Ski instructor courses - myths exposed
Season Workers asked a handful of leading training organisations some stupid questions in an attempt to expose some of the nonsense and myths surrounding snow sport instructor training.
If you are a great skier you will make a great instructor
Snowskool: This is not true. In the first place, the idea behind Ski & Snowboard instructor courses is to deconstruct your riding before reconstructing it without the flaws that many people naturally pick up from recreational riding. For the more experienced skiers, this can prove difficult as it can often be a case of teaching old dogs new tricks. I have seen excellent skiers fall over when they are asked to demonstrate snowplough turns as it has been so long since they were last required to do them. The process of deconstruction often takes longer for more experienced skiers, however with these stronger skiers, the process of reconstruction often proves more expeditious. One other thing I have found; in some cases, "great skiers" can find it difficult relating to their students. It is like a Professorial mathematical genius teaching maths to ten-year olds: the Prof. may find it hard to understand how his students can not understand theories that he finds very basic. On a pastoral note, communication is so key. A instructor can have all the technical knowledge in the world, but if she can not communicate this to her students, it is lost. Poor communication will result in difficult and un-flowing lessons. A variety of specific drills are very useful in getting this message and keeping the lesson fun and interesting. How about this: great instructors make (weak skiers into) great skiers!
Alltracks Academy: Clearly, all ski instructors must be able to demonstrate correct skiing technique to their students. However, as well as demonstrating technique, the ski instructor has to teach these skills to his class. Therefore, a major part of being a ski instructor is having the communication skills, patience, enthusiasm and teaching ability to pass your knowledge on.
Flying Fish: Not necessarily the case, it is much more to do with commmunication skills, understanding of the sport and how to pass on that knowledge to your clients. There are personal traits that a good instructor needs, not just to be a strong skier. In fact some of the best instructors are just Level 1 instructors who have an amazing ability to pass on information and, of course, endless patience for the new skiers they are teaching each day.
The International Academy: Not entirely the case - if you are a good skier, have a lot of patience and you are outgoing and enthusiastic, you will make a great instructor!
Altitude Futures: In my 15 Seasons of teaching skiing throughout the Alps and North America I have met some great skiers and some average skiers – I can assure you not all of the great skiers were great instructors – there is much more to being a professional ski instructor than just skiing ability.
EA Ski & Snowboard Training: We recently asked Ski School Managers and top examiners we work with, as well as and our own staff (also x-instructors) what the most important attribute was to becoming a great instructor. They all agreed on the answer: A great ‘attitude’. Everything flows from your attitude – all the required elements of your instructor ‘bag o tricks’ such as your work ethic, technical knowledge, demonstrations, personal skiing, communication and lesson planning…. If you have the right attitude, coupled with passion you will be a great instructor.
It is getting easier to find work as a ski instructor, especially in France
Snowskool: Can not comment on situation in France. If you want a job as an instructor in Canada, obtain relevant CSIA/CASI qualifications, obtain a working VISA, apply as early as possible (May-June for the following season). It is not overly difficult with there being a worldwide shortage of ski instructors.
NONSTOP Ski & Snowboard: The snow sports industry has grown enormously in the past two decades and with it the demand for instructors and instructor courses. This coupled with changes in EU regulations has seen more Brits going into instructing. There are many employment opportunities in Europe, America and Canada. Instructing jobs in New Zealand and Australia are available but are more limited due to the smaller size of their ski industry. There's also work available in places such as Chile, Argentina and even South Africa where Thomas Fuchs, a graduate of NONSTOP Ski, instructed for a season. It is still difficult to gain employment in France although in recent years many more private ski schools have been established. These schools are often English speaking and accept British, Canadian and other national qualifications. The ESF (French Ski School) have had a bad reputation over their employment of foreign instructors but they demand the highest skiing standards (as opposed to teaching ability) of their own instructors and they expect the equivalent from outsiders.
