Interview with Roddy Willis

Ever wanted to become a ski instructor? Take your technique to the next level? Or fancy taking a ski trip with a difference? Well, in this blog post I’ll be talking to Roddy Willis about his business in Verbier to find
out more.

Firstly, maybe you can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how the idea came about?

On my twitter post I describe myself as follows: Lifelong ski addict, Original ski bum, Life Coaching & NLP + Hypnosis, Entrepreneur, Lover of small Molluscs & Hippy at heart.

The lifelong ski addiction started on a school ski trip, I thought skiing was the coolest thing ever and our instructor for the week was English and she was living the life, from then on it really was what I wanted to do. However getting my foot in the door and finding a job in a ski resort wasn’t easy in for a bloke in the 80’s, there was loads of chalet girl jobs for chalet girls and the idea of chalet boy didn’t really exist then. In 1988 I landed the perfect job in Val d’Isere: Plongeur or Hydro Ceramic Technician well actually dish washer in the Hotel Fjord. That was the start of 17 odd seasons in Val d’Isere.

It was a time when Ski Bums were really Ski Bums, they lived to ski and did anything to ski, it is very different today and a real Ski Bum is hard to find. The Gap Year culture is more about getting lashed and chundering everywah than being at the lifts at 8:45. Maybe I am just getting old!

The life coaching bit is interesting, I was inspired by a dude who taught skiing and was into this stuff, and then one day I taught a nice lady who also coached CEO of banks and I was hooked and set out on a journey doing loads of courses with Emma James. Now I coach more than just skiing on my lessons, I help a lot of clients with their mental approach to skiing which is often related to what is going on in the lives.

The lover of molluscs is my little secret and the hippy bit is that I have always tried to do what has pleased me in life and maybe not just set out on standard career path with a collar and tie!

As someone who has spent most of their working life with a collar and tie, it’s good to know that there are still some true ski bums out there doing what they love. You mentioned that you got into Life coaching and NLP. Can you tell us more  bout how you’ve been able to use this experience to help clients get more out of the sport?

I first became aware of NLP in about 1998 when I meet Bernie from Ski Mastery in Val d’Isere, he had some interesting ideas and talked about NLP. He set the ball rolling in my mind, over the courses of a few years I read a little about NLP and positive mind set and language, which I started to apply to my own life.

I also realised when teaching and coaching skiers that a purely technical approach was not enough and that everyone brings their everyday lives to the slopes, whatever is going on in their lives is often manifested in their skiing and without realising how they are limiting their performance, whether they are athletes, bankers or mothers.

This is when I decided that I needed training beyond traditional ski teaching and coaching. After a little research on the internet I found Emma James, who has a great reputation for sports mental performance coaching, she runs NLP and Hypnosis for sport courses, I am now qualified in both NLP and Hypnosis. Being able to help people on more than just a technical level has paid dividends and I am now probably one of the busiest ski instructors in Verbier.

That’s an interesting approach that I haven’t come across before. It’s not hard to see why your ski school would be so popular. Rather than focus purely on improving technique, it makes perfect sense that much of what holds us back would come down to those mental barriers at a sub-conscious level. Look, you’ve got my brain all excited now! … Maybe you should write a book!? 🙂

Yes it is very interesting how powerful our brains can be, how it can empower the human body to do extra-ordinary feats if we let it.

You are not the first person to suggest that I write a book, I just need to find the time get on with it.

You also offer some rather interesting ski trips to parts of the world that most people wouldn’t normally associate with skiing. Can you tell us more about that?

This winter I have lined up several ski trips to Gulmarg in Kashmir. Gulmarg is the new Alaska but way cheaper and has some big descents which can be accessed but one of the World’s highest cable cars. All you need to do is sign up and hand over the cash, then get yourself a return ticket to Mumbai everything from Mumbai and back is included (except your lunches!)

On your website, you offer high-end bespoke services involving private jets and helicopter drop-offs in resort. That all sounds a far cry from being trapped on a Ryanair flight from Dublin with a weak cup of tea and a stale muffin, how did this come about and what’s the most extravagant request that you’ve received?

This is a very interesting niche that I am carving out for myself, there might be a worldwide financial crisis but the top end of the market is still there and looking for new ideas to get a ski fix. Last winter I had two clients who want to have three whole days skiing whilst only be out of the office for three days. We organised their early morning private jet to Sion and then on to Zermatt by helicopter, the journey from their office to the Zermatt was less than three hours. We then headed up the mountain by helicopter; we achieved two great days heli-skiing doing some mega descents, on the third day the weather closed in, so we skied on the piste and had an amazing lunch and then flew back to Sion and onto London. Next year the same clients are looking to choose their days when the powder is looking good then fly direct to the top of the mountain have a top days of powder skiing and be back in the office the next day.

So if you are looking to flash some cash and have the ultimate ski experience then please do contact me at

Wow! That all sounds very exciting and certainly a very good option for the cash rich and time poor folk out there, unfortunately, I’m poor on both counts, but that’s another story. Hopefully we’ll get a good start to the coming season and I wish you every success in Verbier (and beyond). You’ll have to let us know how the ski trip to India goes. Until then, is there anything else that you would like to let my visitors know about?