Ski and board instructing is a dream-lifestyle: From gap year students to those taking a sabbatical, from work or even the retired wanting to enjoy the satisfaction you get from teaching others and from spending a whole season in the mountains; with the fresh air, views to die for, fantastic night life and a salary the ski/board instructor has without a doubt the best office in the world.
So how does one break into this dream career? In the past things were not so tough and taking anyone of the many courses and exams would see you on the first step of the ladder. Now, with the current economic climate combined with the politics that shroud the industry the unbeknown can find themselves on the wrong road at a great expense.
First of all, decide in which country you would like to work, taking into consideration that the USA and Canada will be more problematic due to the fact that you will require a work visa and although in the first season this may be possible as you are doing a course in the country, each subsequent season you wish to work you must apply again. As many current qualified Instructors have found out there are simply no guarantees to receiving each season a visa.
If you choose the simple and safer option of working in a European Union country, where you are free to work without visa complications, you may then wish to consider taking a qualification that is locally recognised by the government to give you the best chance of finding a job. For example, if you wished to work in Austria then it would be cheaper, more appropriate and recognised to have the Austrian Anwaerter (level 1) over any other similar qualification from another country.
There are very few courses that can offer seasonal work and also confirm that your qualification will be recognised in other countries. The ISIA (International Ski instructors Association), which has 38 member states, can sometimes confuse the layperson into thinking that if they have a qualification with one of the member states this will be recognised by another member-state. This is not true until you have qualified to ISIA level (level 3).
ISIA level is very high and a normal person would require about 5 - 7 seasons to reach this level. If you are like 80% of potential ski/board instructors that will only be taking the level 1 and level 2 exams, then once again we would stress the importance of taking a qualification with the association within the country you wish to work. In the above example of Austria you would need to have the Anwaerter Level 1 and not for example the BASI level 1.
Also, as a requirement of the ISIA is conversational basics in a second language (i.e. German, Spanish, French, Italian). You will also find that some Level 1 exams already include this, especially those that are non-English speaking countries. There are once again only a few courses that have a joint ski and language course to bring you up to the minimum requirements of the ISIA.
In conclusion, prospective Instructors should ask questions, research and read through the lines when starting on their journey.