Flying Fish: Easier - Yes. In France - Not true. It is very difficult to get instructor work in France unless you have been assessed in the French scheme, which requires a very high standard of skiing and downhill racing. Traditionally, very few non-natives of France have achieved this qualification, although EU regulations are beginning to break down the nationality barrier. Flying Fish offers the Canadian Ski and Snowboard qualifications, widely accepted elsewhere. We have graduates working all over the world, including the UK, Canada, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Andorra, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and South Africa. Regarding work as a Ski Instructor above a Snowboard Instructor - Yes it is still true that there is more scope for work as a Ski Instructor. Although snowboarding is a very popular sport, there has been a resurgence of interest in skiing in the last five years - and ski clients tend to return for coaching more often than snowboarders.
The International Academy: Ski instructing on a global spectrum is becoming more & more in demand
Altitude Futures: Compared to 10 years ago there are now many more possibilities for BASI instructors to teach in France. However, this applies to BASI qualifications, and others which belong to the Eurogroup (France, Italy, Austria, Spain and BASI). In these Countries if you are fully qualified you will be able to earn a living as a Ski Instructor.
EA Ski & Snowboard Training: Getting work as an instructor is not easy. Many people get frustrated by being told they first need experience – but how do you gain experience without getting hired in the first place! Getting you work as an Instructor is our specialty – through our Instructor Internship programs in the USA and Canada we give you the training and certification at the start of the season and a job offer to step into instructing all before Christmas. The resorts hire you prior to arrival because they recognise our training programs.
If you can instruct skiing you can instruct snowboarding
Snowskool: Subject to the instructor passing BOTH relevant exams and therefore having learnt the techniques involved in teaching the appropriate skills to beginners in skiing and snowboarding, I believe this to hold true. Half the job of being an instructor is enthusiasm and keeping your students interested in what they are learning - particularly if it is super-cold on the hill. I believe that, in Austria, Landesskilehrer (a level of ski instructor) have to pass their entry-level snowboard instructor exam. This is demanded in order to demonstrate awareness of all kinds of movement on the slope. SnowSkool offers a course that involves five-weeks of ski training and five-weeks of snowboard training and will hopefully result in participants gaining the qualifications of both the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance and Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors.
NONSTOP Ski & Snowboard: An experienced skier may find it easy to teach themselves the basics of snowboarding but it would be like asking an in-line roller blader to teach skateboarding. The two sports share certain basic principles but are ultimately completely different sports and should be respected and treated as such. The ESF's stance on snowboard instructing is normally viewed as pretty archaic. French instructors must first qualify as a ski instructor before being able to teach snowboarding and additionally the training required to instruct snowboarding is nothing in comparison to what they must go through in order to become a ski instructor.
Alltracks Academy: You could instruct skiing and snowboarding if you were proficient in both sports and had the relevant instructor qualifications for both too. Just because you are a good skier does not automatically make you into a proficient snowboarder and vice versa. However, there are some transferable skills which could help people from either discipline learn the other. These include simple matters like being familiar with the mountain environment and chairlifts etc.
Ski Academy Switzerland: No not true. Snowboarding is a completely different sport and you wouldn't expect a snowboard instructor to teach skiing! It would be like a rugby coach trying to teach football. Ironically the French ski instructor qualification allows you to teach snowboarding!
EA Ski & Snowboard Training: No not true. Snowboarding is a completely different sport and you wouldn't expect a snowboard instructor to teach skiing! It would be like a rugby coach trying to teach football. Ironically the French ski instructor qualification allows you to teach snowboarding!
Many of the skills required to instruct skiing are cross-creditable to snowboarding. However there are aspects of snowboarding which are far different from skiing and can have even the best skier looking like a break-dancing octopus! If you like both skiing and snowboarding it can be a smart move to become an instructor in both because ski schools will value your skills and versatility.
There is no point getting a British qualification in the hope of getting work in France, Italy the USA or Canada
Alltracks Academy: Not really true. BASI is a member of the ISIA (International Ski Instructors Association), which means its qualifications are recognised throughout the world, although working in France for the ESF remains problematic. In Europe, instructors would usually be expected to speak the local language, but speaking English is also an advantage as many clients will be from the UK. For those people who wish to instruct in Canada, gaining the CSIA qualifications is recommended but it is possible to use the BASI qualifications too.
