We spoke with Julia Tregaskis-Allen, Nordic Ski teacher and International Mountain Leader, about how she ended up in what she describes as her dream job.
Home: I have a split life. Whilst I am based in the French / Swiss / Italian Alps – near Chamonix then return ‘home’ to the Peak District in the UK between the summer and winter seasons
Dream adventure: A round the world trip summer rock climbing & ski touring
Can’t go on an adventure without? My husband!
What do you do as a job?
I’m the co-director and full time International Mountain Leader/ Nordic Ski Teacher for my own limited company, We offer guided bespoke and scheduled holidays trekking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, Nordic walking and trail running mainly in the Alps and Scandinavia.
How did you get to where you are now and qualifications do you need?
My job is a mix of all the things that I love and a product of my experience over the past 20 years. An interest in travel and mountains took me to the Alps, Himalaya and beyond. An HND in Art and Event management developed my business mind. In my twenties I worked as a personal trainer in London, set up a triathlon club and managed a gym. I then moved to Scotland and trained under the Glenmore Lodge ‘Instructor Development Scheme’ – a full time, live-in position to gain experience & National Governing Body Awards to take groups into the mountains, rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and skiing – all of which needed their relevant qualifications.
Following the scheme I worked freelance in the UK with a variety of age groups along with many month long overseas expeditions guiding in India, Nepal, Peru and across Africa. During this time I completed the International Mountain Leader Award (IML) and began working towards the BASI ISIA Nordic Ski Instructor qualification which were vital for my next move, to the Alps in 2005, when Lindsay Cannon and I decided to venture into the idea of setting up Tracks and Trails.
What was your experience of IML like and how long did it take you to complete?
The IML award offered me my dream job. The chance to work professionally in the mountains with the opportunity to travel and learn languages! In the past 15 years the IML training and assessment process has evolved and grown always ensuring it’s methods are inline with the other country members of ‘UIMLA’ the Union of International Mountain Leader Awards.
The British IML award all starts on completion of your UK Summer Mountain Leader Award which I passed in the 2002. After which it took me 2 years to complete the required training and assessment to be qualified to work independently. As with any qualification if you have or gain the relevant experience and apply a logical approach to learning and understanding the syllabus then IML Award is not a hard process to follow. In fact despite the usual and predicted assessment nerves the courses and even the assessments were enjoyable and offer great opportunities to learn and make long lasting contacts and friends.
What are the best and worst parts of the job?
As I really do feel like this is my dream job there are many best parts! The endless opportunities to visit new mountains, countries, meet new people. Being able to keep fit for a living and be outside seeing the seasons change and when you are with a group or individual achieving a goal that they never imagined possible…..
The worst parts: The first thing that springs to mind has to be sleeping in mountain huts next to hot/smelly snorers! Or maybe seasons of over eating cheese (fondu/raclette….) or admin days when the sun is shining!
Do you notice the lack of women working in your industry?
No – I would say that the number of men and women is fairly equal in the IML world both guiding and running their own businesses.
What tips would you give other women wanting to start a career in the mountains?
I made a move from London to Scotland knowing that to have enough knowledge and experience to pass the necessary qualifications with ease I wanted to ‘live and breath’ the mountains so that things became second nature. But I was in my mid 20’s with all avenues available to me. So i’m not saying that a drastic move like mine is what everyone needs to do but the more experience and time you spend in the mountains with groups, clubs, friends, with other instructors, and especially going solo, will give you best insight as to whether it’s the career for you or whether it should stay a hobby. I’d then advice going on a skills based course run by one of the National Centres or local providers in the field that they are interested in to find out where their current skill level is at (and not to see this as an assessment but a benchmark for improvement and training!).
It could come across that the outdoor world is male dominated but I know and work with many female leaders/guides and instructors in all outdoor industries. If considering setting up your own business it’s not all about being outside in the sun. Go on a course or help / gain knowledge in marketing, administration and finance. Talking with other women working in the outdoors should certainly be a supportive and helpful part of the journey – it certainly helped me.
What would your advice be to your 10 year old self?
Say yes to every opportunity as you never know where it might lead you.
What are your plans for the future?
To continue having adventures for work and with friends and family.
In early 2016 Bex Band quit her teaching job to set out on her first big adventure, hiking 1000km the length of Israel. Adventure is now her life and work! As well as running Love Her Wild, she also offers advice and inspiration through her blog, the Ordinary Adventurer.