By Rik Dyson | 10 min read | 21st July 2023.
How To Choose The Best Ski Instructor Course For You.
Best ski instructor course? It’s subjective, of course. You’ve probably spent quite a bit of time researching instructor courses. You want to do it but can’t decide which direction to go. Of course, you’ll never regret becoming a ski instructor, but knowing what experience you want is a great place to start in order to choose the right one.
Questions To Ask Yourself
Do You Have Any Time Constraints?
If you are free between November and April choose the Northern Hemisphere winter. Europe, Canada and Japan have some great options. Some courses start before Christmas, and many begin in January or as late as February. If your free time is between June and September you’re restricted to the Southern Hemisphere. New Zealand is the most established but you can find a few courses in South America.
What’s your Budget?
After time constrictions, then money is usually the next important factor. Without going into the financial side of things too profoundly here, you need to research how much it will cost to reach your goal. Remember to include spending money, insurance, travel and equipment in your calculations as well as the actual course cost. Most providers offer very similar packages so it pays to spend some time looking precisely at what you will get. Write it down in a table so you can compare. Click here to go to a simple spreadsheet you can download to start your comparison.
Is It A Gap Year or Potential Career Choice?
Are you doing this to fill time before going to university, or is the life of an instructor something you want to do as a career? There is no wrong way of getting into this industry, but there are some critical pathways to follow to avoid squandering your investment.
Suppose you haven’t got any actual plans of making ski instructing your permanent career. You’re looking for a fun experience, that’s going to improve your skiing and put that little extra shine on your CV. In that case, the ticket and country you qualify in becomes less critical.
So where do you want to do it? Where would you love to spend a season and what’s the most crucial factor for you?
1. Snow conditions
2. Size of Resort
3. Living conditions
If you can rate these in order of preference, it can help to guide you towards the correct country and then the right Resort. Canada is hard to beat for its snow, varied terrain and ease of language. While for great Apres Ski, look no further than Verbier.
As mentioned your budget will significantly influence which course you choose and for how long. You may decide that a 3-4 week Level 1 ski instructor course is enough for your gap year, as it keeps the costs down and gives you time for other adventures. Alternatively, if you want longer look at 11 week or 18 week courses that cover both your Level 1 & 2 and more. There’s also the full season Internship.
A Ski Instructor Internship gets you qualified that season and working as a fully paid instructor at your chosen ski school. The initial course outlay is less but you have to pay towards your living costs once earning. On the other hand, a standard course gives you far more training and covers your living costs for the duration. This includes your accommodation and food. It’s more expensive upfront but there’s no extra costs once you’re out there, other than your bar bill! There’s a whole debate over which is the best, so we’ve written another blog dedicated to the question.
If you’re planning on doing an instructor’s job in the future then you need to make some good decisions. You will need to consider not only the location and your budget but also which governing body you want to qualify in. Many tickets are accepted around the world. But you’ll find that each country leans towards their own system. So if you have a natural preference for where you want to work, it makes sense to qualify in that country’s system.
If you want to work in the Mountains but don’t want to instruct then the Patrol Courses may be more suitable. They are aimed at people who wish to join the Mountain Rescue Team at the resorts. You’ll already need to be a strong skier, as you’ll be required to confidently navigate the whole mountain including their most technical runs. The Patrol courses are highly in depth and include one of the most advanced first aid courses you can do. If you think this may be a better route for your skills then read more Here.
What Level Is Best For My Goals?
To apply for work internationally you ideally need to reach the Level 2 standard in an ISIA recognised ticket. It doesn’t matter how long the course is but the higher the level you can achieve the better. It is possible to find work with a Level 1 certification, but competition is very high and most larger resorts reserve their Level 1 instructor positions for Internship programs. As mentioned before, an internship gets you qualified and working that season. It’s the quickest way into the industry but depending on your nationality, it starts to use up your precious working visas for that country.
There are easy Working Holiday Visa options for Canada, New Zealand and Japan for anyone between the ages of 18-35. But, they are limited, and in most cases once used there are few easy options to re-enter that country and work.
For the future and gaining easy access to work abroad you need to set your sights on reaching Level 3. At Level 3 ski schools will start to consider your sponsorship into the country so you can work in their resort. At the Winter Sports we a one of the few companies that offer a Level 3 internship. This means it might be worth completing a standard Level 1 and 2 course first and saving your visa for a L3 internship program in the future.
Ski Instructor Qualifications
All ISIA (International Ski Instructors Association) affiliated ski instructor courses are recognised worldwide and, in many cases, can be transferred to another body. However, this doesn’t mean that all courses are the same, and the one you choose could affect your career direction. Once you reach the Level 3 certification in any governing body you can start working towards your ISIA stamp. This gives you even more opportunities to work abroad and makes applying for visas easier.There’s a handy guide below for qualifications in three main governing bodies. You can also check out our Qualifications page for more in-depth info.
British Association of Snowsport Instructors
- You can achieve the BASI Alpine Level 1 qualification in many of the UK’s snow domes and dry slopes. BASI level 1 allows you to teach on artificial slopes.
- BASI Alpine Level 2 has to be taken in the mountains. Many course providers combine BASI levels 1 & 2 into a 10-week programme. Upon completion of Level 2, you can teach beginner to intermediate skiers across much of Europe, Canada, America, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, South America and even Dubai.
- BASI Alpine Level 3 allows you to teach up to and beyond parallel skiing across the world – including France (Dependent on instructors becoming a stagiaire or passing the Test Technique – more information on the BASI website)
- BASI Alpine Level 4 gives you the greatest level of employability. You can teach the highest levels, but it can takes 3 – 5 years to reach.
