There’s no hiding the fact that skiing is mainly a seasonal sport, and that season really needs to be winter when it’s cold and snows. That is unless the country has an all-year winter like those in the Arctic Circle, or skiing on artificial slopes (include link to article). So if you do decide to become a ski instructor, what are your options in the off-season?
Sounds like an obvious one for a ski instructor, but yes, you can still ski. Firstly, there are hundreds of artificial slopes (dry ski slopes and snowdomes) all around the world that you can teach at (include link).
Secondly, there’s snow somewhere in the world all year round. The typical European or North American (northern hemisphere) season is from December to April, although this extends in resorts with glaciers such as Tignes and Hintertux. However, there are more limited teaching opportunities in regular ski schools in Europe during the summer glacier season and it tends to be racing camps and ski instructor training. So you might be limited in options if you’re still in the early days of your instructing career (but it’s a great time to fit in some extra training and exams without eating in to the main season).
The other option is to do a southern/northern hemisphere swap as the season changes – working in Europe or North America in the November-April period and New Zealand, Australia or South America in the June-October period. This may be demanding on your visa-application skills, but it’s definitely the main way to get your snow-fix all year round.
If you’re looking to progress through your chosen instructor system quickly then this is one of the ways that you might make this work. For systems such as BASI and APSI (add in links to articles) where you are required to carry out a certain number of teaching hours, shadowing or experience between the levels, working as a ski instructor for as many months in the year as possible will help to speed the process up. Even if it’s not required, getting as much experience as possible is really important as it improves your teaching ability and increases your experience of teaching different levels and types of people.
Note – by looking at the lengths of seasons, it’s possible to work almost every single day of every month of the year if you plan your work right. The New Zealand season is June-October, European glaciers all year/best between October and May.
Without tarring everyone with the same brush, many people that take on ski instructing as a career option often tend to be interested in outdoor pursuits and other sports as well.
You could choose to live in the same resort or area year-round, which means that unless you live in an unusually snowy destination or close to a glacier then you’ll probably need to diversify your skills. The mountains lend themselves to hiking, mountain biking and whitewater rafting among other activities. So becoming a leader or instructor in these sports would set you up for year-round work, but there does tend to be off-season months in May and October in many resorts, particularly in Europe.
If you’re keen to escape the mountains and get some action by the coast or other landscape then there are plenty of options too. Obviously once you’re in the ski instructor system then you know how expensive professional qualifications can end up being and so you may not want to train in other sports such as windsurfing, diving or as a beach lifeguard, but these are some options amongst the hundreds of others!
Ski companies don’t die in the summer, in fact they spring to life planning for the next winter; marketing, recruiting, sourcing products, planning events and doing general maintenance. Whilst the title of this section is “admin” it really is anything but. Make connections and network with ski schools, chalet companies, package holiday brokers, shops, the works, and you never know where you might find yourself working.
Something completely different
No-one ever said that skiing needed to be your whole life; perhaps you have a flexible other career, one you were in before or something else you’re interested. A lot of the French ESF instructors can be found working on building sites and in construction (or other manual trades) in the summer months as this is when the weather is prime for building and maintenance (no snow, go figure). Other careers I’ve come across are locum vets, writers, animation film producers, software technicians, the list is pretty much endless. So don’t think that you can’t mix your professions, but you do need to find a way of working that allows you to be this flexible.
It’s unlikely that this will be an easy option in your early days as an instructor unless you’re lucky enough to have a pot of money somewhere to rely on, as any earnings are likely to be spent on qualifications and/or training. But once you’re fully qualified at the top level within your chosen association then it’s likely that your earning power will be pretty high. And if you don’t have other outgoings such as a year-round mortgage or dependents then you can choose to spend your off-time as you wish. There are plenty more countries out there to explore!