If you love skiing or boarding, you’ll almost certainly have spent some time daydreaming about spending a season working in resort; maybe in a bar, a restaurant, or a holiday chalet – any job in fact that would mean you could spend all your free time ripping up the slopes.
But of course, for anyone with a real passion for snowsports, there’s really only one dream job, and that’s being a qualified ski or snowboard instructor.
Spending time as an instructor is an incredible experience on so many levels, and even just one season will transform your skiing or riding forever. It’s ideal if you’re planning a gap year or a career break, but for those who are interested in taking things further, instructing can open up exciting career opportunities in an industry that employs people all around the world,
If you are interested in training to become an instructor though, knowing how to get started can be confusing. There are numerous training providers operating in different countries, they are overseen by a range of qualifying bodies, and the courses they offer can appear very similar to each other.
To help clarify things a little, we asked our friends at NONSTOP Ski & Snowboard Coaching – one of the most respected companies providing ski and snowboard instructor training courses, to give us their answers to three key questions:
- What Are My Qualification Options?
All instructor qualifications are issued by a national governing body, and choosing which one to qualify with will be an important decision – especially if you plan to make a career of instructing. The main organisations are:
- Australia – APSI (Australian Professional Snowsport Instructors)
- Canada (Ski) – CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance)
- Canada (Snowboard) – CASI (Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors)
- Great Britain – BASI (British Association of Snowsport Instructors)
- New Zealand (Ski) – NZSIA (New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance)
- New Zealand (Snowboard) – SBINZ (Snowboard Instruction New Zealand)
Each system has four levels:
- Level 1: An entry level qualification that will allow you to teach beginners (mainly young children) on snow in an open mountain environment. BASI Level 1 is the exception, only permitting you to teach on indoor slopes. In most cases Level 1 will only allow you to teach in the country of the issuing body.
- Level 2: Achieving Level 2 will qualify you to be able to teach internationally.
- Level 3: ISIA (International Ski Instructors Association).
- Level 4: This is the pinnacle; Level 4 instructors are the crème de la crème and will have been actively teaching and training for many years. For them, instructing is likely to be a career, rather than a stop-gap.
As you move through the levels, you can expect your pay to rise, it will become easier to secure international positions, and eventually you’ll be able to obtain sponsored visas.
The majority of training courses will help you achieve your Level 2 within one winter season. Achieving Level 3 and beyond will require many further years of dedicated training.
- Where Will I Be Able To Teach?
Once you have attained Level 2 certification from any of the bodies listed earlier, you’ll be able to work anywhere in the world, with the exception of France, where the system is very different.
While all countries recognise instructors need to have impeccable technique, only France requires them to demonstrate athletic prowess too. French instructors have to pass the ‘Test Technique’, completing a challenging slalom course in a time that’s within a 20% margin of the course record set by a professional ski racer!
However, the rest of the world is your oyster, so not being able to teach in France is by no means the end of the world. Other European countries like Italy, Switzerland and Austria are options. Many instructors work in Canada, USA and Japan, and in the Sothern Hemisphere New Zealand and Australia are popular destinations. And if you can speak Spanish, Argentina and Chile are great choices too.
You can find out more about worldwide opportunities here.
- How Do I Get Qualified?
The most popular way to attain ski and snowboard instructor qualifications is to take an intensive instructor training course. These are run by independent companies, and courses range from three to 11 weeks. A three-week program will help you achieve Level 1 certification, but if you are keen on working as an instructor, you’ll need to take a full 11-week course to attain Level 2.
NONSTOP Ski & Snowboard Coaching run instructor courses in Canada, and they’re a great option if you are set on pursuing instructing as a career. Their programs are well respected in the industry, and they’ve trained more instructors than any other provider. They have some of the most experienced coaches deliver their programs and, importantly, have tons of connections with snow schools around the world to help you secure a job after the course ends. Many of the graduates from NONSTOP’s courses have ended up working all over the globe, check out some of the success stories here.