There are a few ways to become a ski instructor and we’ll try to go through the main points and options in this post. They all involve a similar path and require the same level of dedication, but some options require more time and others more money.
In brief, you’re going to need:
1. A Recognised Ski Instructor Qualification
2. Some Relevant Experience
3. A CV and Reference
4. Working Visa
But the first question you’re probably wondering is…
How good do you have to be?
If you’re looking to become a ski instructor, you obviously need to have some basic skills. But you don’t need to be as advanced as you might think.
Suppose your happy linking turns on a blue run and can control your speed. In that case, you’re probably okay to join either a Level 1 course or an 11 week Level 1 and 2. Courses give you the time to work on your techniques and build up your skill level. Often the least experienced skier can progress the furthest, as they haven’t learnt too many bad habits which have to be corrected.
If you’re a more advanced skier then you’ll find a few more options to get you up to the higher levels quicker and teaching sooner. Fast track options become more feasible allowing you to reach the Level 2 standard in just 8 weeks, or internships with guaranteed work so you can start teaching and earning that season.
1. Get Qualified
You can do this in numerous ways and in many countries. Most instructor governing bodies have qualifications that run from levels 1 to 4, with 1 being the most basic. To find work internationally, you’ll need to set your sights on reaching Level 2 as a minimum.
That’s not to say you can’t work with a Level 1 ticket, but it limits your options. Large resorts often reserve their Level 1 instructor positions for those on designated internships or with proven teaching experience. You’ll also find that some Level 1 tickets only allow you to teach in the country where you gained the qualification, and can be limited to dry ski slopes and domes (BASI) so will not let you teach on the mountain.
The most popular English speaking qualifications are with the CSIA (Canada), BASI (British) and NZSIA (New Zealand). They are all members of the ISIA and are recognised in 37 other ISIA member countries. If you want to know more about the recommended qualifications, go to What qualifications do you need to be a ski instructor?
Ski Instructor Course.
Suppose you don’t live in the appropriate country already. The quickest and most straightforward way to become qualified is to join a Ski instructor course. Courses provide everything you need from the training to accommodation, travel and food. On a typical 11 week program, you’ll have the chance to take both your level 1 and 2 while being supported the whole way.
Ski Instructor Internship.
Popular among 18-30-year-olds, an internship is a great way to become an instructor if you are eligible for a Canadian or New Zealand working holiday visa. Interns tend to achieve Level 1 and 2 in one season but start work straight after completing their Level 1. An Internship opens up the door to work at large mountain resorts, which otherwise would not be possible for a newly qualified Level 1. To join an internship you really need to have been skiing for over 5 weeks and be confidently turning on blues and reds. It also helps to have some experience with children such as helping to coach your sports team or looking after children, even if it’s just on a casual basis (more on this below).
There’s nothing to stop you from signing up for a level 1 exam and subsequent level 2 independently. Your only issue is finding accommodation if you don’t already live in that country plus any extra training. If you’re an advanced skier, you may be able to take the level 1 exam without too much extra training, but level 2 is a big step up. Without a course for Level 2, you need to aim to have a couple of seasons’ work under your belt before attempting it. To find work with your Level 1, you may have to look to the rural and smaller resorts. But it’s all achievable if you’re willing to compromise.
2. Get Relevant Experience
It’s hard to get the experience before you get your first real ski instructor job, and it’s hard to get the job without experience. Welcome to catch 22! So how do you get around this problem?
You’ll get lots of time to shadow real ski lessons on a ski instructor course. Shadowing helps build up your experience for the exams and is also something you can put on your CV. In addition, it shows the ski school that you’re committed and have worked within the ski school environment, even if unpaid.
Ski instructor internships navigate this problem, which is why they’re so popular. It gets you straight in the door at a large resort with a Level 1 certificate but no instructor experience. But be prepared to prove that you’re the type of person they want. Remember, you’ll still have to send a cv and have an interview, even on an internship.
The good news is that you don’t have to have just ski instructor experience. As a rule of thumb, they are looking for somebody who will be a good fit with the ski school. That means being responsible, with the right attitude to look after a small group. Any experience of leading a small group or teaching/coaching is a real bonus, especially if with children. It could be volunteering at a local club, school group, Duke of Edinburgh or helping out with family and kids back home.
So if you haven’t yet got anything, look in your local area. Find how you can help out, it’s never too late, and it all helps make a great CV.
3. CV and Getting a Reference.
You’re going to need to write a CV/Resume. It doesn’t need to be a novel, just 1 page. Still, it needs to clearly state any relevant qualifications and experience. Ideally, you also need to add a reference. This might be from an employer, a teacher or even your Rep if you’ve attended a ski instructor course. It’s all pretty simple stuff, but you want to get it right, and we’ve compiled a list of helpful hints in the following ‘How to write a CV’ Blog.
It also helps to write a covering letter explaining why you want to be a ski instructor at that school.
4. Working Holiday Visa
You may be fortunate enough to live in a country with ski resorts right on your doorstep. Or have dual nationality for one of these beautiful countries. But if you’re like us mere non-alpine mortals, you will have to rely on a working holiday visa.
As you work up the Levels and become more experienced, you may be able to look to sponsorship. But to start off, you’ve only got the one option of a working holiday visa. Most countries provide visas for 18 – 35-year-olds and are easy to obtain in some cases. It can be a lottery for other countries, which can be somewhat nerve-racking and takes pre-planning.
When applying for a ski instructor job, the first thing your future employer will want to know is ‘have you got the right to work’. If you don’t, they’re unlikely to even consider you for an interview. For this reason, you need to think ahead and sort out your visa as soon as possible. For further details on working holiday visa applications, look to our dedicated Visa Page.
So now you’ve got an idea of what’s involved.
If you need to chat or have any questions, we’re more than happy to point you in the right direction to help find the right Ski Instructor Course for you.
You need that first Job. With your qualification in hand, your working visa, great CV and any experience you can show to be useful to the ski school, you need to start hunting for that first job. If you’ve completed an internship then this isn’t an issue, but breaking into the industry can be tricky for that first year. Don’t get disheartened apply to lots of resorts and don’t pass up the smaller ones. They often have the most work and it will set you up perfectly for the following year and getting your spot at one of the major resorts.
Try Ski Jobs for up to date employment position at ski resorts across the world. But don’t be afraid to contact the resorts directly, you’ll normally find an employment link on most resorts web sites. Don’t leave it till the last minute, most resorts start their employment process around 3 months before the resorts open for their winter.