Whether just turned 16 or over 60 many dream of a career or a gap year as a winter sports instructor. With so many courses on the market how does one know which is the right one for you?
First ask yourself 3 important questions…..
What is the aim of doing a course?
- to qualify as an Instructor and to work or…..
- to party and have a holiday with no long term goal…
When all you want is to meet new people, improve your skiing and boarding, party and have no end goal then any of the many courses will meet your dreams. If it is an atmosphere that you seek then you should establish how many participants will be doing the course with you. When spending such a long time with others it is great if there is a wide and varied group to mix with and not a small number of people that limits the atmosphere.
If your goal is to use the qualification that you achieve to work a season then it is of the upmost importance that you have invested your money in a recognised qualification. This is tricky as all companies will claim that their exam leads to a recognised qualification, however in reality it is the ski schools that will employ you and they will decide which qualification they hold in higher esteem. Many have fallen for glamorous sites that offer all the above but are not completely open about how the qualification fits into a European ski school, particularly when wishing to work a whole season and not just during the busy period of February where ski schools will lower their standards and employ virtually anyone.
How much do I have to invest?
Like in many things the most expensive course is not necessarily the right or best course for you. That’s the good news! The problem once again is what is the minimum I must spend without compromising quality and service? What are the hidden extras that I need to budget for? And should I do both level 1 and 2 in the first season?
A minimum course length including exam will be around 6 weeks when wishing to gain a Level 1 high qualification. Expect to pay up to £3,700.00 anything more would be hard to justify for one season. Be prepared to buy ski/board equipment required and have enough spending money.
When considering doing Level 2 you should ask yourself if this is only a gap year or a career move. Gap year students can save a fortune by doing only their level one (so long as it is a high level one and not a low recognised level 1) and have extra spending money to help them during quiet times of a season when there may be no work. A lot of companies will encourage people to do a level 2 when it is simply just an unjustified expense.
For those wishing to work more than 1 season then the advantage of doing a high level 2 qualification is higher wage, more experienced guests and more work availability. REMEMBER: Many level 2 qualifications are only as good as a high level 1 qualification. If you want to quickly have a course pay for itself you must research carefully which association gives you the best chance of achieving this.
How do I find work after spending all this money?
Your best chance of finding work lies with the company you do the course with. Applying to ski schools independently will lead to disappointment together with a lot of hard work. It is a nightmare to locate work in this economic climate and many are misled with promises of work that are actually internships or limited part-time season work.
If you take the advice above relating to limiting yourself to a cheaper high level one qualification for the first season you could potentially save £3,000.00 which is more than you might receive in a whole season as an Instructor! You can use this saved money to supplement your first season allowing you to enjoy the experience without stressing over the lack of wages.
Do not forget that the continued work VISA problems in the USA and Canada are creating huge problems for those that wish to work there. Just because you received a Visa in your first season does not mean that in the following season you will automatically receive one again. In fact it is highly likely that you will not receive a work visa each winter season.
When an Instructor fails to get a visa for his or her resort in the USA or Canada they are left with the option of working in Europe, where they require no permit or work visa as an EU passport holder. “Sounds great as a fall back plan”! You may be one of the small minority who slips through the net and finds work, however what actually happens, is that the majority are then at the bottom of a huge list of applicants for ski instructor positions here in Europe, as their qualifications are not as respected as a local one. Leaving them - at best - with limited part time work. This is highly frustrating when an Instructor has a Level 2 qualification that cost them so much money, when someone else with a level 1 local qualification has priority over them and is more respected.
Therefore doing a qualification that a ski school holds in high esteem would be more than just sensible!
In conclusion, always allow and budget for the worst case scenario. Don’t be attracted by the lights and glamour of exotic locations and expensive courses. Remember, the best trainers and instructors have worked hard to be involved in this lifestyle, sleeping in very basic ski school accommodation, teaching beginners and children and struggling to get by on little money as they made their way through the ranks.