– Image edited from flickr.
Enjoy skiing but wanting something more out of it? Trying to find out how to recoup the costs of all of your ski gear and trips but without compromising your ski days? Thought about becoming a ski instructor? If so then keep reading for detailed tips on how to start your ski instructor journey.
If you’re just starting out thinking about becoming a ski instructor then you probably have hundreds of ideas buzzing around your head and are struggling to pinpoint exactly how to get started. There are so many examining boards, courses, exams, countries, companies and people offering you the chance to start that ski instructor dream, so just how do you begin?
Question to ask yourself.
There are a number of questions that you need to ask yourself so that you can work out the best way for you to achieve your ski instructor dream. Why do you want to be a ski instructor? What do you plan to do with your qualification once you’re qualified? Do you speak any other languages? How much time do you have to dedicate to it now? What’s your ultimate ski instructor goal? The answers to these questions will help you determine the best path to take through the ski instructor qualifications, which may be different if you are fresh out of school and planning on being a ski instructor as a full-time lifetime commitment compared to want to fit in something extra around a different career.
What is your skiing ability?
Can you ski? If the answer is yes then that’s probably a good sign. But how good do you really need to be? Well you are going to be teaching other people so you are going to need to demonstrate each of the skills to a high standard as well as pass technical ski exams. But again, the level that you need to be at totally depends on the qualification that you are hoping to obtain and the system that you are working through. For example, as a BASI Level 1 you need to be able to perform short, linked turns and be able to carve the end of long turns.
However, at Level 4 (ISTD), you’ll have to be able to carve a variety of turn sizes, ski moguls to a high level, ski steeps and mixed terrain and guide off-piste. As you work through exams and courses, your personal skiing ability will be coached and worked on so you will find that you improve as you go, and you can attend training courses to develop your personal skiing. But there’s a reason that not all instructors achieve the top levels. To start with, the more experienced you are as a skier, the easier you should find it, but it has been known for fairly novice skiers to attend intensive courses (like a gap course) and qualify quickly. But don’t forget that it’s not only your skiing ability but your teaching ability and communication skills that are important and equally assessed.
Which qualification system will you follow?
Most countries have their own qualifications that you can work through. Each country and each system has different requirements and standards, and each allows you different privileges to work in different countries. The most popular qualifications for native English speakers are BASI, NZSIA, CSIA and PSIA which are the British, New Zealand, Canadian and American systems.
The ISIA qualification in all systems is highly regarded worldwide, but if you want to work in France then you may need to think about the BASI system. Depending on which country you end up teaching in, you can convert your qualification to the qualification required to teach in that country such as the Anwärter in Austria. Once you’ve decided which system is the one that you want to work your way through, then you can work out how to do that.
What are your aims?
Do you want to be a ski instructor as a career?
You can be a full time ski instructor and it can be your main source of income. However, you may just enjoy skiing, want to learn more, do some instructing and see where it leads? Or maybe you’re doing it for some other reason altogether? Depending on what the answer to this is, might affect your decision as to how to go about getting qualified. If you only want to ski instruct part time, take a bit of time out from your normal career or improve your own skiing then you might only want to do Level 1 and 2 exams as these give you lots of opportunities for teaching and are relatively cheaper and quicker to achieve (in the ski instructing world, don’t take cheap to mean very cheap!).
However, if you’re thinking of making ski instructing your career choice then it’s likely that you’re looking to gain the highest qualification you can, which obviously increases the amount of money you’ll be spending and depends on how quickly you can work through whichever system you choose. So you’ll likely need to do a mix of seasons teaching and training/taking exams.
The rising popularity of the gap year between finishing school and heading to University has also had an impact on ski instructing courses being offered. You can now book on to a single course with certain companies where they cover all of the training and exams you need to get you to a good quality teaching standard in a certain number of weeks. These take place in a variety of countries around the world for different lengths of times, with different qualification outcomes and are available in both the Southern and Northern hemisphere.
You’ll often find a mix of people straight out of school, University leavers and career breakers, so you’ll meet lots of interesting people as well.
Instead of attending pre-organised courses like a gap course, you can work your way through different qualification systems independently as well. Details of the different systems and the exams you need to qualify for each level can be found. This can work whether you want to teach full time or part time and on a more casual basis. However, it is likely that as you start working towards the higher end of the exams that you may want to book on to some organised training to develop your skiing for certain exams. For example, the Eurotest in the BASI system is notoriously difficult to pass and it’s likely you’ll want to get some race training beforehand, or for technical exams in the top tiers or qualifications, you might want to book onto some training for moguls or general skiing. These are sometimes available through your professional body or through private companies.
Skiing is an expensive hobby, and the professional qualifications can also be expensive to obtain depending on where you are setting your sights. How much courses and exams cost to take and your ongoing training requirements might factor into which system you decide to qualify with, and how you work through that system. Whilst it might seem that gap courses are an expensive initial outlay, when you factor in the exam cost, travel to resorts, accommodation, food etc. they often work out good value for money.
This is particularly true considering the fact that you can qualify in a short space of time and start teaching almost immediately afterwards (if you pass of course). You may also need to break up training for and taking exams with some teaching (or other work) spells to raise the money needed. Often people do this by alternating southern and northern hemisphere seasons teaching/training alternately, or by working somewhere else during the ‘off-season’ to earn the money to pay for winter training. However, the more teaching you can get in in-between exams the better, and often you have to gain a certain number of teaching hours in-between qualifications as a requirement. So trying to find work as an instructor either on artificial slopes or on snow in between exams and seasons is very useful and highly recommended.
Hopefully this helps you to start working out the way that you want to gain your instructor qualifications. Take a look through the different systems, gap courses and other articles on the site to familiarise yourself with what’s available.
Good luck on your ski instructor journey, and enjoy!