The following article on how to become a ski instructor is authored by Erin
Growing up in Australia, let alone in a small coastal town gives people a lot of confusion when I tell them I was a ski instructor.
I almost always have to clarify it was snow skiing, not water skiing.
Yep, it’s true. Australia has mountains and ski resorts. Some of them are pretty damn good too.
Living the seasonal life as a ski instructor was a whole lot of fun. Imagine getting to ski every day of the year by following the winters between the northern and southern hemispheres.
You live in a resort town, where everyone is in their fun holiday vibes. There are sponsored parties and events taking place weekly and always live music to be found.
Does this sound like something you’d like to do? Let me tell you how…
What Led Me to Become a Ski Instructor
As a child, my family would take us to the mountains every other year. It was there that I grew my love for everything snow-related.
I remember loving the smell of the crisp winter air and wood fireplaces burning, the taste of the best hot chocolates in the world after a full day of skiing but mostly I loved ski school.
I would make a whole group of new best friends and get to explore a mountain with skis on. How cool is that!
Fast forward to when I finished high school and wanted to spend all of my time skiing, I found a job in Colorado and began the first of what would become 10 ski season jobs.
Now you may be thinking, “after all those winters learning to ski you must have been pretty good”. I hear you because I thought that too. So when I arrived in Colorado I was pretty shocked to find, I sucked!
Turns out some people live less than 13 hours away from the mountains and get to ski every weekend. So it was quite lucky that my first job was a ski lift operator.
After that season in Colorado, I went back to Australia and worked as a ski rental technician in Falls Creek. After spending over 300 days on the snow that year I had gained enough experience to apply for a job as a ski instructor. Afterward, I went on to work six more ski season jobs between Lake Tahoe in California and Thredbo in Australia.
My main job was teaching children to ski which is one of the best jobs in the world.
Life as a Ski Instructor
Having a ski season job was the absolute best thing for me. I was young and loved the party lifestyle.
I was able to work for 5 months, then take a month holiday before the next season started.
The job challenged me, I was continually becoming a better skier and I made lifelong friends. While it all sounds like fun and games, and trust me there is a lot of that, it is also a serious career and people dedicate their lives to training and learning all there is to better themselves and others.
You need to be ok with working casual hours and not having a fixed income amount. During the holiday season, you may not get any days off for a month. Although when the holidays are over, the work will calm down and you may only be needed for 20 hours some weeks.
Wages are based on hours worked and increase with the more seasons you do in one resort and as you get higher certification levels. I preferred to teach children to ski, firstly, because I had lots of fun with them but additionally because they are likely to be booked in for full-day lessons. This guarantees you a full day of pay.
Unlike adult classes which usually run for 2 hours. You will be required to check in every 2 hours to see if you are needed for classes.
What a Typical Day Looks like for a Kids Ski Instructor
- 8:00 am Arrive for briefing and get your list of morning duties.
- 8:30 am Perform morning duties. These can range from helping fit skis and boots, setting up the kids magic carpet area with props, shovelling snow, checking in kids, etc.
- 9:00 am Kids ski ability is checked and they are put into groups of similar levels.
- 9:30 am – 12:00 pm Morning ski instructing. Teach kids new skills and advance their skiing level. Make sure the kids are safe and having fun.
- 12:00 – 1:00 pm Lunch break. Lunch is either provided by the ski school or you need to pack your own. Some ski school will require you to stay with the kids during lunch, others may give you a lunch break.
- 1:00 – 4:00 pm Afternoon ski instructing. Resume group lessons.
- 4:00 pm The children get picked up by their parents. Give the parents a briefing of how the kids went, what you are working on, what they need to improve. It’s important to note that the above must be done in all types of weather conditions.
Be prepared to work in blizzards and days where the visibility is very poor. The temperatures can also be well below freezing.
How to Become a Ski Instructor
Throughout the world, there are 4 levels of certification. The basic entry level 1 up to expert level 4, with a slight variance between training certifiers and countries.
Some ski schools will hire unqualified instructors depending on your skiing ability. Although don’t expect to get any high-level ski classes until you have put in the work and training yourself.
What will surprise you most is that almost every country has a ski resort, even if it is only a small one. This means that this career opens up most of the world as a work and travel destination.
There are a couple of different entryways into becoming a ski instructor. The amount of time, money or where you want to start working will influence how you begin your instructor journey.
You can enter the world of ski instructing by starting at a ski school as an unqualified instructor or participating in a multi-week training program where you gain teaching and ski training in an effort to get your lower level certification. Both routes require dedication and a love for the sport to truly succeed.
The Unqualified Route to Becoming a Ski Instructor
This first way is the cheaper but longer option for starting your career in ski instructing. This is the route I took into this field and I can show you how you can do this too.
Some ski schools around the world will hire you as an unqualified instructor. What this essentially means is that you have no experience in teaching skiing but you have passed a short ski ability test.
