It’s been a month since I qualified as a ski instructor and began work in Japan, and what a month it has been. I have met and taught some wonderful people, made some great friends, skied a tonne and enhanced my snowball fighting abilities as well. All in all, it’s an incredibly rewarding job and an extremely fun one. I remember the nerves before my first lesson, but quickly discovered if you have confidence and a fancy uniform, people will trust you. To be able to help people in a hobby that I love, and see that passion grow inside others as they progress is remarkably satisfying and to witness the effects of your personal influence over somebody as they learn and improve in a new sport instils some pride and joy in me. Being able to explain to adults in technically accurate detail is rather cool and to exploit kids imagine to aid their ski development with games and analogies is unbelievably fun. It is amazing how quickly some children can absorb information and pick up movements, or how willing they are to believe what you say. Whether it is telling them to look out for tree penguins or rainbow dolphins on the side of the slope to make them turn or persuading them that I competed in the winter Olympics in competitive snowball fighting just to get them excited for an end of lesson fight, ski instructing is an amazingly rewarding job, and one that I am loving. As a result of being on the snow six days a week, my personal skiing is really coming on. Teaching the basic movements for skiing, and practicing them every day in demonstrations is transferable to my free skiing and playing around on the slopes or in the powder in the trees is an epic way to start a day. Japan’s powder is amazing, and the tree lines and some of the jumps we’ve built make for an outstanding time on the snow. We’ve even named a line of jumps under the gondola, and enjoy messing with the kids telling them they can meet Nigel if they’re good- the fun, forest dwelling man who likes to throw you around (he’s really just hilariously made jump that sends you up). I do feel astoundingly lucky when I realise that this is actually my job, and how much more enjoyable it is than labouring on building sites like what I was doing to earn the money to come to Japan. It is probably the most enjoyable job I have had since I was working on tills in my school cafeteria and getting paid in food to mess about with my mates.
Obviously, it is not all fun and games and on the flip side it is staggering just how mind-blowingly simple some people are. Clearly, you are an intellectual individual, hence you have guided yourself to this page, but there are people on the slopes with the logical capability of a goldfish. Some people just do not get it. You could explain something to them with more depth than the Mariana trench, show them one hundred times and physically put their skis into the right shape and ski down holding them and it just will not click. Sometimes it is down to the student having the physical attributes of a noodle, propped up by legs that have spent their life behind a desk on top of a core of jelly, and they expect to be gliding down from the mountain peak, not realising that skiing is an extreme sport that does require physical exertion. Sometimes the students are just vegetables, and sometimes they just don’t want to ski. My evidence for this is a student named Ken, or at least that’s what I have named him as he didn’t speak English (probably a large part of the problem). Ken had never skied before, and judging by his shape and strength, hadn’t done any physical exercise for a long time. After two days of teaching he still couldn’t stop. He took out another student, someone from another lesson, and even me, numerous times. Ken did have admirable determination it has to be said, but no amount of explanation or demonstration was working, he simply did not have the strength to hold up, and slow down his large frame. Every time he fell (a regular occurrence) he would throw off his skis as he could not pick himself up whilst his feet were stuck in them and then we would have to go through the arduous task of getting them back on. Sometimes it is the language barrier that can cause problems. One of my lessons was with a Chinese family whose entire English ability was from their five-year-old son who could count, say his name and understood that a pizza was a triangle, and, I know this is shocking, I cannot speak a word of Chinese. I had to spend two hours saying ‘pizza’ and doing a lot pointing to teach the child, as the parents followed us taking videos and selfies down every single slope, not at all fussed about their own basic skiing. Naturally, skiing is not for everyone and patience is part of the job, but spending four hours a day catching people who cannot stop or who do not listen can grow frustrating, although sometimes it just makes it that extra bit more satisfactory when they finally progress, or the beer that extra bit tastier at the end of the day.