Expats Chasing Dreams in the Swiss Alps: Our Personalized Ski Venture
Nestled in the heart of the Swiss Alps, The Snow Experience Davos isn't just a ski school; it's our dream turned into reality. Picture pristine slopes, personalized adventures, and a warm, welcoming atmosphere — that's what defines our little piece of snowy paradise in Davos.
Hey there! We're Nejc and Willy, along with our co-owners Loris and Noemi, a quartet of dreamers who traded their everyday for a life filled with powdery slopes and unforgettable moments. Nejc, coming from Slovenia, Willy's a fellow dreamer from Italy, and our local touch comes from Loris, a Swiss native from the canton of Ticino, and Noemi, a true Swiss heart from Zurich.
Together, we found our calling in Davos, Switzerland, where we've become the proud owners of The Snow Experience Davos. This is the tale of our journey through the Swiss mountains and the joy we share with everyone who steps into our snowy paradise.
The Decision to Move
Dreaming of Switzerland: Nejc's Alpine Aspirations
Nejc: "My fascination with Switzerland began during my high school days when I hitchhiked daily, and a generous Swiss expat often offered me a ride. While he found his paradise in the Slovenian Alps, I nurtured a dream of someday making it to Switzerland.
Teaching skiing across various Alpine resorts – Italy, Austria, and France – fueled my belief that Switzerland held the key to achieving the pinnacle in skiing. Dreams turned into reality, and at 21, I managed to do my first winter season in Crans Montana and Verbier, working for a private international ski school.
Yet, my entrepreneurial spirit craved more. Davos and the Swiss Ski School here provided the opportunity I sought. Grateful for the experience, I now find myself as part of The Snow Experience Davos."
Love and Snowboarding: Willy's Journey to Davos
Willy: "While teaching snowboarding in Austria, I crossed paths with Noemi, who later became my girlfriend. Because of the convenience of being closer together, I went to Davos."
From Personal Clients to Personalized Dreams
As the Winter season of 2022/23 concluded, a realization dawned – a significant number of personal clients were booking us directly. This sparked a collective thought: "Let's start something on our own."
With Nejc having spent 8 winters, Willy 4, and Loris 7 in Davos, it felt like the right move. After discussions and capturing crucial pictures, we temporarily left Davos. Nejc returned to Slovenia to manage his business organizing bike trips and holidays, Willy and Noemi headed to Sagres, Portugal, to oversee their surfhouse, and Loris went back to Ticino.
Returning to Davos in December 2023 marked a week of intense action. Armed with uniforms, we hit the slopes to capture photos and videos, creating the material needed for our marketing efforts.
The results surpassed our expectations – stunning pictures, a great looking website, and The Snow Experience Davos was officially launched. The journey had begun.
Navigating Expat Life
Challenges faced as expats in a new country
Switzerland is one of the most picturesque countries in the world. When you first move here, you feel like you're living in a dream made of postcard-like scenarios.
However, after flying high for the first few months, you get to face the reality of the mountain culture. Due to a strong national identity and secluded locations, mountain communities are proud and not easy to penetrate.
During our first couple of years living in Davos, we struggled to break through this thin air wall that defined us as outsiders. One Slovenian, the other Italian, we found ourselves battling with a new culture and language. Just to give you an example, all signs, restaurant menus, and info boards are all in Swiss German……even getting yourself a tea, or getting to the post office by bus was a challenge eheh.
Embracing the local culture and lifestyle
Before moving to Switzerland, we had never experienced Raclette. Now, even as an Italian, I (Willy) find myself craving Raclette at least once a week.
This gives you an idea of how much we've integrated into the Swiss mountain lifestyle. With time, the cultural barriers tend to dissolve, and that feeling of not belonging disappears.
Previously, we couldn't participate in a Swiss dinner because eating at 18:00 in the evening seemed ridiculous; now, we are eager to have dinner as early as possible.
It's amusing because whenever I think about cultural differences, my Italian heart immediately focuses on the topic of food.