Snowskool: Not entirely true. BASI is a registered member of the ISIA (International Ski Instructors Association). Similarly, SNMSF (France), AMSI (Italy), PSIA (USA) and CASI/CSIA (Canada) are all registered members. In fact, 36 states worldwide have membership of ISIA. Ultimately, each country prefers candidates who hold qualifications from that country and so Italian ski schools would give priority to those who hold an AMSI qualification and Canadian Ski Schools like applicants with CSIA or CASI qualifications. Some Ski & Board Schools insist that their employees hold either national qualifications from that country or ISIA standard of qualification but others are not so strict. In reality, there is a worldwide shortage of instructors and so if a candidate has officially-recognised qualifications of a member state of ISIA, speaks the appropriate language, holds a working visa (where necessary) and impresses at an interview, there is no reason why he/she should not be employed anywhere.
NONSTOP Ski & Snowboard: The BASI qualifications are recognised and respected worldwide in the snow sports industry. In many European resorts there is a shortage of English speaking instructors so Brits are happily employed. The only difference is in France the ESF ask for a minimum of BASI level 2 with your speed test, where as in most other European countries you can instruct with your BASI 3. In Canada and the USA they are more likely to choose someone with national qualifications. However it really depends on your experience and level of certification. A BASI 1 qualified instructor with the right attitude and personality would easily find employment all over the world. Ironically they would probably choose to work in France as top level ESF instructors are paid the most.
Flying Fish: Not sure on how BASI is regarded in ski schools outside Britain, we qualify clients with CSIA, CASI & CSCF (Canadian Standards that are highly regarded in all ski & snowboard schools)
Altitude Futures: Rubbish! The BASI qualification is recognized throughout the world. To work in France you will need to have your ISIA Qualification with your test technique (a timed slalom). For the rest of Europe you can work with the BASI Level 2 Instructor (previously called the Grade 3). This is the qualification obtained after completing a Ski Instructor BASI Gap Course. If you wish to work after completing your Gap course then be sure to pick a provider, which has very close links to a ski school in the area with which you wish to teach. Or even better pick a Gap Course which is also a Ski and Snowboard School. Remember not all Gap Providers are Ski Schools, so cannot guarantee employment after the course.
EA Ski & Snowboard Training: The ISIA is the international governing body for ski and snowboard instructor qualifications. The British system is a part of this. When it comes to getting work it is best to examine individual resort requirements (rather than by country) as some are far more flexible than others. A general rule is that whatever country you are looking to work in, it will be best to have the local qualification! Some entry level qualification systems (such as USA and Canada) offer very good and well respected level 1 programs which focus on the key elements first time instructors need as well as boosting your personal skills.
Newly qualified instructors spend most of their day walking up and down nursery slopes
Snowskool: Firstly to dispel a myth, ski instructing is not an entirely glamorous job and first year instructors will spend a lot of their time teaching kids the basics on a nursery slope. But at most Schools throughout the world, an instructor should be prepared to teach any lessons that is assigned to her/him and many newly qualified instructors will spend time teaching a variety of different abilities. One thing that holds true is that the more qualified an instructor becomes, the less time that instructor will spend on the nursery slopes. Case Study: Two twins from SnowSkool 2005 programme passed their CSIA level 1 & level 2 instructor exams and their CSCF (Canadian Ski Coaches Federation) level 1 Race Coach exam at Sunshine Village, Banff and are currently working the Adult programme at Big White. Of 480 candidates, ten were employed and Will & Ollie were amongst these ten. In addition, they have impressed so much this season that the Ski School at Big White have entered them for the CSIA level 3 instructor exam in Spring 2006. This is expected to take a minimum of four seasons. They are hoping to do it in two.
NONSTOP Ski & Snowboard: Ultimately the vast majority of people looking for lessons are beginners so if you want to spend all day every day blasting around the hill looking for the best conditions then this isn't the job for you. The reality is the less qualified the instructor the more time they will spend with early stage beginners and they will be the first off the time table during quiet weeks. However, during the school holidays even the highest qualified instructors will be spending most of their time teaching children.
