Chasing an endless winter and earning a crust as a ski instructor is surely the definition of ‘living the dream’.
To most, the thought of working multiple seasons in the mountains is nothing short of a pipe dream, but it might not be as hard as you think…
I spoke with Adrian Gourlay, qualified instructor and owner of WE ARE SNO (ski instructor training and internship provider), to find out what it takes to start a career as a ski instructor.
1. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH SKI EXPERIENCE
Being a ski instructor doesn’t mean being able to a straight-line a black run, or hit the biggest jump in the terrain park. It means being able to demonstrate good technique, as well as identifying and helping to correct bad habits. To get started, ski instructor training providers usually recommend at least 4 weeks of current on-snow experience as a minimum.
Other skills useful for the industry include previous experience teaching, mentoring or coaching, and working with children. This is by no means a requirement, but often skills that are directly transferable can be advantageous to your progression.
2. INVEST IN QUALITY, ON-SNOW INSTRUCTOR TRAINING
While it may seem convenient and affordable to join an instructor course at an indoor facility, it won’t be viewed as equal to a mountain certification when ski schools are recruiting. On mountain training is essential for the overall development and progression of the individual. This time is spent building up mileage on skis using a variety of challenging terrain.
Usually there is a training block of around 10-12 days before taking the level 1 instructor exam. When contacting a training provider, be sure to dig into the details of the training and the qualification to understand exactly what you’re getting for your money. Also look for courses with a good reputation, pass rate and an experienced training team.
3. RESEARCH SKI INSTRUCTOR INTERNSHIPS
In the last few years, ski instructor internships have become the most popular pathway to becoming an instructor. Particularly for those wishing to start a career in snowsports, ski internships offer several advantages over traditional instructor training courses.
To explain, a ski instructor internship is quite simply an instructor training course with the addition of a guaranteed instructor job offer once qualified.
Living in a ski resort can be expensive, so knowing you’ll have a job lined up and be earning a competitive wage is highly appealing.
Most internships are packaged up to include everything you need for your first winter season. Usually; accommodation arrangements, lift passes, transfers, instructor training, certification courses and more.
The most popular destinations for ski instructor internships are currently Canada and Japan. Both of these countries have a high demand for international instructors and are always happy to welcome first season interns.
4. UNDERSTAND WHERE YOU CAN WORK AS AN INSTRUCTOR
Becoming a ski instructor opens up a multitude of opportunities to travel and work with the qualification. Obviously there are lots of countries with ski resorts, and almost all of them have a need for English speaking instructors.
In the early part of an instructors career it is likely that they will need to make use of a working holiday visa scheme. This is to be allowed to legally work in a particular area with different terms depending on your citizenship. For British Citizens, this could lead to employment in Canada, Japan, New Zealand or Australia. It’s recommended to research where you can legally work and which countries offer working holiday visas that you can apply for – especially after Brexit.
5. PLAN YOUR COURSE IN ADVANCE
Understanding the full cost of an instructor course is an important part of the research and planning process. Basic courses are likely to start from around £5,000, and in most cases you don’t have to pay this all at once. Flexible training providers will help you with the financial aspect, offering interest free instalments over a longer period of time.
If you are looking at becoming a ski instructor as a career move, you’ll need to consider an advanced package which includes both the level 1 and 2 qualifications. Achieving both levels will allow you to teach to an intermediate level. This will also increase your salary and your chances of finding future employment.
6. SHOW PEOPLE YOU REALLY WANT IT
The snowsports industry is a small, close knit family. Many of the managers and senior instructors have great relationships with ski schools across the globe. Your first season is a fantastic time to make an impression on those around you and to build a network of contacts. As with any job, you should put a premium on punctuality and always be willing to take on extra shifts.
So there you have it, 6 helpful tips to kickstart your career as a ski instructor.
Now all you need to do is quit your day job, wax your skis, and go in search of that dream job in the snow – good luck!
Disclosure – this is a sponsored post, in collaboration with WE ARE SNO.