Building connections within the Davos community
Being in Davos, such a small community with around 10,000 residents, now feels like being a little celebrity. It's so enjoyable to say hi to your neighbour on the way to work, meet a couple of fellow instructors at the bus stop, and finish the day having a beer at the local mountain hut with friends.
People who in the past saw us as outsiders now cheer for our ski and snowboard school, wishing us the best of luck.
Crafting a Unique Ski Venture
Conceptualizing a personalized ski experience
The saying goes, "There is always room for improvement" or "There is no such thing as perfection" – We don't quite remember. Regardless, this is exactly where we began with The Snow Experience Davos. After working in the ski industry for a decade, we realized that "classic ski & snowboard schools" were lacking in personality, flexibility, professionalism, and attention to detail.
We envisioned an ideal school that could offer more than rigid lessons limited to ski instructions. A place where every individual could have a snow experience tailored to their wishes and needs. We imagined lessons that could transcend the sport and transport you into the winter wonderland depicted in every postcard.
No more 18-year-old freshly qualified kids' instructors that you cannot relate to. We Imagined top qualified Ski & Snowboard professionals that can narrate you a story and lead you safely through the mountains.
Challenges in starting a boutique ski school
The journey to establish the school did not lack challenges. Navigating Swiss bureaucracy and meeting legal requirements to open the school felt like dodging bullets.
It's funny to say, but finding information on how to start a business, manage tax reports, and handle wage payments is like searching for water in a desert.
The first challenge we faced was determining the type of ski instructor license needed to establish our own school. Secondly, and decidedly more challenging, was understanding the nature of the business we could become and the type of insurance required. As it turned out, hardly anyone would insure a ski & snowboard business.
Nonetheless, just when we thought everything was in place and we were ready to go, we discovered that obtaining "ski instructor" ski passes was no easy task. Don't despair; after numerous calls to the municipality and regional offices, we managed to secure those as well.
Skiing into Success: Crafting Memories on the Slopes
There are countless moments in the life of a ski instructor that are as diverse as the mountain terrain itself. While we can't capture them all here (that would take a book!), here are just a few snippets:
Loris's Coin Challenge:
Loris, in his off-piste adventures, introduces a playful challenge using a 5 CHF coin. Placed between the leg and the ski boot, if the coin falls due to leaning back, the responsible party contributes 5 CHF to the skilled individual who manages to keep it in place. It's a game that never fails to bring smiles to everyone involved.
Nejc's Multicultural Expedition:
Nejc once guided a multicultural group from England, the USA, and Scotland. The week unfolded with amazing weather, excellent skiing conditions, and other little things that extended beyond the slopes. A seemingly normal lunch transformed into a dance on the bar, and a playful misunderstanding with a waitress led to Nejc being called "Nice" by the group and the waitress. He is still called “Nice” at this restaurant in Madrisa.
Willy's Unexpected St. Moritz Journey:
Willy received an interesting task – take the guests to St. Moritz for an exceptional skiing experience. However, the day turned out to be more about shopping, enjoying a nice restaurant, and returning to Davos. They did not do a single turn on the slopes of St. Moritz.
Our journey in the Swiss Alps
Our journey in the Swiss Alps has been more than just carving tracks in the snow; it's about becoming open-minded instructor capable of adapting to various ski levels and diverse groups. From guiding a small child to instructing a complete beginner adult or a group from Dubai, the ability to provide the best possible snow experience is a source of joy.
Our achievements go beyond the slopes – developing effective communication skills, shouldering the responsibilities that come with being an instructor, and continuously improving ourselves to ensure every guest has a blast on the snow. The journey of success in the Swiss Alps is a constant evolution, and we're thrilled to be a part of it.
The Heart of Davos: Where Nature, Events, and Community Converge
Davos is more than just a picturesque Alpine town. Throughout the winter season, a myriad of events, from the World Economic Forum to the Spengler Cup and medical congresses, become opportunities for us. It's not only the natural beauty surrounding Davos but also the fascinating individuals who decide to spend a day on the slopes with us. The diverse events create an ever-changing canvas of possibilities for our business.