The Benefits of BASI
BASI qualifications are recognised across Europe, including France. If working within Europe is your primary goal, then choosing a BASI course could benefit you when applying for jobs.
Working in Europe is a little tricky, thanks to Brexit. So look to Canada, America, New Zealand and Australia, who will also act your qualification.
Ski instructor qualifications can take you across the world. But there has never been a better time for ski instructor employment within the UK. The UK currently has 6 indoor snow domes with plans for more! So your BASI 1 qualification is recognised at UK snow domes and dry ski slopes.
Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance
CSIA’s Career Path
- Upon passing the CSIA level 1 ski instructor course, you can teach entry-level to intermediate skiers. Unlike other courses, you can teach on the mountain as soon as you have passed your CSIA level 1. Many ski instructor internships include guaranteed jobs as a level 1 for an entire season once qualified.
- CSIA Level 2 gives you a more in-depth understanding of technique and methodology. With Level 2, you can reach up to intermediate parallel skiing.
- CSIA Level 3 allows you to teach advanced parallel skiing, off-piste and moguls. You can also train instructors in the CSIA level 1 and 2 programmes and examine CSIA level 1. Visa sponsorship for working as an instructor in Canada usually requires level 3 as a minimum.
- CSIA Level 4 allows you to develop skiers at all levels and train future instructors. Level 4’s are in high demand, and employment opportunities are numerous.
The Benefits of CSIA
CSIA qualifications are recognised internationally in Canada, America, Switzerland, New Zealand, Japan, Dubai, Australia and Andorra. The CSIA Level 1 ski instructor course is a ‘fast track’ into the industry. You can
use it out as an ‘all mountain’ qualification at the resorts. However, to find work internationally, you need to aim for the CSIA level 2. European and New Zealand employers expect level 2 as a minimum in all qualifications.
Ski resorts in Canada are different to those across Europe. Some resorts and mountains are owned by companies. Because the company employs all the staff on the mountain, it can be easier to train and gain work within the one resort. In addition, CSIA qualifications are more recognised in Canada than other international qualifications. So if working within the Canadian Rockies is your ambition, then becoming CSIA certified could be more beneficial.
New Zealand Snowsport Instructors Alliance
NZSIA’s Career Path
- NZSIA ski level 1 allows you to teach first-time skiers up to advanced wedged turns (beginner skiers). You can teach on the slopes as soon as you have passed.
- NZSIA ski level 2 progresses your career and builds on your skills as an instructor. You can teach wedge parallel turns to advanced parallel turns (intermediate skiers).
- NZSIA ski level 3 allows you to teach ‘all mountain situations’. You can take the NZSIA ski level 3 if you hold NZSIA level 2 or an equivalent foreign qualification.
- Unlike other international qualifications, the NZSIA operate a 3 level system with the option to take additional ‘speciality’ courses. These courses are in coaching, free skiing, teaching children and avalanche awareness.
The Benefits of NZSIA Ski
NZSIA qualifications are recognised worldwide, particularly in the English speaking world. Traditionally outside of New Zealand, the minimum for employment is level 2 – although this is typical of many international qualifications.
NZSIA ski qualifications are more recognised in New Zealand than other equivalent certificates. So if working in New Zealand is your primary goal, then NZSIA ski is for you.
You can train for the NZSIA ski qualification during the European summer. Being qualified by the end of September means you’re ready with your NZSIA level 2 certification to teach in America, Canada, and Europe.
What to do next?
Once you have decided on the best ski instructor course, research the programme thoroughly. Check their reviews, and once you’re happy, talk to the provider, get a feel for them then go ahead and make a booking! It’s a big investment but one of the most cost effective ways to get training, flights, accommodation, food and exams.
Intrigued? Check out the courses Winter Sports Company offers on our Ski Instructor Courses page.
People Also Ask
- Briefly, gain the necessary skills, and improve your technique on all terrain and conditions.
- Become certified, enrol in a recognised ski school running a ski instructor training programme, and try to gain your Level 1 or 2.
- Choose a destination; Consider factors such as instructor demand, position availability, and overall ski culture.
- Apply for a position; Once you are certified, start applying! Tailor your CV, cover letter and correspondence on your qualifications, experience and passion for teaching all groups!
- Planning; Travel, accommodation, logistics, language, equipment, and all the fun stuff necessary to complete your goals!
The CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance) certification is accepted in Canada nationwide and respected and recognised in the USA, Europe, Japan, and NZ, to name a few. However, the CSIA is part of the ISIA (International Ski Instructors Association which includes 38 countries which all recognise each others governing bodies.
Yes, but until you build a strong reputation, gain experience, and obtain higher-level certifications, leading to increased job opportunities and earning potential, you will find it challenging in the first year or two. These attributes make it easier to gain employment in other countries. Until you reach the higher levels and start to work back-to-back winters, you can supplement your income with other professions during the off-season.
The CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance) offers four levels of ski instructor certification: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, and Level 4. Each level represents an exponential increase in teaching ability and expertise. Level 1 is the entry-level certification, while Level 4 is the highest, indicating mastery of ski instruction and the ability to teach advanced skiers, sometimes in expert terrain.
You can start your career as a ski instructor and teach beginner skiers. It allows you to instruct people or small groups on the basics, including techniques, equipment and safety. It is the building block for higher-level certifications. Only Level 2 qualifies you to instruct skiers at an intermediate level and progress further.
You must hold the Level 1 CSIA qualification and be a current member of the CSIA. The CSIA recommends a minimum of 60hrs teaching, but it’s optional. Try to accumulate as much experience as possible, then attend a Level 2 course organised by the CSIA or a recognised training provider. Attend the 4 days comprising; 2 days of the Ski Development Module and 2 days of the Teach Development Module, and pass the 1-day exam for each Ski and Teach component over the final two days.