Shredding down icy slopes gives off a thrill unlike any other. With the wind whistling past your face and the sheer speeds you can hit while going down the mountain, it’s not hard to see why so many people love the sport.
If you’re passionate about skiing and want to share that passion with others, then why not become a ski instructor?
What qualifications do you need? How much time will it take? Where do you start? Read on for all those answers and more!
- 1 What is a Ski Instructor?
- 2 How Much Experience Do You Need to Become a Ski Instructor?
- 3 Ski Instructor Certification
- 4 Where to Find Work
- 5 Benefits of Becoming a Ski Instructor
- 6 Ski Instructor Salary
- 7 Conclusion
What is a Ski Instructor?
Ski instructors can help people of any age learn either basic skiing techniques or how to improve their current skills by learning more advanced tricks.
Depending on the class, they may teach in large groups that have skiers of roughly the same ability or they may hold private lessons with a single person.
Your average ski instructor usually assesses the abilities of each individual in their class prior to any instruction. This allows them to tailor what they’ll need to address in their classes. After that, they spend the rest of the class helping you improve your overall skiing technique.
Many younger ski instructors are those taking part in a vocational gap year in between school and university or are those looking for a supplementary income while they study. As such, they only work for the season.
Other instructors, however, have built quite a career for themselves.
Most ski instructor courses, which allow you to gain your experience and certification, last from early December to April. Your schedule typically begins early in the morning, and you may need to help your teacher care for guests who came at the beginning of December.
This can provide you with excellent hands-on ski instruction experience all throughout the winter season.
How Much Experience Do You Need to Become a Ski Instructor?
Getting a ski instructor certification takes a great deal of hard work, commitment, and a certain prowess for the sport.
Usually, this means demonstrating a serious level of control and skill on the mountains, before you can even think of becoming an instructor for others.
What Skiing Level Should You Be At?
For the basic level of experience considered worthy of a Level 1 license, you must be at least an intermediate skier. As such, you should be able to execute consistent parallel turns on green, blue, and red runs, as well as carving turns on fast runs.
Having experience with easy off-piste runs is also a huge plus.
If you are still unsure of what level you’re at, you can always have a ski instructor coach assess your skills before you get started. This will give you a better idea of where you stand.
Ski Instructor Certification
Other than possessing skill on the slopes, there are no hefty entry requirements to start training as a ski instructor. It may help to know a second language if you are planning to become a ski instructor in a foreign country, but it’s not necessary.
There are typically four levels of certification in every country, with the basic entry-degree being Level 1 and the expert degree being Level 4.
The names of these levels will vary depending on the training certifiers and the country of origin. However, the training you undergo for each level is relatively the same everywhere.
In the U.S., for example, the four levels of certification progress as follows:
- Level I.
- Level II.
- Level III.
If you plan to work as an instructor in the U.S., you would then have to become a registered member.
Registered members are not certified to teach, but rather take classes to learn about what it takes to become an instructor.
Uncertified Ski Instructors
Some ski schools will even hire uncertified ski instructors, depending on your current skiing ability. These schools will have you take a short test beforehand to ensure you know what you’re doing.
Currently, it seems that only Australia and the U.S. hire unqualified ski instructors for the season. Many other resorts that require sponsored work visas will not take you on without the proper certifications.
If you are interested in working as an uncertified ski instructor, be sure to e-mail the resort and ask whether they offer this job option.
How to Become a Certified Ski Instructor
Most ski instructors earn their certifications by participating in a multi-week training program. This both hones their skiing abilities and gives them a better idea of how to teach a class.
Your first step, before pursuing this route, is to decide what level of certification you want to achieve. It is recommended that you attain at least a Level 1 certification before you start looking for work.
You can continue on to higher certification levels if you want, but this first level will open the doors for more career opportunities in the future.
Ski Instructor Certifications By Country
All ski instructor qualifications are issued by each specific country’s national governing body for certifying ski instructors. Most alpine nations will have their own associations that you have to go through as well.
In turn, each country’s governing body is then governed by the International Ski Instructors Association (or ISIA for short), an organization that sets the global ski instructor standards for all of its members.
The most well-recognized ISIA qualification systems include:
- Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance (or CSIA).
- British Association of Snowsports Instructors (or BASI).
- New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance (or NZSIA).
- Professional Ski Instructors of America (or PSIA).
The three major alpine countries who aren’t members of the ISIA include:
- Austrian Ski School Association (or OSSV).
- Ecole Nationale de Ski et d’Alpinisme (or ENSA in France).
- Association of Italian Ski Instructors (or AMSI).
All these ISIA members and alpine countries are regarded as the best of the best ski instructor schools. Attending any of them can help you get started in the industry.