The Effortless Beauty of Davos
In terms of environmental beauty, Davos requires little embellishment. Everything here is naturally stunning and well-organized. With the right weather, an abundance of snow, and a bit of magic, it becomes a perfect haven.
Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast, a skiing or snowboarding aficionado, Davos offers an unparalleled experience. Living here is a constant immersion in the allure of a city that provides endless opportunities for excitement.
The Snow Experience Davos in the Local Tapestry
Building connections within the local community can be challenging for expats, but we've been fortunate to have two members of The Snow Experience Davos who are locals, bridging the gap and fostering ties with the community.
However, Davos itself is an international hub. A bus driver recognizes you, fellow instructors wish you success in your entrepreneurial journey, and some express an interest in joining The Snow Experience Davos in the future.
Establishing connections with local hotels has its challenges, as they often have established relationships with other ski schools. For us, innovation is key. We explore new avenues, leveraging the power of the internet and social media to showcase our unique offerings. The community spirit in Davos extends beyond physical borders, creating a dynamic atmosphere where connections flourish, and opportunities abound.
Lessons Learned and Looking Forward
Plans and aspirations for the future of The Snow Experience Davos
Normally, you should not share your wishes aloud if you truly want them to come true; however, why not make an exception sometimes?
As mentioned before, we approach skiing and snowboarding from a holistic point of view. Our goal is to make our guests a part of the mountain culture on a level that goes beyond a dry sports lesson. Following this line of thought, in the future, we would like to extend our efforts not only to skiing and snowboarding but also to all the activities that make life in the mountains a dream.
The Snow Experience aims to take you on a journey of discovery on the ski slopes as well as exploring traditions, including food, sledding, snowshoe walking, ice skating, night skiing, sauna, and ice bathing.
On the horizon, we would also love to take our guests on unforgettable off-piste trips to uncharted terrains such as Macedonia and Albania.
Our long-term goal is to offer all-inclusive weeks where every person is completely free to leave their own signature in the untouched snow.
Gratitude for the journey and the people involved
Going on this journey, our thank you goes to those who played pivotal roles and stood by our side.
Thanks to Family and Friends
A warm thank you to our families and friends who supported our decision to carve out our own path in a foreign land. Your unwavering belief and encouragement have been the driving force behind our pursuit of this dream.
Appreciation for Former Ski Schools
Gratitude to the ski schools where our journey began. These institutions weren't just places of employment; they were grounds for learning, growth, and invaluable experiences. To mentors, colleagues, and the community, thank you for laying the foundation that led to The Snow Experience Davos.
Building Bridges with Davos-Klosters Ski Schools
Our sincere thanks to the ski schools in Davos-Klosters. The positive relationships we've cultivated transcend competition. We value mutual respect and hope our collaborative spirit continues to flourish. Skiing and snowboarding unite us, enriching our collective experience in this snowy haven.
In expressing our gratitude, we acknowledge the shared enthusiasm, lessons, and support that have shaped our journey. The Snow Experience Davos is not only our own story; it's like a beautiful fabric made with the connections and experiences of many people.
In closing, The Snow Experience Davos is more than a ski school; it's a celebration of dreams fulfilled, challenges overcome, and a shared passion for the mountains. From our humble beginnings to crafting personalized experiences on the pristine slopes of Davos, this journey has been nothing short of extraordinary.
As we express gratitude to our families, friends, former ski schools, and the welcoming Davos-Klosters community, we acknowledge that this venture is a collective narrative. The Snow Experience Davos represents not only our story but also the threads of connection and shared enthusiasm from many.
Looking forward, we invite you to be part of our ongoing adventure—a journey where each turn on the slopes and every new initiative is an opportunity to create lasting memories. The Snow Experience Davos is an ode to the snow, the mountains, and the incredible individuals who choose to share in this snowy paradise with us.
Thank you for being a part of our story, and here's to many more thrilling adventures in the Swiss Alps!