Home to big national parks and four winter Olympics, the USA is usually on the hit list for skiers. There are a variety of resorts all the way from the east to the west from big ski resorts to smaller ski hills, but the tight employment restrictions and visas in the USA often put people off trying.
Visas and work regulations
As you’re probably aware, the USA is very strict on visas and visitors. If you’re a US citizen, congratulations, you’re in! If not then it might not be as hard as you think to get a visa to work as a ski instructor.
The easiest way to navigate the visa system as a ski instructor is to get a job offer from a recognised ski school first. Once you’ve achieved this then the ski school will apply for a visa petition, after which you’ll be able to apply to your embassy for a visa interview. The visa that you’ll be applying for is a H2 temporary work visa which will be specific to the ski school that you have your job offer from and will not be valid for work with any other company. As a Canadian you won’t be given any allowances either despite ease of travel to the US, and you will also need a job offer first so that your employer can sponsor you for the visa.
The USA is probably the most relaxed of all the major skiable countries in the world when it comes to ski instructors and qualifications. You don’t actually need to be a qualified or certified ski instructor to teach in the USA, although individual resorts or snowsports schools may have their own requirements. However, to stand the best chance of being employed you’d be best with at least a Level 1 and probably a Level 2, as well as some practical teaching experience. But that’s not to say you won’t get a job without both of these.
Or if you want to work your way through the American PSIA (insert link) system, there are fewer companies that offer courses in the PSIA system, but there are still some out there:
- EA Ski and Snowboard School: ski internship offered at Northstar Tahoe.
- Rookie Academy: a range of courses in the PSIA system in Aspen, Colorado.
- Snow Trainers: 8 week Level 1 and 2 course at Copper Mountain, Colorado.
You’ve probably heard of Aspen and Vail, but what about Taos Ski Valley and Loup Loup Ski Bowl. The USA is home to over 400 ski resorts and ski hills/areas so you’ll have plenty to choose from, you can actually ski in 40 of the 52 states (including Alaska don’t forget)!
You’ll need to choose carefully though, especially if you’re in need of a visa. Smaller ski areas and snowsports schools are likely to have enough people on their books without the need to go through the visa application process on your behalf. Also, some of the smaller hills may only be open a few days a week for local skiing and/or ski clubs and schools, which would result in a lack of work, and possibly a lack of personal skiing if you work all of the days that they’re open and they’re closed on your day off.
It is true what they say about everything being bigger in the USA, you’ll likely get bigger portions in restaurants, won’t be able to buy small or single items in the supermarket and will be able to supersize (almost) everything. And the relative cost compared to mainstream European resorts may be cheaper, well if you stay away from the tourist-focussed restaurants in big ski resorts.
Also, some of the smaller resorts may not offer you much of a social scene, with both fewer instructors and seasonnaires to socialise with, and fewer places to socialise at. So if you’re looking to meet people, socialise and ski on your days off, you’ll want to make sure you choose a more mainstream ski resort rather than smaller ski hill or area.
The legal drinking age in the USA is 21, so if you’re under 21 and you want to work somewhere with a strong après ski culture, you might want to think about working somewhere else. However, it would save you some of that hard-earned money!