Winter Sports Company: My Journey to Level 4

We sat down with Harry, a CSIA Level 4 and product of the WSC, as he shares his journey from internship to industry professional.

So Harry, where are you based now?

I work for Panorama Mountain Resort in BC, Canada, as the instructor training supervisor. I’ve been there for five winters now. My year is split between Canada and Australia, though; I work for Thredbo down in Australia during the summer months.

 

Did you always want to become an instructor?

Ha, it definitely wasn’t on the cards. Rewind to the summer of 2017, I was leaving sixth form and preparing to attend university in Liverpool to study Economics. During those few months between school and university, I began to doubt whether university was right for me. I considered doing a winter season, and it was at that point I came across the WSC.

Skier in blue uniform carving down a run

Choosing The Winter Sports Company

What convinced you to go ahead and do it?

At the time the WSC was owned by Steve La Borde, we had several conversations over the phone. Ultimately, it was the idea of doing something fun for work. Being outside, learning a new skill and being able to practice something I was interested in daily. Plus, the opportunity to live abroad and gain some real-life experience.

 

Talk us through your first few weeks at Panorama

When I arrived at Panorama, I was blown away. It was more than I expected it to be in every way. I spent the first few weeks training under WiL Comrie and Rob Scott, the training team at the time, in preparation for my CSIA Level 1. The training at Panorama was superb, and it opened my eyes to what ski instructing was all about and the possibilities of how exciting the season could be. I was alongside other WSC participants, all doing the same thing as me. We got along great, and the preseason training flew by.

Pursuing A Career In The Industry

You passed Levels 1 and 2 in the first season; when did you think about pursuing this as a career?

My second season was the first time I considered pursuing a career in the industry. I was fortunate to work under Jason Simpson as the ski school director. Jason is a CSIA/PSIC Level 4 examiner and a great friend and mentor of mine. He made skiing cool, aesthetic, and professional and talked about skiing in a way that captured my attention and enthusiasm. He was the first person to make me believe that a career in the industry was possible.

 

How important have your mentors been in your progression?

I wouldn’t be where I am right now without them, that’s for sure. At Panorama, I was surrounded by some of the best in the industry. Fortunately, I also lived with WiL Comrie, a close friend who happens to be a Level 4 examiner and, coincidentally, my first trainer back in 2017. Panorama interns still ski with WiL during preseason training.

WiL has been at Panorama for nearly 30 years and, like Jason, has been a huge mentor of mine during my time there. One of the best things about winter seasons is the people you share them with. Spending the season working and training alongside WiL made the process of achieving the Level 4 really fun and rewarding. I know the importance of having good mentorship when embarking on something challenging. I owe Jason and WiL a massive debt of gratitude for their help.

 

Skiing In The Southern Hemisphere

Talk us through the COVID years

It’s a blessing in disguise. When COVID kicked off, I was at home sorting a new visa to return to Canada. Then, in March 2020, Canadian borders closed, as did visa applications and with that, I was left at home for much longer than I had hoped. However, I had decided that I didn’t want to waste this time; I wanted to do something useful, so working at Ellis Brigham as a ski technician and boot fitter kept me sane for the period I spent at home and gave me invaluable skills that I could utilise as an instructor, so I was grateful for the opportunity to work there.

 

Did you get back to Canada and then head south?

Yes, since then, it’s been back-to-back winters. Five consecutive winter seasons in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. I spent a season at Coronet Peak in New Zealand and a season in Thredbo, Australia, between my Canadian seasons at Panorama. The southern hemisphere is a great place to spend the summer months. It’s a melting pot of the best instructors and trainers worldwide as everyone descends on this small part of the world. I would recommend it to anyone, and it’s a fun way to travel the world!

 

How long have you been training for the Level 4?

Well I guess it started back in 2017! Everything I’ve done so far has led me to this point, but I really set my sights on it and began training during the 22/23 winter. It was a huge undertaking, and I trained relentlessly for two years with the help of WiL and Jason. The process hooked me, and although I’m relieved to have it done finally, it was a journey I’ll never forget and will no doubt remain one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life.

Life Beyond The Level 4

 

 

Level 4 awards at Sunshine Village


For
those that don’t know, what is the Level 4?The level 4 is recognised as the highest level of certification in ski teaching. Once you reach this level, you’re qualified to train and certify future and current instructors and expert skiers.

 

The big question, what now?

The best part is that this is just the start. I’m excited to return to Panorama next year, begin my pathway as an examiner with the CSIA, and continue to build a successful Ski+Ride school. I’m heading to Australia in a few weeks, ahead of my 8th full-time season, where I’ll return to Thredbo. Ultimately this is another stepping stone in my journey towards a successful and sustainable career in the industry.

 

You’re now a trainer for the WSC and instructor training supervisor for Panorama; tell us about that.

I came full circle with the Winter Sports Company returning to Panorama. Once certified as a CSIA trainer, I was qualified to train future instructors for their Level 1 exam. Standing before a group of WSC participants in November, ready to deliver their Level 1 training, was a very proud moment. I’m stoked I’ll get to do it again next year.

Advice For Those Taking A Gap Course

Any advice for people thinking of taking a GAP course

It’s not just about the skiing; it’s everything else that comes with it. You’ll make memories that will last a lifetime and open your eyes to all sorts of possibilities. I would say do it! My advice is to work hard, though; the more you put in, the more you get out kind of thing. The season will go by in a flash, so stay present and enjoy every moment.

For more information get in touch with the Winter Sports Company today!

FAQs

What Is The CSIA?

The Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance is the governing body that trains and certifies ski instructors in Canada. Most skiing nations have their own system. For example, the British system is BASI, the New Zealand system is NZSIA, and America is PSIA.

 

What Is The CSIA Level 4?

The level 4 is recognised as the highest level of certification in ski teaching. Once you reach this level, you’re qualified to train and certify future and current instructors, as well as expert skiers.

What Is The Pay Like For A Level 4?

It depends on where you work and which ski school you work for, but generally, the pay is very good as a level 4. Your opportunities for higher-paid work increase significantly, and you can also work for the CSIA or equivalent governing body. Some top-paid level 4 instructors can make over $500 a day.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Level 4?

For most people, it takes years of training. It is a considerable undertaking but an incredibly rewarding journey. You can work through your other levels, and it’s not uncommon for people to pass their Level 2 pretty fast, sometimes even their Level 3 after only a few seasons.

How Good Do I Need To Be To Become An Instructor?

Most instructors start out similar to you right now. Anyone can become an instructor with the proper training. If you’re an intermediate skier, you could be an instructor in no time with the right instructor training course.

Where Is The Best Place To Work As An Instructor?

Wow, that’s a tough one. Honestly, it’s so hard to say. We’re fortunate to have incredible skiing destinations worldwide, and many of them will come down to working rights. Some visas and permits allow you to work in most places worldwide, so why not try them all. WSC offers amazing internships and training programs in Canada.