vodka and bad decisions became very old very quickly.
Ski Instructor Training
Training wasn’t easy, but I loved every minute of it. There were times where I was so ill I could barely function, but I would call upon all the strength left in my Gollum-like body, rail some cough syrup and vitamin C, and drag my lifeless body up the mountain. Mind you, I didn’t put myself through this medieval-grade torture because I had to. I could’ve easily taken one or two sick days and taken care of my exponentially decaying health. No way, Jose; I did it because I wanted to with every fiber of my near-dead being. I could lie in bed and wait for my soul to leave my body after I finished my training. Did all my friends and fellow trainees come down with viral infections because of my poor life choices? Yes, but that is not the point. The point is I’d become so passionate towards skiing during my time with EA that I would’ve rather spent a whole day on skis feeling like my organs were going to leave my body any minute, than spend that time in bed, wishing I would just die already. Skiing was the expensive hooker that I had fallen hopelessly in love with and I was willing to blow all my paychecks if it meant spending one more night with her.
Something I learned during training was that old people can ski. Well. Intimidatingly well, even. “Screw you, old man!” I’d say, then try to ski better and fail. Miserably. But that didn’t stop me from trying to ski like my trainers and examiners. Their style inspired me, their confidence astounded me, and their poise made me want to be like them in every way except age. They were to me as Mick Jagger is to tired, middle-aged men who live their life as if the Rolling Stones are still relevant.
Being with EA brought out of me an incredible level of focus and dedication that no person with ADHD as severe as mine should be able to achieve. I pushed myself every day to limits I didn’t know my tiny body was capable of, and every fall, every yard sale and every post to jerryoftheday headlining my name and an impressive tomahawk motivated me to do better. At least I wasn’t walking around, raking my skis on bare cement like some of the people you see on that page.
Trials and Tribulations
Despite all my training, I didn’t pass my Level 2, and that was entirely my fault. I was too cocky to admit that I wasn’t ready to take the exam as early as I did. I could pass, I thought; then didn’t. But as I spent that night after getting my results pathetically drowning my sorrows like a father who just lost custody of his children, I realized that it didn’t really matter. The only thing I lost by failing my exam was two dollars off my wage. I was still doing exactly what I wanted to do with the people I’d grown to love; just getting paid less to do it.
Working as a Ski Instructor
Working was an absolutely incredible experience. Since I still only had my level 1, I had to teach a lot of beginners. Some days that meant very slow, static lessons which I didn’t mind, but other days I watched with childlike wonder as person after person slammed into each other reaching velocities that would put NASA out of business. Sometimes, I’d watch as one of my braver students threw themselves down the hill completely out of control and think this is gonna be good; and it always was. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that a bunch of people much older than me had to listen to a 5’2, 19-year-old girl with pink hair and not enough money, and blindly do as she says. Sure, they had money and spouses and electric bills and college degrees--or whatever real adults have--but only I knew how to stop with skis on. But I was a kind and merciful God, and although I ruled with an iron fist, I did it out of love. Well, really, I did it because most of them turned into sims the second they put skis on. They’d just run into fences and other people like headless chickens, never knowing where to go.
To me, the best part about teaching beginners is the fact that you’re their first introduction to skiing. You get to watch people discover the sport, as they aimlessly flail their limbs like Bambi on ice, realizing that skis do indeed slide on snow. You get to decide whether they have an incredible time, or whether they get traumatized for life. Personally, I liked to switch it up every once in awhile just to keep things fresh.
First Time Teaching
For my first ever lesson, I was chucked headfirst into a six-person group, none of whom spoke a lick of English. I didn’t know how I was going to make it work but I quickly realized yelling instructions slower and louder, didn’t mean they magically acquired a basic grasp of the language and could now understand me. I resorted to making very detailed and outrageous gestures that almost made me want to pursue a career in sign language interpreting. At the end of the day, I had no idea what it was that they learned from me. It definitely wasn’t anything related to skiing. Perhaps it was that foreign people are very loud and annoying with their hands, but they had fun doing it and, honestly, so did I. Despite losing 30 pounds miming ‘slow down’ the entire time.
My internship wasn’t all fun and games though. I know to some of you it may seem like you’re going to another country to party and have fun learning how to ski, which is true, but keep in mind that everything great in life, has to be equally as bad, and this experience is no exception. Sure, training is fun and you’re improving your skills, but it is also very physically and mentally draining. Tequila is also lot's of fun when it goes inside your body so I’ve discovered, but not so fun when it has to come back out in the middle of brunch the next day. There are gonna be days where you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world, and others where you won’t want to get out of bed. You’re gonna meet so many incredible people and make lots of meaningful relationships, but you’re gonna miss the ones that you already have. That’s the yin-yang of life. And that’s not a bad thing because the good moments make you forget the bad ones. Do not go into this program expecting to have the best time of your life. In fact, don’t go in expecting anything.
Let moments surprise you, let people inspire you and let life sweep you off your feet. It’s worth it, I promise.
If you are interested in spending a summer of snow in New Zealand or want to fast track your career as a ski instructor See If You Qualify for an instructor course today.
For more info on doing a ski season in NZ check out our 'Ultimate Guide to a ski season in New Zealand'.
To see what Mara's been up to since her internship give her a follow on Instagram @jetghoul