At the present time, Australia and the USA definitely hire instructors under this job title. Unfortunately, this is usually not possible in places where sponsored work visas are required. To be sure if your desired ski school allows this method of entry you can shoot them an email.
Follow These Actionable Steps for a Ski Season Job:
- Firstly, to teach anyone to ski you must be a great skier yourself. I’m talking advanced to expert here. The better you are the better the classes you will be able to teach.
- If you aren’t up to that level yet, no worries. There are plenty of other ski season jobs you can get while you improve your skiing ability. Try lift operations, hospitality or childcare just to name a couple.
- Once you are confident in the level of your skiing ability you need to apply for a job. To get a ski season job in Australia, applications open in February and the season kicks off in June. For the northern hemisphere, you will want to start applying around July for the season which starts in November.
- To apply, find which resort you want to work at by doing a google search of ski resorts. Pick a few to maximise your chances.
- The job title you want to be applying for is the unqualified ski instructor.
- Most ski resort websites will have an employment/careers tab at the base of their site. Click this and follow the prompts. You will generally have to fill in an application and upload a CV and cover letter.
- Finally, wait to hear back about an interview and an offer for an on snow trial.
What to Expect When You Arrive in the Mountains
Great, you have been selected for the on snow trial! This takes place at the beginning of the season.
You will be expected to spend a few days skiing around where you will have your ski ability checked and to do some mock lessons.
Don’t stress about the mock lessons, it must be remembered that everyone will be in the same boat. You will be taught what to do before being expected to teach anything. Your trainer will just be making sure you are capable of teaching a lesson.
Finally, you will be accepted into the world of unqualified instructors! Yay and well done.
A quick tip: From here sign up to the ski resorts training days to get your certification as soon as possible. This will improve your skiing and you will learn valuable tips, tricks, and techniques to help your students. When you have a higher certification you will also get to teach more advanced students. Meaning you get to spend your workdays skiing around the mountain doing something you love.
This method of entering the industry is cheap.
Some mountains may ask you to put down a deposit to hold your place in the on-snow trial. This should be up to $100.
You will also have to pay for accommodation, transport and living expenses during the trial. The ski resort will pay for all on snow costs like lift passes. Training may be provided free of cost at the resort you work for. You will just need to pay for the certification exam which varies significantly between countries. Expect to pay between a few hundred and a thousand dollars.
The Qualified Route to Become a Ski Instructor
The other way you can become a ski instructor is to enroll in a training school. These schools are located in ski resorts all around the world. You will spend every day on the snow with a trainer who will help you improve your personal skiing.
You will also learn the proper teaching methods and skills required to teach others. The end goal of these ski instructor courses is for you to pass your level 1 or 2 ski instructor exams, depending on the course you picked.
The typical time frame for this is 3 weeks for level 1 and 6 weeks total for 1 and 2.
The benefit of going down this route is you only need an intermediate ski competency to begin. If you enroll for the start of a season, certain schools will guarantee you a job at the end. So long as you pass your exams.
Most courses are all-inclusive, which means your food, board, lift pass, training and exams are included in the enrolment fee. You will live with a group of like-minded people all excited about starting their careers as a ski instructor.
Follow These Steps to Gaining Your Certification Through a Ski Instructor Course
- To find a course which is suitable for you, pop over to google and type in ski instructor course and the country you would like to do it in. To start you off the Winter Sports Company offers courses in France, Canada, and New Zealand. Snow Trainers are based in Colorado, USA and APSI runs in Australia.
- Arrive in the mountains to begin your course.
- Train your butt off.
- Enjoy living the fun seasonal work life.
Course costs vary greatly between countries and training schools. You can expect to pay anywhere from $5000-$20,000 for up to 3 months of training.
How to Become a Ski Instructor and Visa Information
Again, this is very dependent on your nationality and the country you choose to work.
I was hired under a J1 visa in the USA. This visa is for anyone who is a student in their home country. You are able to enter the USA for your summer break. Most South American countries, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia can apply for this visa.
Not a student? You must get a sponsored visa to work in the US. Currently, this is most likely impossible for new ski instructors.
To work in Canada you can apply for the International Experience Canada visa. To see if you are eligible click here.
For foreigners wanting to work in Australia, you can apply for the Australian working holiday visa if you are under 35.
To work in Europe, most ski schools will require you to be from the EU or the UK and hold a European certification. Obviously, it will be easiest to work in your home country as you do not need a visa. Start in your own country and gain your certification. From here, you can then apply to ski schools to sponsor you overseas.
Hope this helps you get a ski job!
Do you want to be a ski instructor? Where? Let us know in the comments!
Erin from Curiously Erin is a long-term budget traveller. She has spent the majority of the past 10 years working various jobs around the world to fund her travels. Some highlights include teaching skiing to children in Lake Tahoe and spending two years living on a superyacht between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. You’ll find her in the outdoors or sipping coffee in a cute cafe.