Working as a ski instructor and working as a ski instructor in France could be seen as two very different things. France is one of the most notoriously difficult countries to work in as a ski instructor, although once you hold the correct qualifications, you probably won’t be short of job offers.
Visas and working regulations
France is part of the European Union and as such, EU citizens can freely move and work in any EU countries. However, see below, as France are very strict on the ski instructor qualifications that you need to hold in order to work in a ski school in France.
Outside of the EU, you’ll need to apply for a visa to work in France as you would with any other job. Some ski schools may help you with the visa process through a sponsored visa or financial contribution should they offer you a job. Just remember that the European ski instructor market is a fairly crowded place so they will have their pick from instructors without visa restrictions, which may make the process harder.
The French requirements for ski instructors are notoriously high and strictly enforced. Firstly, you will most certainly need to be an experienced and advanced skier and instructor if you want to teach in France in the long run, but you will definitely need to be a skilled skier to teach there in the first place as well. Both ways in which you become eligible to teach in France are based on a race, the test technique in the lower levels and the Eurotest or speed test higher up. The standards are no lower for French instructors than they are for any other examination system that you choose, the difference is just that most French skiers have grown up racing and so it is more of a second nature for them.
Test Technique – this is the first entry level into the French system and would qualify you as a Trainee instructor (Stagiere). As a BASI instructor, you can take this test as a Level 2 or Level 3 (ISIA) instructor, and the entry levels are similar for other systems. This is a slalom race run by the French and in completing this you will be allowed to work in a French authorised Training Ski School for three to four years on an apprenticeship-style basis. Once you have achieved the required Level for your system and the Test Technique then you will need to apply for a Livret de Formation. There is a complex administration process to complete before you will be able to start teaching, which BASI have outlined in detail.
In order to freely work independently in France as a ski instructor (set up a ski school, have your own personal clients), you will need to hold the highest level of ski instructor qualification, the ISTD. In France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Austria and the British systems, this includes the notoriously tricky Euro test, a timed giant slalom race set under FIS rules. FIS-standard openers set course times, and you are given an allotted time that you will have to be within, which is within a certain percentage of their time and different for men and women, and you have two runs to try and achieve it in. Once you have achieved the level that the French require, you will need to apply for your Carte Pro, yet again another administration task that BASI have full details on.
However, if you really want to then you can opt to start in the French system in SNMSF (Syndicat National des Moniteurs du Ski Français), Nonstop Snow run a 20 week course in Serre Chevalier designed to help you achieve the Test Technique trainee instructor level. However, entering the French system doesn’t mean that you are able to skip any of the stages required through any other system, French instructors are required to achieve exactly the same level before they can teach in France as well. For systems other than BASI, you should be able to receive tailored advice as to how you might be able to enter the French ski instructing arena, but bear in mind that whichever system you come from, it’s unlikely to be an easy, quick or cheap path to get there.
France is host to numerous ski resorts, both small and large, so there are many to choose from. As well as the host-nation’s ski school, the ESF, there are many independent ski schools, many of them British-owned and operated.
Relative to other countries and resorts, French resorts can be expensive to live in as a ski instructor. However, due to the strict requirements for instructor qualifications, the pay is more often than not higher than other places, particularly because of the standard of skier that you need to be to work there, and because there are far fewer instructors that hold the correct qualifications and so they are in hot demand.