Of course, each school has very high standards for those training to reach their Level 3 certifications, but they will allow you to work and train at the same time to attain these qualifications.
Skiing vs. Snowboarding Schools
Some governing bodies will separate their skiing and snowboarding instructor schools. As such, pay close attention to which school you are signing up for before you end up in the wrong class.
Not every country splits its schools into two factions, however. The U.K.’s governing body, the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI), for example, combines the two.
In contrast, Canada has separate bodies for snowboarding and skiing— the CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance) and the CASI (Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors), respectively.
This video goes into more detail about ski instructor certifications.
Where to Find Work
Choose Your Membership
To work as a ski instructor, you need to maintain a professional membership with the association of your choice.
Most people choose to work for a governing body within the ISIA; this ensures their certifications can transfer easily over to other bodies in the same organization, so they can continue training elsewhere.
Apply to Multiple Places
When first working as a ski instructor, you should apply to as many places within your organization as you can. Consider a local resort or resorts in countries where it is easy to obtain a work visa.
The latter may seem overly ambitious, but there is no harm in gaining experience from new places. This experience can also help you obtain work at your preferred resort later on.
Choose Your Work Periods
Some instructors will follow the snow wherever it falls and work throughout the entire year, while some choose to stay within the same resort and work alternative temporary jobs, such as bar staff or as a resort guide, during the summer months. Both are perfectly valid options for a ski instructor.
Check Out Work Visas
Just know that many foreign resorts will not even consider your application unless your work visa is arranged beforehand.
The work visa application process differs from country to country, so be sure to look into the ones for every country you plan to apply to.
Luckily, those in the E.U. are free to work within other E.U. countries—no visa applications required! You are even eligible to work in Switzerland, a country that is not in the E.U.
Many ski schools can help you with the visa application process if you live in the E.U., but this process can be difficult if you don’t.
Understand the Training Courses
EA Ski and Snowboard Training
You can also become a ski or snowboard instructor in the U.S. with EA Ski and Snowboard Training.
EA Ski and Snowboard Training’s four-week instructor course can help prepare you for your Level 1 certification and a career as a snow sports instructor – all in one winter season.
Once you pass your exam, they allow you to work as a paid instructor at their Northstar ski resort for the remainder of the winter season!
Copper Ski and Ride
The Copper Ski and Ride ski school in Colorado offers courses taught by only the best ski trainers around. They know firsthand what each level of the certification exams require, so they can tell you what skills truly matter in the world of ski instruction.
Another bonus of being a student at Copper Ski and Ride is that the instructors will give you exclusive VIP access to the resort’s chairlifts!
This course is eight weeks long and will help prepare you for the internationally recognized PSIA-RM Level 1 and Level 2 ski instructor certifications. If you want to teach children, this course can also prepare you for your Children’s Specialist 1 certification as well.
Once you finish the course, your instructors will offer you all kinds of advice about how to land a job in the ski instructor world, as well as carefully guide you through the instructor application process until you get the job.
This school has a great network that spans all around the globe, so they should be able to help you find your dream job in no time!
Benefits of Becoming a Ski Instructor
Being a ski instructor often includes great perks, like free or discounted lift tickets and/or discounts on clothes and equipment sold at the resort you work with.
If you’re an instructor that chases the winters between the Northern and Southern hemispheres, then be prepared for endless skiing along the slopes!
You will also have the chance to meet several like-minded new people in the various resort towns while you travel. Finally, you can participate in the sponsored parties and events that each unique resort holds every week!
Ski Instructor Salary
Unfortunately, most ski instructors work casual hours and thus do not have any fixed income amount.
Wages are often based on the number of hours you work in a day, which can vary even during the winter seasons.
You may not get any days off throughout the entire season, but once the holidays are over, you may only be needed for around 20 hours a week. Your pay increases the more seasons you work at a single resort and the higher level of certifications you earn.
European countries have the highest hourly rate of pay for instructors, though the cost of living may be higher as well, depending on the country.
France, for example, has high pay for ski instructors, but they require you to have higher qualifications, too. Each region in Italy also has slightly different requirements from one another, each changing depending on the resort or school you apply to.
On the other hand, you might be wondering how much to tip your ski instructor if you are still learning to become one yourself. A good tip for group lessons would be about $20, while those who get private lessons should tip more (about $50 should suffice).
No matter how much you choose to tip your ski instructor, they will always appreciate the thought!
This video goes into more details about being a ski instructor.
Being a ski instructor can be a very rewarding experience that elevates your skiing abilities to new heights.
There’s no better way to share your enthusiasm for the sport than by teaching others all you know about skiing, too!
What are your best tips to become a ski instructor?