Instructor Story: Kurt McMahon
A year ago, Kurt McMahon wouldn't imagine he'd be where he is now. After graduating from high school, Kurt embarked on a more conventional route and enrolled at a university. Kurt loved studying and university life. But, he had a burning desire to explore and see the world. A year into a physiotherapy degree Kurt decided that if he was going to go travelling, it needed to happen now. So, after completing his first year of study, he packed his bags and jumped on a plane destined for the USA.
Kurt chose to become a ski instructor at Northstar Ski Resort located at the beautiful, Lake Tahoe in the USA. After visiting the nearby Squaw Valley as a young kid on a family ski holiday, Kurt always dreamed over returning to Lake Tahoe one day and becoming a snowboard instructor.
Kurt arrived at Northstar and began training almost immediately. Training under some of the best instructors in the world, there was no room for ego and Kurt took in all the advice he could from his trainers. Coming from a background of snowboarding only once a year and straight into three weeks of full-on training, Kurt's riding improved immensely.
"The biggest thing for me was dropping any ego I had at the door and taking on any advice from these guys as they were the ones who have been doing it for more than 20 years!"
Kurt quickly settled into his new life at Northstar, but it wasn't all smooth sailing. Being 18 and away from home for the first time, one of the biggest challenges Kurt faced was finding accommodation for the season. "Finding the right house that can suit your needs and is in the right location is maybe not one that we've faced in our lives to date."
Kurt quickly figured out that the best way to overcome this was to find a bunch of people he got along with and patiently for the right place to come along. And his advice for anyone else in a similar boat? “Find a bunch of people you get on with and take time trying to find your accommodation and make sure you have plenty of options in case one doesn't work out."
The best part of Kurt's EA course was the people he met along the way. During the six months, he made friends from all over the world, including Germany, England, and New Zealand. His favourite place to hang out off the slopes was at a pizza joint called Rubicon's where he learned the American tradition of adding ranch dressing to pizza. "My mates and I loved coming here after a big day at work, and it was a highlight at the end of the working week! Being an Aussie, I have never really grown up with ranch on my pizza, but I don't think I will be able to let it go once I return home."
When training had finished, Kurt began work immediately as an instructor and quickly fell in love with his new role. "There's a reason it's widely known as one of the best jobs on the planet. Your sharing your passion for the sport with others and at the end of the day, they go home stoked and so do you because you get to do it all again tomorrow! There's nothing quite like it."
After completing his EA instructor course, and working his first winter season, Kurt decided he wasn't ready to return to Australia just yet. At the end of his season at Northstar, Kurt travelled down the East Coast of the USA with a friend he met on his EA course. He then headed back to the West Coast and is now living and working in Los Angeles, California.
While Kurt plans on joining the yachting industry next year, he’s excited to do another winter season instructing too. “It was honestly something that I will remember all my life. I would encourage anybody else to get out there and give it a crack. You'll meet people from all over the world, and you get to do what you love every day.”
Kurt’s advice for anyone considering a ski or snowboard instructor internship or a gap year abroad? “Keep travelling, don't waste away your late teens and 20s sitting at an office. Keep doing what makes you happy!”
Keep up with Kurt's journey on Instagram at @kurtmcmahon