Alltracks Academy: Inexperienced ski instructors with only a basic qualification will certainly begin by teaching beginners. However, by attending an Alltracks Academy course, many leave with a CSIA Level 2 qualification which means you are better qualified than other new instructors. Provided you gain the CSIA Level 2, you should be in a position to teach intermediate skiers from the start.
The International Academy: This can be true - as newly qualified instructors start teaching from beginner level upwards.
Altitude Futures: This depends on the Ski School you are working for. On successful completion of last seasons Altitude Futures Gap Course our students all taught for Altitude Ski School, and taught the levels of skiers to which we believed they were competent to teach. This included up to intermediate level skiers.
EA Ski & Snowboard Training: Last season we had a participant on one of our courses by the name of Ben. He passed his level 1 at the start of the season and his Level 2 at the end of the season (through our dedicated ultimate season training program) and during this time was also instructing on an Internship. A certain amount of teaching is a pre-requisite to sit the Level 2 certification so he taught a range of lessons from beginner, intermediate through to advanced. Ben is a great example of someone who made the most of his winter season and enjoyed many of the benefits a hard working instructor can receive. It is important to also realise that ski & snowboard instruction is like any job in that you have to accept the good days with the bad.
Ski instructors can earn £25,000 in one season
Alltracks Academy: This would not be possible for the vast majority of ski instructors. There may be a handful of very experienced instructors with regular private clients built up over years of experience, who could command this amount of money. Ski instructing is a lifestyle choice where the benefits of skiing every day, living in the mountains and not having to step into an office are payment enough. However, skiing is becoming more popular and in top resorts like Whistler where Alltracks Academy is based, clients can tip very generously.
Snowskool: Snowsport instructors work for the love of the job, not the money. However with the right level of qualification and experience a snowsport's instructor can make a very good living in a season - although, to my knowledge, £25k in a four/five month season may be pushing it a bit!
NONSTOP Ski & Snowboard: Short of having your own successful ski school or being a top level instructor in a posh French resort with generous regular clients this is highly unlikely. If you sacrifice nice accommodation, don't take lunch breaks and generally graft your way through the season you should be able to save up a reasonable amount but it is unlikely to see you through a prolonged summer holiday until the following season. It's a lifestyle choice!
Flying Fish: This would not be the case for a newly qualified, entry level instructor, however, may be something to aspire to and achievable with high levels of experience and qualifications.
Ski Academy Switzerland: Yes true. As a fully qualified instructor you can earn £25000-£35000
Altitude Futures: The only place you are likely to do this is in France after completing a BASI Qualification. This is the wage of a fully qualified ISTD Ski Teacher. The BASI Level 2 Ski Instructor (previously called the grade 3) can expect to earn 25CHF/hour in Switzerland.
EA Ski & Snowboard Training: Those coming through our Instructor Internship program step straight into a job earning between US$/CA$11–13 per hour. We hear many stories (some first hand) about big tips from those working in the USA and Canada but the most assured way to make a good living from instructing is to make a commitment to stay in the game for a long time, increase your skills and certification level and make a career out of it. This can earn you big money, but make no mistake – this sort of cash is not going to happen in the first couple of years!
You do not need a work permit to train as an instructor
Snowskool: In Canada (where SnowSkool runs its courses) you need a student visa to attend an educational institution which receives public subsidies. This is not applicable to people taking ski and snowboard lessons or spending time on an instructor programme. You do not need a work visa either, as nobody is being paid to attend the training.
Alltracks Academy: Correct- no permits are required.
NONSTOP Ski & Snowboard: Exactly!
Altitude Futures: Yes this is true. However, if you wish to work after completing your course some countries require you to obtain a work permit. This depends on your Nationality; in Switzerland it is relatively easy to obtain a work VISA.
EA Ski & Snowboard Training: Correct, if you want to attend one of our training and certification courses in the USA or Canada you do not need a work permit. However, our most popular program is our Instructor Internship Program which guarantees an Instructor job offer, and to be able to work as an instructor you will need a work visa, which we assist with.