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Ski-InstructorCareer Change

Lorne Brown is a New Zealander who lives in Bristol. She left accountancy to be a ski instructor.

‘My job in accountancy had always been enjoyable, but you don’t want to wake up at 50 and think, ‘What have I missed?’ Skiing had always been my passion – from my early twenties on, I spent every weekend on the slopes in New Zealand, and I thought of becoming an instructor then. But my dad told me it was irresponsible. He was still saying that 20 years later when I announced I was going to take my British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI – see www.basi.org.uk) exams, give up the office and take to the slopes permanently. But my mum said I should go for it, and so did my boyfriend, John.

‘At the time, I was really feeling like a cog in a wheel – I’d work from seven in the morning to eight at night, and then go in the next day and just do the same thing all over again. It felt pointless to me. You can get stuck in a place. The day before I told everyone I was leaving, in 2005, one chap received an award for 30 years of service. When I announced my news, he nearly cried. He told me: ‘I hate this place.’ Not that my decision was easy – I was jumping into nothing. Would I get work, would I go broke?

‘The exams were tough – and taught me that even though I skied off piste and down black runs with confidence, I wasn’t as good as I could be. I’ve passed my initial instructor level, and now I’m one exam away from becoming an International Ski Instructor (there are seven tests before you pass). There are other technical exams I can carry on taking. But they are extremely expensive.

‘My training has taken me through seasons in France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland, and for the past two seasons I have worked at the Altitude Ski School in Verbier, Switzerland.

‘It’s not been easy to make a living – and we’ve certainly noticed the downturn this winter. Being a ski instructor will never pay the same as accountancy. But I knew that before I started. I still work in an office in the summer to make ends meet. But I am so much fitter and stronger than I used to be. I’m not the only person to have changed careers; there’s a chap here in Verbier who used to be a GP.

‘I don’t see this as a short-term passion – I am happy to see where it takes me. It’s an enjoyable way to spend your life.’